Get on up, and pay tribute

So I’m reading the Milwaukee paper this morning, and there is this headline: “Esquires’ Gilbert Moorer, 67, dies after battle with throat cancer.”

Neither name is familiar, but I’m curious now.

So I click on the story and learn that the Esquires were one of Milwaukee’s greatest R&B vocal groups, led first by Moorer’s sister, Betty, then by Moorer and his brother Alvis. The reason I can’t place them is because they came along a little before my time.

I also learn that the Esquires were together for a decade before they hit it big with “Get On Up” in 1967. That also is a little before my time, a couple of years before I really got into music. But I know that one. I don’t have it, but I know it. I suspect you do, too.

“Get On Up,” the Esquires, 1967. It reached No. 11 on the charts. It’s available on “Get On Up,” a 1995 CD release.

Sad to say, I always thought “Get On Up” was by Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions, who came out of Chicago. Gilbert Moorer and Curtis Mayfield had similar voices, distinctive falsettos.

Turns out Mayfield didn’t want to have anything to do with the Esquires, declining to sign them to his record label when they moved to Chicago in 1966. But they persevered and recorded for several labels in several cities.

There is a more knowledgeable recounting of the Esquires’ career over at Office Naps, where Danny included them in a post about Chicago soul last December. He offers another tune by the Esquires, “Reach Out,” from 1969. Click on the link and scroll down to “Chicago soul, part two.”

3 Comments

Filed under September 2008, Sounds

3 responses to “Get on up, and pay tribute

  1. So often…its what we learn after a musician’s passing that knocks us off balance.

    I enjoyed your ‘youtube’ find.
    Good stuff!

  2. The Esquires were a great underrated soul group. They literally never made a bad record; even the ones you didn’t like as much were still tight. Gilbert was a great falsetto, similar tone to Curtis Mayfield’s, but much stronger. I liked their b-sides and LP cuts better than some of their a-sides. Check out: “State Fair,” “Listen To Me,” “Girls In The City,” “You Got The Power,” “No Doubt About It” and “And Get Away.”

    I think early marriages and family life (Gilbert married in 1960 six years before their first hit “Get On Up”) hindered their career. They didn’t performed as much as they should or could have IMO. I live in Cleveland, Ohio and while their records got aired and hit here I don’t recall them appearing much, if any, here.

    If it hadn’t been for a Myspace friend–who lives in Milwaukee–sending out a bulletin about Moorer’s passing I probably wouldn’t have heard about it for months, possibly years, as I’m sure the national media and even African-American publications like Jet Magazine will be unaware and not publish an account.

  3. Pingback: When giants roamed Milwaukee | The Midnight Tracker

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