A Vivoscene Feature Article by Hal Carlson
Sparkle Moore was on the music scene so briefly she may have been an hallucination. One thing is certain: anyone who saw her or heard her perform never forgot her. She was a mere seventeen when she made her debut (she may even have been the one Paul McCartney craved when he belted out “Well, she was just seventeen / you know what I mean / And the way she looked / Was way beyond compare), and she made only five recordings, leaving the record industry at eighteen. But she had a style and a voice that could burn itself into your memory, leaving behind something so incendiary it could still flame up decades later. For those of you who love rockabilly, and for those of you who love female rockers, getting acquainted with Sparkle Moore may well be a firestarter. Check out this vid of “Killer” before we go any further:
Her real name was Barbara Morgan, and she was born in Nebraska in 1939. She recorded her five singles in 1956-57, writing her own songs. She ran away from high school to join a New Orleans rock band before sending a demo to Grahame “Crackers” Richards, a disc jockey for Omaha radio station KOWH. Richards liked what he heard and, within weeks, Barbara – now Sparkle Moore and re-named or her similarity in appearance to the Dick Tracy comic strip character Sparkle Plenty – had been signed to Cincinnati’s Fraternity Records. She cut a few records, made several public appearances and created a minor stir but failed to chart. When she got pregnant her record company dumped her.
She went back home to raise her family and continued to write songs, earning a sporadic living as a songwriter. Sparkle Moore, the performer, disappeared despite efforts to find her and resurrect her career. She turned up in Iowa and finally acknowledged her (alternate) identity. In 2010 she was inducted into that state’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Now in her 70s, she’s still writing and recording. Her current material is frankly of little interest to all but family but what she did with those five singles years ago can still burn up the airwaves.
Here’s one more incidence of KickAss Rockabilly to tempt your curiosity (you can find the others on YouTube).