Payin' Dues - Ironing Board Sam

Ironing Board Sam, aka Sam Moore, grew up in Rock Hill, South Carolina, singing in church and playing boogie-woogie piano in clubs from the age of 14. He gained his moniker from his instrument of choice: a keyboard attached to an ironing board. He released his debut album, 1996’s Human Touch, at the age of 57. Super Spirit, meanwhile, is put together by the team behind Leo Welch.

You’re working with Big Legal Mess’s Bruce Watson and Jimbo Mathus on your new album.

I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. It really captures a moment – me right now. The songs are great, the production is great, the playing is great. Bruce Watson and Jimbo Mathus really understand me, they get what I’m trying to do.

You played with Jimi Hendrix at the Del Morocco in Nashville in 1962…

He had a nine-piece band playing downstairs, and he heard me and my drummer playing upstairs. I was playing the button board, and I had it so I could sit behind it and play it like a big organ. One night I noticed the crowd got extra hot. I looked over my shoulder: on my left they had a jukebox about six-foot tall, and Jimi Hendrix was on top of the jukebox playing his guitar behind his head. He sort of had to crouch because of the ceiling. After I saw that, I knew I had to do something else so I started carrying my button board into the crowd so I could get some attention back on my show! That started a trend for me, because nobody was carrying their keyboard into the audience then.

Such stunts came to define your live shows: in 1979 you played underwater.

I was at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. We built a water tank, placed it on stage, I wore a glass helmet, climbed in and played. In the 80s I performed as The Human Jukebox on Bourbon Street. I sat inside a jukebox, passers-by gave me money and I played their selections. When I played with drummer Kerry Brown as the Eighth Wonder Of The World, I went out onto the sidewalk and played while Kerry set fire to his drumsticks and his drum kit.

You also played with Earl Hooker in Chicago, didn’t you? That must have been a hot ticket…

Yes, I arrived in Chicago in 1964, went to Chess records. I recorded a session. Nothing ever came out on me but I met Earl Hooker. We played Pepper’s – that was a great show – and then he took me to Jimmy Hunt’s Lounge in Waterloo, Iowa, where we had a great time too.

Super Spirit is out now via Big Legal Mess