In a career that spans more than fifty years, Deacon John Moore has endured as one of New Orleans’ most talented and most adaptive performers. “If New Orleans has such a thing as a musical chameleon, it is certainly Deacon John,” says music writer Jeff Hannusch. A warhorse and model showman, he’s entertained generations of New Orleanians, playing classic rhythm and blues, rock ’n’ roll, blues, jazz and gospel. Blessed with a great voice trained in church, he began singing with his first R&B band in the seventh grade. He learned to play guitar by ear from records and books, and started playing professionally in 1957 while still in high school. In the 1960s, Deacon, as a guitarist, began to play on recording sessions with Allen Toussaint, Dave Bartholomew, Harold Battiste, Wardell Quezergue and Eddie Bo. He became a fixture on all of the top records at Cosimo Matassa’s studio in the late ’50s and early ’60s, playing on many classic hits: Ernie K-Doe’s “Mother-in-Law,” “Tain’t It the Truth” and “A Certain Girl”; Benny Spellman’s “Lipstick Traces” and “Fortune Teller”; Lee Dorsey’s “Working in the Coal Mine,” “Ride Your Pony” and “Holy Cow”; Aaron Neville’s “Tell It Like It Is,” “I’m Waiting at the Station” and “Wrong Number”; Chris Kenner’s “Land of 1,000 Dances,” “I Like It Like That” and “Something You Got”; Robert Parker’s “Barefootin’,”; Smokey Johnson’s “It Ain’t My Fault,” Willie Tee’s “Teasin’ You” and Professor Longhair’s “Big Chief,” among others.
Deacon, with his band Deacon John & the Ivories, was the first rock’n’roll musician to play with the New Orleans Symphony in 1970. He has performed at every New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, and his sets are legendary. In the 1980s Deacon’s prowess on the slide guitar eventually landed him a part in Alan Parker’s movie Angel Heart, and a national television commercial for Miller Beer. In 1990, he and fellow musician George Davis released his first CD, Singer of Song, followed by his second CD, Deacon John Live at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. In 2000, he was inducted into the Louisiana Blues Hall of Fame and taught blues music in the schools throughout the state of Louisiana. In 2003 Gambit Magazine named Deacon Best Male Performer, Best Rhythm and Blues Artist and Entertainer of the Year; and Offbeat magazine awarded him Album of the Year (for his third CD, Deacon John’s Jump Blues), Overall Band of the Year and Best R&B/Funk/Soul Band. At the invitation of President George W. Bush, he played at the Congressional Ball at the White House in 2005, and in 2006 Deacon was elected the first African-American president of the New Orleans Musicians Union, Local #174-496. In 2007, he was chosen to sing for the historic inauguration of Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. His many awards and honors include: commemorative envelope from the U.S. Postal Service and New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation, and induction into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame (2008); Community Arts Award from the Arts Council of New Orleans, and an Asante Legends Award (2009); Lifetime Achievement Award from Offbeat, Cutting Edge Music Conference’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and the American Federation of Musicians’ highly coveted Charles Walton Diversity Advocate Award (2010); Snooks Eaglin Lifetime Achievement for Blues Excellence Award from the New Orleans Blues Society (2011); Slim Harpo Blues Pioneer Award from the Slim Harpo Music Awards (2012); and in 2013 he was awarded a star on the Tipitina’s Walk of Fame. Recent awards include Urban League of Greater New Orleans Award for outstanding achievement and contributions to music and preserving the arts, and Jazz Playhouse’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Jazz Award for outstanding leadership (2016); New Light Missionary Baptist Church’s Award for dedicated commitment to the state of Louisiana, Gambit’s Big Easy Entertainment Award for Lifetime Achievement in music (2017); and recognition by the Times-Picayune’s Tricentennial 300 for 300 Project as one of the 300 people who make New Orleans New Orleans (2018). In 2019, Deacon John was awarded an honorary doctorate in music from Loyola University; and in 2021 New Orleans Mayor Latoya Cantrell declared June 23 “Deacon John Day” in the city.
Deacon has graced the covers of many local and national newspapers and magazines. He has appeared in movies and musical theater, and been featured in local and national TV commercials, including Lincoln Cars, Southern Comfort Whiskey, Snickers Candy, Blue Cross health insurance, Capital One Bank (“What’s in your wallet?”) and People’s Health Insurance. Deacon has also been in many WYES-TV documentaries on New Orleans history and culture, most recently New Orleans: The First 300 Years; he is also in The Last Exorcism Part II (2013). Deacon played “Danny Nelson” in the first season of HBO’s acclaimed series. Treme. Deacon is the star of the critically acclaimed documentary movie, Going Back to New Orleans: The Deacon John Film, and live concert DVD and CD, Deacon John’s Jump Blues.