Photo by Walter Lenk
Ironing Board Sam is one of those artists who, when suddenly appearing on your radar screen, leaves you wondering, ‘How have I not heard of this person before?’
Ironing Board Sam was born Sammie Moore in 1939 in Rock Hill, South Carolina. He moved to Memphis in 1959, and formed his first band. He started strapping his instrument, a keyboard, to an ironing board to make it portable, allowing him to carry it around and prop it up wherever he desired on stage. Someone called him “Ironing Board Sam,” and the nickname stuck. His career progressed, and in 1965 he began performing on the television show Night Train, appearing several times. In 1967, he pressed up just 100 copies of his debut LP, The Ninth Wonder of the World of Music (thankfully it’s been reissued). In the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, he released a handful of 45s on a few different labels, including a couple on record industry behemoth, Atlantic. Though he’d always been a colorful showman, to compete with disco in the late ‘70s, Sam took it up a few notches, coming up with a variety of stunts, such as performing at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival from inside a 1,500 gallon tank—filled with water!
Photo by Walter Lenk
Ironing Board Sam has experienced a revival the last few years, releasing a number of albums and appearing at high-profile festivals. There’s even a short documentary on the man, which you can watch for free here. At age 75, after more than 55 years in show business, Sam is finally getting his due.
New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, 2015
His latest disc, Super Spirit, will be released on October 2nd via Big Legal Mess (a subsidiary of Fat Possum Records). Sam’s backed by a solid group of players, and the record includes soulful covers of songs written by Jack Oblivion, Ann Peoples, Roy Hawkins, and Mick Collins. Collins wrote “I Can’t Take It,” originally recorded by titans of Detroit garage rock, the Gories, as “I Think I’ve Had It,” and included on their raucous debut, Houserockin’ (1989). Ironing Board Sam’s version absolutely cooks, melding rock, soul, and blues to fine effect. Sam possesses the kind of weathered, soul-drenched voice that only a seasoned R&B veteran has these days. In the age of sterile Auto-Tuned vocals, we need him more than ever.