Phil Moore, a composer and arranger whose vocal coaching refined the talents of such extraordinary entertainers as Lena Horne, Dorothy Dandridge, Johnny Mathis, the Supremes, Diahann Carroll and Ava Gardner, died of a heart attack Wednesday.
His wife, Jeanne, said he was 70 when he died at Cedars Sinai Medical Center and that he had a history of heart problems.
Moore, the adopted son of George Moore, who managed boxing champion Henry Armstrong for many years, was a child piano prodigy who came to Hollywood after attending the University of Washington and then working in speak-easies during the Prohibition era. He went to work for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer but met the fate of most black musicians and composers of that time and was forced into ghost writing for white composers while holding the job title of "rehearsal pianist," said Leonard Feather, The Times jazz critic.
Credited With Songs
Songs he was credited with writing include "Shoo, Shoo Baby" and "I Feel So Smoochie."
When he was permitted to orchestrate, it was only for black-oriented films.
"I became an instant authority on African exotica, South American jungles," he said years later. "That's why I have this huge research library today. I had to find those things out myself."
Frustrated, he went to New York and became the first black talent director for CBS radio and a chief arranger at NBC. He also formed a combo, the Phil Moore Four and enjoyed a lengthy run at Cafe Society. Later he became the first black to produce records for white-owned companies on both coasts.
In 1974, Moore returned to the West Coast and was associate music director for the television specials "Duke Ellington: We Love You Madly" and "Cotton Club '75."
Talent for Training
His talent for training singers first came to light through his long association with Lena Horne while they both were at MGM, but through the years he also composed, arranged, coached or wrote special material for Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones, Pearl Bailey, Roberta Peters, Louis Armstrong and Perry Como.
"It's like being a gardener," he told one interviewer about his teaching: "You know the kind of seed, where to plant it. Music is the soil for singers to grow from. You see they don't get too much sunlight, knock off some of the bugs, put up a little pole for support, but you can't make them grow. You just take care of them, cultivate them, and that's what I've done."
In addition to his wife, he is survived by a daughter and two grandchildren. A memorial service will be held May 25 at 2 p.m at the American Federation of Musicians hall on Vine Street in Hollywood.