Living in Austin, a city full of guitar slingers, you know an artist like Johnny Moeller has to be doing something distinctive to stand out from the pack. And indeed, he does distinguish himself on his Severn Records debut, BlooGaLoo!, released in April 2010. Far from straight-ahead blues, Moeller considers his style blues-based, but at the same time touching on many other genres. "There are lots of great guitar players who inspired me, and singers and saxophone players, too," he says in the biography accompanying BlooGaLoo! "But I don't like to limit myself to purely one style of music. I have my own thing, which is blues-based, and then I like to mix in everything else I love: soul, jazz, funk, and rock & roll."
Moeller's multitude of interests shows through on his debut and at his live shows, which are often all over the map stylistically. In turn, he's a breath of fresh air on the contemporary blues scene. Growing up in Fort Worth, so close to Dallas, long a hotbed of blues activity, Moeller was strongly influenced by Dallas-area radio and his father's record collection, which included everyone from John Lee Hooker to Grant Green. One day as a teen, he came across a Lightnin' Hopkins album while looking around at the Record Town store. Hopkins' music proved to be a revelation for the young Moeller, who then began modeling his style after Hopkins' seasoned approach to guitar playing. As is the case with all great guitar players, his own style emerged, and Moeller cites Freddie King, the Vaughan Brothers, Earl King, and Grant Green as having had an influence on his playing over a period of years.
Moeller began performing out in Dallas and Fort Worth area clubs while still in high school, and on summer vacations he and his younger brother, drummer Jay Moeller, would travel from Fort Worth down to Austin to spend the summer with their father. One summer, the Moeller brothers' father convinced club owner Clifford Antone to let his sons sit in with veteran bluesmen and women, many of whom came from out of town to perform at Antone's club. Moeller first appeared on the Antone's stage with Little Charlie & the Nightcats, and once he heard the young Moeller, Antone quickly got into Moeller's corner, helping him and his younger brother in any way he could. After graduating from high school in Denton, TX, Moeller moved to Austin to be as much a part of the scene there as he could and learn from other great guitar slingers who call Austin home, like Denny Freeman and Jimmie Vaughan. Sure enough, by 2007, Moeller was asked by Kim Wilson to join the Fabulous Thunderbirds on one of their tours. By that point, he had toured or recorded with Darrell Nulisch, Lou Ann Barton, Doyle Bramhall II, Guy Forsyth, and the late Gary Primich.
Aside from BlooGaLoo!, Moeller's earlier albums include The Return of the Funky Worm, a 1996 release, and Johnny's Blues Aggregation, a 2001 release. BlooGaLoo! showcases Moeller's range of talent with the guitar, but also includes guests who have influenced him or been helpful to him through the years in Austin, including the chronically under-recorded Lou Ann Barton, harmonica master Kim Wilson, and Shawn Pittman. He covers two songs by the late Earl King, "Trick Bag" and "Everybody's Got to Cry Sometime." Moeller's take on Texas guitar great Earl Hooker's tune "Tease Me Baby" closes the album.
As long as he can stay out on the road, selling records the old-fashioned way at live shows around the U.S., Canada, and Europe, Moeller has a very bright future. ~ Richard J. Skelly