Ben Moore a.k.a Bobby Purify 1941-2022

One of the great lost voices of the southern soul genre.

Ben Moore a.k.a Bobby Purify 1941-2022

August 20, 2022
Malcolm Mills

Since 12th May 2022, the world as we know it has been deprived of yet another voice. Ben Moore (known to us as Bobby Purify) has made it across the bridge to the world of no more sorrow and no more pain.

Ben became Bobby Purify in 1969 when (thanks to an introduction by Dan Penn) he replaced the outgoing Robert Lee Dickey in soul duo James and Bobby Purify.  By the end of the 1970s and the demise of the duo, he had started a new career recording albums under his own name.

In 1998 he contracted the severe glaucoma that rapidly led to total blindness and a withdrawal from life as a musician, until inspired by a phone conversation with Ray Charles, to begin again.

In 2003, Bobby was living in Pensacola, Florida.  While playing for tips at a party, he caught the eyes and ears of Bucky Lindsey, who recognized him and immediately contacted Dan Penn.  The songwriting team of Bucky, Dan and Carson Whitsett had enjoyed recent success in the form of “Don’t Give Up On Me”, which had been a huge comeback hit for Solomon Burke in 2002 and Dan was looking for a new project.

At that very moment, I was arriving in the USA on a business trip through Nashville, Austin and New Orleans en-route to Cuba.  While in Nashville, and visiting with Dan and Linda Penn, they told me that their friends Bucky and Lisa had rediscovered Bobby Purify in Pensacola and that it might make a good recording project.

Plans were quickly made for us all to congregate at Bucky and Lisa’s house where Bobby would audition.  Prior to heading off to Cuba, Paul Riley and I rerouted via Pensacola to see what might be cooking.  We weren’t disappointed.  Bobby nervously sat in the corner with all six of us looking on.  Soulfully strumming on a beat-up old white Strat, he started singing and everybody immediately knew that we wanted to get something going.  We quickly worked out the bones of a deal with everyone and Dan, Bucky and Carson agreed to write the album.  Dan would assemble the musicians and record it at his studio in Nashville.

“Better To Have It” by Bobby Purify was released in 2005.  The original idea was for Bobby to tour with the recording band, but two successive hurricane seasons and Bobby’s blindness put an end to those aspirations—despite a Blues Foundation nomination for  Comeback Album of The Year.

By the end of 2007 it was clear that despite some sales success with the record, Bobby was simply not able to tour, so when a position was offered to him for a place in the Blind Boys of Alabama, it was an easy choice to make.  He continued to tour and record with that band for the rest of his days.

The original “Better To Have It” album was deleted from the catalogue because plans were underway for a special version to be re-issued.  Due to Covid this was postponed until November 2022.  The new deluxe edition will comprise two CDs and feature all the demo recordings by Dan Penn with Bucky and Carson with an extensive booklet containing the complete story of the recordings with interviews and photos from the sessions.  A fitting tribute to one of the great lost voices of the southern soul genre…Bobby Purify.