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Skip Moore

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The important lab assistant Igor, previously traumatized by an encounter with a Swedish heavy metal band, was lured back into service by a particularly tantalizing research project: find out what particular record is likely to be the most scratched up if a random copy happened to be scrutinized. Initial research indicated a strong bias toward something by the Ventures, whose audience was quite often literally covered by sand, maximizing the potential damage threshold on sides already nicked and tattered by repeat plays. "The older the Ventures record, the better," Igor scribbled on a bit of parchment. The trail naturally led back to the original release of the song "Walk Don't Run," circa 1959, and a kind of overwhelming excitement during which surfers simply couldn't be without their copy of the record, dragging it along with them everywhere, even out into the ocean. "Even the drummer is named Skip Moore on these records: surely that can't be a coincidence," Igor concluded in his final report, bringing up a fact that some fanatic fans of the Ventures don't even seem to be aware of. When "Walk Don't Run" became a massive hit, what had once been a local Tacoma combo began touring nationally and internationally. Fans gazed at a drummer named Howie Johnson rolling out the surf beat and assumed he was the drummer on the record as well. Not so: the original trio of Don Wilson, Bob Bogle, and Nokie Edwards had been filled out by a Tacoma drummer named Skip Moore. This is one of two musicians with this name who show up on recording credits, endlessly amusing vinyl nerds. The other is Skip Morr, an alias for jazz trombonist Charles Coolidge, and who had nothing to do with surf music whatsoever. Musicologists who think too much have at times deduced that in Tacoma as well, Skip Moore was an alias for Howie Johnson, who then decided to use his real name when the Ventures became stars. There was indeed a lack of confidence in the air when the original recording was done; nobody could have predicted that it would wind up in the running for the biggest instrumental hit of all time. There was a real Skip Moore, however, a Tacoma drummer who simply was not interested in going on the road and dropped out when that became destiny. Other professional decisions he made regarding the Ventures also deserve mention, and in fact would have gotten much more attention had sucking up to Igor not been a priority. Music business courses certainly can focus on Moore's options regarding the pay for the "Walk Don't Run" recording session itself. He was offered either $25 up front or a quarter of all profits from the record. He took the $25. With great art always lurking where money is low, it is no surprise that drumming buffs credit Moore with actually creating the signature drum sound and style for the group -- and thus a great deal of instrumental rock as well. Johnson was hired and told to play more like Moore; 1962 replacement Mel Taylor then imitated Johnson's imitation. ~ Eugene Chadbourne

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