Tiny Moore has been described as Western Swing's prized mandolinist and
was mostly known for popularizing the electric mandolin while playing with
Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys in the 401s. He became one of Country music's
most respected and beloved pickers, influencing a whole generation of string
musicians. Born Billie Moore in Hamilton County, Texas, in 1920, Tiny first
took violin lessons. He played with his uncle, a fiddler and guitarist,
his mother and a couple of cousins at country dances earning 75 cents. Tiny
was in the school orchestra and played fiddle and guitar with a group of
fellow students known as the Clod Hoppers. He stayed with them until he
graduated in 1937. The family joined Tiny's father in Port Arthur, Texas,
where Tiny worked in a grocery store. He soon met banjo player, Woody Edmunston
and through him, guitarist, Jimmy Wyble. They began playing popular music
together, and as Tiny was not a fan of the Grand Ole Opry in those days,
he found himself copying Benny Goodman's music.
It was during this time that he got his nickname, because he wasn't tiny. He then weighed in at 267 pounds and would always have a weight problem. In 1940, he began working in a trio with jazz guitarist, Lloyd Ellis. They put together a band and moved to Mobile, Alabama, where Tiny got his first taste of broadcasting, but it didn't pan out, and he returned to Port Arthur. He then moved to Rayne, Louisiana, with Happy Fats and his Rainbow Ramblers, a Cajun band, playing on KVOL Lafayette. He then moved back to Port Arthur to play in the Jubileers, who were formed to advertise Sears Roebuck. He took the band over and they cut some sides for Bluebird. Tiny then moved to Houston, working with the Crustene Ranch Gang, who had a weekly radio show on Texas Quality Network and also in Little Rock. He stayed with them (and also worked in the shipyards) until he got drafted in 1943. Tiny spent two years in the U.S. Air Force as a radio operator and teacher in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. It was just prior to his service that Tiny started to play mandolin and develop his style. After leaving the service, Tiny returned to Port Arthur, where in the summer of 1946, he came to the attention of Bob Wills, who was playing at the Pleasure Pier. Tiny worked with Bob Wills for four years. In early 1950, he was still with the band, but was also managing the Wills Point Ballroom in Sacramento. He started playing with Billy Jack Wills on KFBK in Sacramento and were successful locally. During a visit to Los Angeles, he met famed instrument builder Paul Bigsby, and got Bigsby to build him a five-string electric mandolin (tuned C-G-D-A-E), which arrived in 1952. Tiny played with Wills briefly in 1955, but refused to go back on the road. He then worked on a local television station, as "Ranger Roy," for the youngsters, as well as playing music on weekends. In 1961, he lost his job at the station due to a strike and so, in the cause of financial stability, he opened the Tiny Moore Music Center in Sacramento, where he taught guitar, fiddle and mandolin.
In 1970, Merle Haggard got together some of the original Texas Playboys, including Tiny, to record a tribute album to Bob Wills, A Tribute To The Best Damn Fiddle Player in the World (Or My Salute to Bob Wills). In 1973, Tiny appeared on the last album that Wills played on, The Last Time, and then, became a member of Merle Haggard's Strangers from 1973 through 1976. He became an active member of the California Old Time Fiddlers Association and frequently participated in their contests. He also played quite a lot at this stage with his friend, former Texas Playboy and rhythm guitarist, Eldon Shamblin. During 1979, Tiny was invited to record an album on Kaleidoscope entitled Back To Back, with another mandolin star, Jethro Burns, which was produced by a third wizard of the instrument, David Grisman, who also played on a couple of cuts. Tiny also went on to record a solo album, Tiny Moore Music, for the label in 1980. In December 1987, while playing at Cactus Pete's in Jackpot, Nevada, with the Cadillac Band, Tiny Moore suffered a heart attack and passed away.