Saturday Night, Sunday Morning: Chronicle of Blus Singer-Minster Gatemouth Moore

(aka “The Travels of Gatemouth Moore”)

A reverential commemoration of an almost-forgotten life, Louis Guida’s 1991 documentary, Saturday Night, Sunday Morning, offers a look at the remarkable story of A.D. “Gatemouth” Moore, the blues singer turn minister.

Low-key but original docu has some limited potential on the festival circuit and public TV.

Moore was a nationally prominent band singer, when he experienced religious conversion in a Chicago night club in 1949. His sudden, dramatic calling terminated his musical career. Moore headed back to the Mississippi River Delta, where his musical career had begun, and forged a totally new existence as an evangelical preacher. One of the paradoxes of his life is that he never wanted to be a preacher; he hated preachers.

Composed of a series of engaging recollections, docu is held together by a lengthy interview with Reverend Moore as he drives his Cadillac across the Deep South. He has devoted most of his life to traveling (always in a Cadillac), first as singer, then as a revival leader and gospel minister.

Chronicling main events in Moore’s life, docu reveals that at the age of 9 he discovered he was a singer, and at 16 ran away from small-town Kansas and began to perform. In l934, Moore hit Beale Street, Memphis’ black culture center, soon learning the meaning of TBA (Tough on Black Artists). In the next decade, he penned such national hits as “Did You Ever Love a Woman” and “I Ain’t Mad At You, Pretty Baby.”

Docu features appearance by B.B. King, who describes Moore as “the greatest blues singer ever.” NAACP director and Memphis minister Benjamin Hooks also believes Moore would have become a national sensation if his showbiz career had started later.

Singer-reverend Al Green explains that, “You can’t be a worldly entertainer and a spiritual minister.” Indeed, aptly titled pic explores the interplay between the secular (Saturday night) and spiritual (Sunday morning), two symbols that capture the essence of Moore’s life as well as the vitality and tension of African-American culture in the South.

Scenes alternate between present and past, the sacred and profane, underscoring the two irreconcilable chapters in Moore’s life. “Before,” he explains “I was sick all the time, I was broke.” Reconstructing his life, Moore now holds that he picked his “bad” habits–cigars, ladies, gambling–in showbiz.

Offering insights into his musical style, Moore says he didn’t move much when he sang, because he perceived himself as a storyteller rather than singer. Moore wrote his best-known song, “Did You Ever Love a Woman,” for his beloved first wife, though he admits, “I was weak, I knew she won’t treat me right.”

Docu doesn’t really delve into the context of Moore’s religious conversion, but it impressively imparts the complete transformation of a man who has found a new mission and peace of mind. “I’m not interested in singing blues anymore,” he says in an assured, resonant voice, “blues have no part in church.”

Moore’s vivid personality occupies center of docu whose tech credits are modest.


Docu Color/B&W

A Co-Media Inc. production. Produced, directed by Louis Guida. Camera (color/B&W), Richard Gordon; editor, David Carnochan; sound and lighting, Tim Callahan; sound editor, Mary Ellen Porto. Reviewed at American Film Institute, L.A., June 3, 1992. (In AFI/L.A. FilmFest). Running time: 65 min.

With: Gatemouth Moore, B.B. King, Al Green, Rufus Thomas,
Benjamin Hooks.