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Rich Moore - Friend of the DFC

If you’re from Colorado you already know the name Rich Moore, but for those who aren’t familiar, you’re in for a real treat. Musician Rich Moore is an accomplished multi-instrumentalist, finger-style guitarist, songwriter, and he and his wife, Grammy Award winning singer Mollie O’Brien, have been performing together around here and the country for decades.

A Player Piano and Thumb Pick
Rich grew up in Philadelphia and was introduced to music early. He considers himself lucky to have been born into a musical household, surrounded by all types of music. “My mother played piano and we had a player piano that had rolls, which appealed to me in a musical and mechanical way - I was fascinated. We had forty or fifty rolls of music, so that was my start.”

His father sang in a Philadelphia chorus, Mendelssohn Club, that performed with an orchestra and he “got dragged to those as a child”. But those shows had a positive impact on Rich and gave him “a real appreciation for old fashioned form to music - how classical and symphonic pieces will take a theme and work it a hundred different ways and tie it all together neatly at the end. That’s been a big influence on me musically.”

rich moore

He was first introduced to the guitar in the mid-1950s while on a family vacation in Bermuda. The memory of a guitar player who had a pick on his thumb stuck with Rich. “Then fast forward to rock ‘n’ roll, the Beatles, ‘the great folk scare’ - I got a really cheap plastic guitar and was able to make music with it, play chords and here I am!”

Well, a few things happened in between.

The Main Point
Growing up in Philly, there was a coffeehouse/music venue called The Main Point. Rich frequented it in the late ‘60s and saw legendary performers like James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. “I saw Doc Watson probably thirty times, Laura Nyro, Odetta. I saw Chris Smither play there a lot - he’s a great writer and fingerstyle player and he’s still out there - he was a big influence on me. I saw Bonnie Raitt, Randy Newman, The Beatles. It was just a little club that sat about 125 people. I showed up so much they offered me a job tearing tickets, which I thought was all I needed to do in life. It was great!” 

Meeting Harry Tuft
Rich was in high school when he first heard about the Denver Folklore Center on a radio show called “Folklore” hosted by the late Gene Shay. Folk musician Michael Cooney was on the show and said “you have to go to the Denver Folklore Center and meet Harry Tuft.” When Rich ended up in Denver, he made it a point to meet Harry and ended up working at the store. “But before working for Harry, I worked for a friendly competitor – Ferretta’s Music. David Ferretta was a former DFC employee who had opened his own store. He was an unbelievable character and knew instruments really well.” 

In 1981, Rich quit Ferretta’s Music, joined a country western band and went to Hawaii for three months. He had met Mollie right before he left, so when he came back to Denver he began working at the DFC (when it was on Broadway). “The DFC was a huge influence – if I remembered it when I was fifteen when someone casually mentioned it on a radio show, you know it was a big influence. All kinds of great people and guitars came into the store. I always felt welcomed there. You walk in the door and you feel welcomed.”

rich moore and mollie o'brienLife (and Music) Happens
A few years after meeting, Mollie and Rich got married and then had two daughters. Rich decided to quit his band and get a day job while their kids were in school. Over the next decade or so, Mollie’s music career took off. She had success as both a solo artist and with her brother, Tim, recording and touring. During that time Rich held down the fort at home and continued to perform around Colorado with his musical friends.

Then in 2006, Mollie and Rich began recording together. Their albums to date include the critically acclaimed 900 Baseline, Saints and Sinners and Love Runner.

Although an amazing guitarist, Rich also plays other instruments. He’s a bassist (electric and upright) and plays a little banjo, but he leaves singing to the pro. “I’m married to Mollie O’Brien and she’s a great singer, so I’m real careful about what I sing around her. I’ve written a few songs with lyrics and a lot of instrumental guitar pieces and released a few CDs. I enjoy playing blues - a simple format that can go to a million different places. Mollie and I play together quite a bit, anything we can with one guitar. We might do an original piece, a Dylan song - I’m always looking for great songs.”

Rich has also provided music for a variety of other projects, including “On The Row,” a staged reading of writings by death row inmates in Arkansas, and for the ongoing PBS series “Heart of a Building,” about energy efficient building practices (his day job for many years involved weatherization field work).  

Showing Off Pays Off
If you’ve seen Rich on stage you know he’s not simply a musician, he’s a fantastic and hilarious entertainer. “I really enjoy performing a lot - I’m a show off. I learned a lot being in theater (he majored in performing arts in college) - going up on stage, having your show ready to go and learning how to read the audience and entertain people.” He also learned watching performers at clubs like The Main Point. “One person can grab a hundred people and hold them in their hand.”

You can catch Rich and Mollie performing live in Denver on January 27th at Swallow Hill Music. Get your tickets HERE.
And see all their performance dates on their website.