Esquires II were formed to keep the sound of the original Esquires alive, who formed in Milwaukee in 1957 and were active until 1976. They perform as a six-piece band while led by Johnny Moorer, Tammie Moorer Pace and Rudy Jacobs. We spoke to Johnny this week.
ME: How did Esquires II get involved with Wisconsin Music Ventures?
JOHNNY: I came across it over the Internet by coincidence and then I reached out to Allison Emm. We emailed back and forth and then met face-to-face, and that’s when I joined. I like her personality and believe in what she’s doing.
ME: Awesome! Sounds like a very organic connection.
JOHNNY: That’s a good word to use to describe it (laughs).
ME: Who’s playing in the group right now?
JOHNNY: The front line is me and the Esquires’ kids, myself and Tammie Moorer Pace. The backline changes based on who’s available, but it’s led by Rudy Jacobs and he’s their boss. Some are in Wisconsin and some are in Illinois.
ME: Gotcha, thank you! And it’s my understanding that Esquires II formed as a revitalization of what the original Esquires were like?
JOHNNY: That’s not exactly how it played out. When I joined it was still the Esquires; my Aunt Trishie asked if I’d join Sammy Pace in doing the Esquires material before it was too late because he was the last one standing from the original band. She said he’d have about two or three years left to do this; after he’s gone, there’s no one left in his family who knows how to do this. She pretty much hit the nail on the head; after about two years he became sick and passed away, and that’s when we became Esquires II with Tammie.
ME: Thank you for sharing how everything fell into place. How was summer for Esquires II?
JOHNNY: We were pretty busy this summer – probably more than any other summer – and I think that’s because of the virus and everything getting shut down. The only bad part about being busy is that so were a lot of the people playing with us because they’re professional musicians playing with other people, so it was hard to get everyone in the same room at the same time. It all became very, very chaotic.
ME: What was a highlight?
JOHNNY: Jazz in the Park. We came off that one really, really well; I didn’t expect as many people down there as there were. The Mayfair Collection series was also very important to us because we’d never played that venue before.
ME: Right on. Jazz in the Park is always a really good time.
ME: What are y’all working on now?
JOHNNY: We’ll be going out to Philadelphia on November 26th for a special appearance, and then we’ll be returning there for Memorial Day weekend also going up to Baltimore next year. The original Esquires were pretty big out there so they bring us out. Then we’ll be here in West Allis at Paulie’s Pub on February 24th, and that’ll be our first show of 2023 – we’re really looking forward to it.