BOBBY MOORE AND
THE RHYTHM ACES
Searching For My Love
"Searching For My Love" is one of the best rhythm and blues records of the 1960s. Bobby Moore and the Rhythm Aces are the parties responsible for it. But was it a big hit? That depends on where you lived at the time. It barely made the airwaves in New York, then was quickly gone. Likewise in Chicago (which is odd since its label, Checker, was based in the Windy City). In many parts of the country it just didn't get radio airplay at all. In Los Angeles, though, it was a number one hit on all three of the leading pop music stations and the top soul station. On the Billboard charts it was a top 30 Hot 100 hit and went top ten on the R&B charts. But this great Rhythm Aces record never blanketed the country like it should have.
Moore was born and raised in New Orleans and spent several years in the U.S. Army starting in the late '40s. Stationed at Fort Benning near Columbus, Georgia, the tenor saxophonist assembled the Rhythm Aces around 1952 and the group performed in the area whenever it fit into their schedule. After his discharge they broke up, and in 1961 Bobby moved to Montgomery, Alabama, about 90 miles west of Columbus. The new band he put together included his brother Larry Moore on sax, guitarist Marion Sledge, keyboard player Clifford Laws, Joe Frank on bass, drummer John Baldwin, Jr. and vocalist Chico Jenkins. An eyewitness once told me the seven-man outfit consistently wowed local crowds at southern venues in those days.
When "Searching For My Love" came out, many who hadn't seen them in person assumed Moore was the singer on the record, since the label didn't show any differently, but it was Chico who gave the group its distinctive sound. It would have also been easy to assume the song was recorded in Chicago, but one listen suggests otherwise; this is a bluesy, rhythmic number in the convention of the earlier 1960s, a bit out of place mid-decade, which is perhaps why it stood out so well...and had difficulty getting played in many markets. Recorded at the FAME studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, it impressed Leonard Chess enough to offer the band a contract with Checker Records, a Chess subsidiary. The song began moving up the R&B charts in March 1966, out of sync with its run on the pop charts, where it made its strongest impact in July and August. The longer promotional arc kept the group on the road in a seeming marathon of appearances, setting a precedent wherein they would continue performing for decades afterward, using their hit song as a drawing card.
There are other cool songs in the lamentably limited repertoire of Moore and the Aces: the hit's flip side, "Hey, Mr. D.J.," is an instrumental sax-and-organ jam reminiscent of Jr. Walker's All Stars. The follow-up, "Try My Love Again," continued the formula of the first single, crediting Jenkins this time with a single line on the record label: featuring Chico. The session was produced by Monk Higgins, a sax master in his own right ("Who-Dun-It?"), but the song stalled on the lower end of the charts, probably due to the unlikelihood of lightning striking twice when you're performing in a style a half-decade removed from the current trends. Next came "Chained to Your Heart" with more of an updated Chicago soul arrangement, utilizing a full horn section with Moore's sax work barely evident. It made a brief showing on the R&B charts in the summer of 1967. After a few more releases, they were released by the label.
Bobby Moore and the Rhythm Aces were the first of the Chess/Checker artists to record at FAME, arguably the epicenter of the '60s soul scene. It opened the Chess executives to the idea of recording more artists in that environment. Etta James, her career in a slump by 1967, went to Muscle Shoals and came back with a couple of albums' worth of material including "Tell Mama," a big 1968 hit that set her back on the hitmaking track. The Dells also made some recordings there during their late '60s-early '70s hitmaking period. Meanwhile, if you're among that renegade group of music fans who have overlooked the underrated "Searching For My My Love"...find that groove and wrap yourself in it!