Born: November 6, 1936
Sparkle Moore was born Barbara Morgan in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1936. She grew up loving music and had diverse influences. She developed a particular affinity for the sound of the Hawaiian steel guitar and learned to play the instrument herself, but she also listened to country, gospel, vaudeville. She discovered rock and roll unexpectedly when she saw Bill Haley perform at a country music show in the mid 1950s. She began playing rockabilly at venues around Omaha by 1955.
Moore was discovered by a local DJ, Grahame “Crackers” Richards, who became her manager. She adopted the stage name “Sparkle Moore” because her signature stage look—a blonde pompadour—resembled the character Sparkle Plenty in the Dick Tracy comics. Her flashy jackets earned mentions in the press: teen magazine Dig declared that Moore bore “an amazing resemblance to the late James Dean…Presley’s style and Dean’s looks.” Moore recalls that she simply dressed like the male rockabilly musicians she was influenced by.
Through Richards, Moore secured an opportunity record for Cincinnati-based label Fraternity. The single the label put out for her in 1956 includes two songs she wrote: “Rock a Bop” and “Skull and Crossbones.” A second single followed the next year. She toured widely to promote the records. She also remained active as a songwriter; by 1957, she had about forty songwriting credits to her name.
Moore remains a strong favorite with rockabilly fans. She has been inducted into the Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and also made a new album in 2010 entitled Spark-a-Billy.
“Rock-A-Bop” / “Skull and Cross Bones.” Fraternity 751 (1956).
“Killer” / “Tiger.” Fraternity 766 (1957).
Al Schottelkotte, “Talk of the Town,” Cincinnati Enquirer, 19 October 1956.
“Sparkle Moore, a Cutie Pie And She Really Can Sing, Too,” Tampa Bay Times (Florida), 25 November 1956.
“Female Presley,” Dig: For Teenagers Only (June 1957), 47.
“Vaudeville: Disks, Films, Form Basis of R ‘n’ R Exports to S.A.,” Variety, 14 August 1957, 53.
Sparkle Moore, “Bio,” Sparkle Moore — Sparkle Web, https://web.archive.org/web/20190203150150/http://www.sparklemoore.net/.
Interview with the author, 28 Feb 2012.