Dwight Moody seemed to be in constant motion for almost his entire life. He traveled the world many times over, and made friends everywhere he went. His occupations were many. Soldier, preacher, radio and TV show host, record label owner, show promoter, publisher, writer, husband, father, and as I stated before, friend. But he was a musician, first and foremost, in an unbroken line that started before the birth of bluegrass, and far into the 21st century.
By the age of 16, Dwight had formed his first band, the Virginia Playboys. He would soon play with the likes of Clyde Moody, Hank Snow, the Stanley Brothers, and many, many more. After two years of distinguished service in the Korean War, he returned home to marry his beloved Cathy. He and Cathy would go on to sing together for many years, and host radio and TV shows throughout North Carolina in the 1950s and '60s, all while raising three boys.
In 1962, he formed Lamon Records as an outlet for his gospel music. Lamon continues today as a successful record label, heaving released records from the likes of the late Billy Scott, and several records by George Hamilton IV, with whom Moody also toured with for a number of years. In the late 1970s, Dwight Moody and Lamon released albums by the Briarhoppers, the legendary Charlotte, NC quintet that had been popular for years on WBT radio. In the early 1990s, Moody joined the Briarhoppers, and helped the group be nationally recognized for their many decades of music heritage.
I first met Dwight in 2002, when I went to photograph the Briarhoppers at a local awards ceremony. Almost immediately, I'd felt like I'd known Dwight for years, and he often called me his "adopted son." I admired his spirit, his stories of traveling the world a million times over, and the ongoing wish to create something new. New adventures, new travels, new possibilities. I saw something in Dwight that I recognized. My mom's father, whom I still miss every day, friends that I had met along my travels, and perhaps, something of myself.
In late 2011, Dwight returned from another tour of Europe, and contacted double pneumonia. He miraculously survived, although his health was never the same. The rambling boy that had always done everything with his own two hands now needed help with his breathing, and a new place to live.
Dwight moved into a retirement community in Mint Hill, NC, and while the staff and new friends took care of Dwight, it became harder to reach him. The cellphone reception at the home was terrible. Calls didn't go through, messages not received. Dwight and I had been working sporadically on a book on the Briarhoppers, based around my photographs of the group. Time was lost as I either couldn't contact him, or couldn't get around the home's increasingly busy schedule for Dwight. In the meantime, I got distracted by writing another book, and then another. As I sit here, two months after losing my dad's father (whom I also wish that I had talked to more), I am frustrated that those windows are now closed. Much like Dwight himself, I always wanted to do more, and have more time with him. But perhaps, that is part of Dwight's greatest legacy. After all the years of travels and music, after raising three boys, who grew up to form the Grammy-nominated Moody Brothers, and all the years of stories and accomplishments, there was still more that Dwight wanted to do. Time did not run out on Dwight, time itself just couldn't contain him, anymore.
While I am glad that Dwight is no longer in physical pain, it is a struggle for me to think about his traveling days being over. No more trips to EuroDisney, performing with his son Carlton, or to play on WSVS in Virginia, or anywhere that George Hamilton IV was traveling to. But perhaps, the traveling is not done. It is possible that our spirits go beyond the physical plain. That our bodies are not a cage, but a vehicle for what we want to accomplish while we are here in this place, and it is something that we leave behind when we go on to our next destination, or next gig. For in that possibility, Dwight Moody will continue to travel on, and those of us that were lucky enough to know him will take those experiences with us. And we will be comforted in knowing that someday, when our next showtime arrives, Dwight will be there, fiddle in hand, and he will smile as he says, "Good to see you again, old friend."
Safe travels, Dwight.
July 12, 2013