Born: January 26, 1914 in Jewel GA
Died: October 19, 1984 in Atlanta GA
Piedmont bluesman Buddy Moss was a popular singer, harmonica player, and guitarist who performed as both a solo artist during the 1930s, as well as performing as a member of both the Georgia Cotton Pickers and the Georgia Browns blues combos. Moss also worked frequently with his long-time friend, guitarist Curley Weaver, as a blues duo. An engaging harp player and tremendously skilled guitarist, Moss would see his commercial recording career derailed for nearly 30 years before his "rediscovery" during the folk-blues boom of the 1960s.
Born Eugene Moss to a family of sharecroppers in rural Georgia, Moss taught himself the harmonica when he wasn't working in the family's fields. In 1928, at the age of fourteen, Moss moved to Atlanta, where he took up with Barbecue Bob (Robert Hicks), who taught the young bluesman some basic guitar playing, and became friends with Curley Weaver. The two enlisted the harp player to record with their Georgia Cotton Pickers band in 1930, the three musicians recording four songs for the Columbia Records label.
Moss launched his solo career in 1933 after signing with the American Record Company (ARC). During the ensuing years, Moss had played with Hicks and, after his death, with notable Piedmont blues guitarist Blind Willie McTell. Moss soaked up all his could from the two musicians, so that by the time he ventured to New York City to record for ARC, he had developed his own style and skills to match any other Piedmont bluesman/
A Career Derailed
Moss recorded frequently as a solo artist between 1933 and 1935, as well as with the Georgia Browns combo, which included singer Ruth Willis and guitarists Weaver and Fred McMullen, playing his harmonica on six songs for the group. ARC recorded eleven songs by Moss in January 1933, releasing them all with some success, and brought the guitarist back to the studio in September to record twelve more sides. During these sessions, Moss also accompanied Weaver on recordings by Blind Willie McTell.
In 1934, Moss returned to the studio for ARC to record another dozen songs. At this time, Moss was selling more records than his peers, and was the most popular Piedmont bluesman then recording. When ARC teamed Moss up with folk-bluesman Josh White for better than a dozen recordings in mid-1935, it seemed that the sky was the limit. However, tragedy struck when Moss was tried and convicted for the murder of his wife and sentenced to life in prison.
Rediscovered In The 1960s
His career effectively derailed by what might have been a racially-motivated conviction, Moss would be released after six years in prison, assisted by outside efforts to free him. Out of prison in mid-1941, Moss hooked up with bluesmen Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, traveling with the duo to New York City to record for Okeh Records. The wartime rationing of shellac impacted the recording industry, and only the most commercially-viable artists would be promoted...which left Moss out in the cold.
Moss continued to perform during the 1940s and '50s throughout Virginia and North Carolina, often times with Weaver in Atlanta, but he primarily worked jobs like truck driver and farmhand to pay the bills for the better part of two decades. A chance reunion with his former partner Josh White in 1964 led to Moss' rediscovery, and he would begin performing for larger (and mostly white) audiences of folk-blues fans. Over the ensuing years, Moss would perform folk and blues festivals, including the Newport Folk Festival in 1969 and the Atlanta Blues Festival in 1976.
Recommended Albums: Sadly, much of the sparse Buddy Moss catalog is unavailable on CD, although you can still find some of the bluesman's crucial early recordings. The multi-volume The Complete Recordings series, released by the British Document Records label, offers the guitarist's early sides in chronological order by year. Fat Possum Records offers a very cool 7" vinyl single from producer George Mitchell's field recordings, that features three songs captured on tape in 1963.