Niles resident launches podcast with South Bend native

Published 7:57 am Wednesday, April 10, 2019

NILES — For Tom Moore, 62, of South Bend, every record and every song tells a story.

Surrounded by recording equipment and sitting inside a small, red-walled studio in the basement of a Niles home, Moore adjusted his wide-brimmed cowboy hat as he recalled the story behind: “Turning Point” by Mighty Joe Young.

The story Moore tells is a silly one. When he was 19 years old, Moore and his best friend, Neil Raabe, spent their last few dollars to buy a bottle of Champagne for a flashy-dressed man at a club in Chicago.

“The man looked like something out of a cartoon, like a mob boss or a pimp,” Moore recalled. “When the Champagne came out, we wanted to kill Neil. How could he fritter away the last of our money on this maniac? But Neil knew that [the man] couldn’t let a couple of scruffy 19-year-olds outdo him.”

The man, who Moore remembers to have been wearing feathers and a large hat, ended up buying dinner and drinks for Moore and his friends, and even stuffed large bills into their shirt pockets.

“He bought us everything. We got so plastered,” he said. “It was a crazy night.”

Though Moore chuckles at the memory now, the story carries emotion that forces him to wipe the beginning of tears from his eyes.

“It’s kind of crazy how music can do that to you,” Moore said. “Every song has a memory attached to it. Each record has a great, great story. … I have so many with Neil.”

Moore recently partnered with Justin Flagel, 37, of Niles, to start “Mambo Sauce,” a music-heavy podcast that discusses American roots music and tells the stories behind the songs and the history of the artists. Launched this week, hour-long episodes of the podcast will be released on the second Tuesday of each month on Spotify and Listeners can also subscribe to the podcast on Patreon.

The first episode features music from New Orleans-based artists and music from artists such as Ronnie Barron and Henry Roeland Byrd — aka “Professor Longhair” — Big Joe Maher and Mac “Dr. John” Rebenack. Later episodes will feature artists from different locations, including Ann Arbor, Michigan.

“This podcast is filled with artists that people probably haven’t heard of, but should,” Flagel said.

The podcast is inspired in many ways by Moore’s friendship with the Champagne-buying Raabe, who died in 2015. Having been friends since they were teenagers and having lived together in college, Raabe willed Moore and another friend his entire record collection.

The collection is an expansive one, filled with lesser known artists and American roots music, and Moore was present when many of the albums were collected.

Moore said “Mambo Sauce” is a tribute to Raabe and the music that they bonded over throughout their lives.

“Here I was sitting with all this great music around me. I thought, ‘I can’t just sit on this. I have to get it out there,” he said. “This music is just kind of the soundtrack of our stupid lives.”

Since Moore decided to share Raabe’s music collection with a broader audience, it has inspired a two-year process that he and Flagel have been on to make the podcast that includes education in music licensing and website building. But now, the pair said they are ready to share their creation with the world.

Flagel and Moore met years ago at the Wood Fire Trattoria restaurant in Dowagiac, where Moore played in a band. They got to talking, and Moore learned that Flagel had worked on several podcasts, including his most successful, “Anywhere the Needle Drops.”

They two became friends and stayed in touch over the years, so when Moore got the idea for “Mambo Sauce,” he knew that Flagel was the person who would help make it a reality.

“Justin was the first and only choice,” Moore said.

Flagel said he believes in Moore’s philosophy about music carrying memories. After all, his earliest memory is of himself as a child changing a record on his mother’s turntable.

“Music is probably my favorite thing,” Flagel said. “I’m not a musician, but I am a fan. I love music. I love the stories behind it the people behind it.”

Flagel said he hopes the new podcast will be able to share the love of music with others and shine a light on underappreciated artists. To aid with this goal, he said “Mambo Sauce’s” website will be a “digital museum,” where visitors can learn more about the artists discussed on the show and find out where to buy their music.

“I want to get the music out there, get the artists out there,” Flagel said. “The show is about promoting these people and their music.”

Moore’s end goal for the podcast is simple: to honor his late friend.

“I want Neil Raabe’s music to be all over the world,” he said.