At the back of the stage, but at the heart of the sound, Cass Moore plays keyboards for the musical troupe every week at The Rockbox Theater. Photo by Christie Kitchens
Cass Moore: Music man of mystery
by Phil Houseal
When you attend a show at Fredericksburg’s Rockbox Theater, you may not even notice the mysterious musician who never changes expression or leaves his post behind the stacked keyboards at the back of the stage.
But everyone would notice Cass Moore if he were not there.
It is no insult to note that Moore does not add much visual excitement to a show. In fact, the only thing that moves are his fingers. But when they move, they make magnificent music.
Born and raised in Oak Cliff (in Dallas), Moore’s musical journey took him from piano lessons to music school, through 60s and 70s era bands where he played everything from rock to jazz to Sergio Mendez. He toured with such stars as Mickey Gilley, Eddie Rabbitt, and Chuck Berry. He also scored music for industrial film and television.
As part of the band Candy Mountain, Moore backed up country singer Sami Jo for 16 years. She considered them “the best guys I ever worked with - the most talented group of musicians I could have ever wished for.”
That musical mélange was the perfect résumé when Moore bumped into Russ and Wendy Hearn and Linda Morgan in the early 1990s and started playing with them in what would become the genesis of Granbury Live and eventually The Rockbox Theater.
“Touring with Sami was kind of neat, but we were still a road band,” Moore said. “We still had to do all the roadie work - tear down, set up, get in the van and drive to the next gig. When you go from that to working with a band that only works weekends in one place - that’s great.”
Playing four or five shows a weekend is not the grind of playing six nights a week, often into the wee hours. But it is still a job.
“At the Rockbox you are still expected to do your job; it’s just that some of drudgery has been removed from it.” While the venue stays the same, every night the crowd is different. That makes each show “a work in progress every time you come on stage.”
“The audience has paid money so it doesn’t matter if there are 400 or 60, they deserve the same quality of performance,” Moore said. “That is what separates the amateurs from professionals. Many times that’s the only time some will hear you, and you only have one chance to make a first impression. So I always try to play as well as I can.”
While he and his wife, Carolyn, admit to feeling a bit apprehensive moving to Fredericksburg and starting the new venture, they have embraced the change and become part of the community. Moore had a challenging year, suffering a heart attack and literally dying on the tennis court last April. Quick action by his tennis partners saved his life, and after a quadruple bypass last August he is back to playing tennis and making music.
“I want to make everyone sound better. I don’t require the spotlight, but I do like to be appreciated for what I do.”
That doesn’t mean Moore looks for adoration. Quite the opposite: The man behind the sunglasses strips away all mystery when it comes to performing and making music.
“We want to be as good as we can, and give the audience our best so they can walk out and go, wow, we really had a good time and we’re going to come back. You can’t do this for as long as we’ve done it without realizing what the true objective is.”
Why the sunglasses?
“It’s part of my persona on stage,” he explained. “But here, everybody seems to think I’m blind.” He laughed. He even uses that misconception in a musical way. “When I have them off, I play with my eyes closed. I challenge myself to see if can play without looking at the keyboard. Playing by tactile sensation rather than gazing at the keyboard allows me to listen to everything.”
While everyone is listening to him.