Shaggy spoke for an entire generation, the former deejay has finally found her own voice.
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Sweat drips off Nancy “Shaggy” Moore’s face as she lifts the front leg of a horse, coaxes the animal into bending it at the knee, clamps it between her own legs, and drives a nail through the hoof. “I went to horseshoe school for six weeks in the mid-nineties. One girl in a class with nineteen guys—tell me I didn’t like that,” she says with a laugh. “I’m such a perfectionist, though. I wanted to be the best, but it took me eight hours to do two shoes. Three weeks in, my body started to give out. It was hot, and twenty coal fires burned while we shoed all day. I said, ‘My God, I can’t do this.’ But here I am, ten years later, shoeing a horse in Richardson. That’s one of the little life lessons you learn: It has to get that bad sometimes before you can do it.” It’s a lesson that Shaggy, the focal—and vocal—point of the mid-eighties Dallas punk scene, has learned over the past sixteen years. When Texas Monthly contributing editor David Seeley wrote “The Shaggy Club” in May 1985, she was the seventeen-year-old host of Saturday’s midnight-to-four-in-the-morning “Pajama Party” on KNON, Dallas’ listener-supported radio station. In addition to playing the most purposefully obnoxious music yet devised by the teenage mind, the girl known as Shaggy to her fans put listeners on the air to vent about their parents, dispensed her own advice, read from the Bible, interviewed musicians, and spread the word about the punk scene—all with her irresistible, utterly unself-conscious mix of solemnity and hilarity. She lived the life too, fighting with her parents before moving out of their house, dropping out of high school, joining a band, and struggling to bring a smidgen of order to an ever-changing cast of friends who shared her North Dallas rental named, after nobody in particular, the Bill House.
Today, the 34-year-old still known as Shaggy to longtime friends but as Nancy to newer ones, has brought order to her own life. She has her first “real job,” as she puts it, with The Guide, the entertainment magazine of the Dallas Morning News. She lives in the North Dallas house she grew up in and takes care of her mother, Frances. She also performs her own excellent Americana-flavored songs around town. Except for the recent breakup of a relationship she says she’ll probably never get over, she’s pleased with this life. “At seventeen, I was ‘the voice of my generation,'” she declares. “But at thirty, I found my voice.”
She found it by studying opera at Texas Woman’s University, in Denton. “There is a thing about singing, as with writing, that you have to find your own voice and let it live, let it come out. That’s the only way to be believable—to ‘be real.’ Once you trust your own voice, you learn to like your own voice and love yourself,” she explains. Her journey, though, has been nothing if not circuitous. “I am so happy to have been a part of such a cool, fun time in music, where you could get angry and still have fun. If you listen to those songs from 1976 to 1986, the melody lines are happy, triumphant and jubilant, all while venting frustration and anger. What a great outlet for a kid!” she says. She also explored country and blues, especially the Texas varieties, while staying with KNON full-time until 1991. She played bass in the mid-eighties for spunky country-rockers Lost Highway, who eventually became Ray Wylie Hubbard’s backup band. She even cut a deal for the movie rights to her story while Seeley and Texas Monthly were trying to do the same. The script went through five teams of writers before the producers dropped the project in 1989. By then, she estimates she’d seen between $125,000 and $175,000 in options. She bought herself an SUV, took a trip to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, and later purchased a pickup. Some of the money went to charities and to paying off and maintaining her parents’ house.
It also went to cover her parents’ escalating medical bills. Cash ran out fast as their health problems worsened—Frances suffered a stroke in 1986, and her father, Bob, had Alzheimer’s disease for sixteen years before he died in 1997—and Shaggy had what she calls “my first midlife crisis” in 1989, at the age of 21. “I was not as grown-up as I seemed. I’d had to do grown-up things all my life, but my little heart was not as advanced as my duties were as a young person,” she says. “My family was falling apart. Even before my dad got sick, there was a lot of drinking in my family. I was surrounded by craziness, and I was scared because I thought I was going to grow up and be crazy.”
Despite all that, Shaggy managed to earn her GED and celebrated by going horseback riding, which rekindled a childhood passion. She loved it so much she wound up working in the stables for the next three years. To help make ends meet, she also drove horse-drawn carriages, waited tables, chauffeured limousines, and worked as a receptionist. She attended Tarrant County Junior College for three years but left that to go to farriers school in Ardmore, Oklahoma. She then took out student loans and shoed horses to finance four semesters of opera studies at TWU from 1995 through 1996.
But six credit hours and two recitals short of her degree, her family situation bottomed out. Frances was fighting to get Bob moved from a Lancaster veterans hospital to a Bonham nursing home for which he wasn’t eligible; Adult Protective Services was preparing to take custody away from her. “I was embarrassed, scared, shocked, and freaked out. I felt like it was my fault for not being on top of the situation,” Shaggy recalls. The crisis was resolved when the hospital staff found him a nursing home in Irving, where he died not long after. Frances, meanwhile, moved to Arizona to live with a son and his wife, who later decided that she would be better off in a nursing home herself. Shaggy feared that would mean she would have to sell the North Dallas home to pay the bills, and though she had once scorned the old neighborhood, “I could not stand the thought of never being able to turn onto our street and go to the house again.” Her friends urged her to have Frances admitted to a nursing home. Instead, she quit school and brought her mother back to Dallas. “The minute I got back home I said, ‘Yeah, it’s kinda weird being thirty years old and living in your parents’ house, but I’m sure sleeping a lot better now that I’m here,'” Shaggy says. Five years later, she still is.
In 1999 she became a part-time file clerk for the Morning News, which eventually turned into a full-time job as the listings editor and a contributing writer for The Guide (she uses “Nancy Moore” as her byline). It’s the best job she has ever had, and she aims to keep it that way. The old gang from the Bill House went on to become congressional interns, cosmetologists, symphony bassists, salesmen, and nurses. One died of a heroin overdose, and several married and started families. The failure of her own two-year relationship was especially painful because, she says, “I had decided not to get seriously involved with anyone until I was thirty. Until then, I concentrated on getting my own life in order just because I was so scared.” At least she doesn’t worry about that anymore.
Except for a brief respite around 1989, music has remained a constant. Though she rarely goes out to hear live acts—she dreads running into her scenemaker ex and she gets tired of most bands after ten songs anyway—she performs about once a week, singing bittersweet originals in a voice full of affirmation, longing, and old wounds. She plans to release an album eventually. After that, she hopes that stars might record her songs and that she can play regionally without sacrificing her day job. “You can do that in Texas now—you can make a CD and promote it and get it on independent radio and sustain yourself that way,” she says. When she was a punk deejay, her theme song was the Nervebreakers’ “Hijack the Radio.” After all these years, it turns out she still wants to do just that.