Remembering Elvis' Legendary Guitarist: Scotty Moore (1931-2016)
Keith Richards may have said it best: "Everyone wanted to be Elvis, I wanted to be Scottie Moore". Scottie Moore the lead guitarist for Elvis Presley on so many of his biggest songs, inspired the next generation of guitarist in the rock & roll world.
Keith Richards, George Harrison, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Bruce Springsteen, Brian Setzer, Alvin Lee, Jeff Beck, Ron Wood & Mark Knopfler, to name a few.
Scotty Moore was born December 31st, 1931 in Gadsden, Tennessee. Moore began playing guitar as a child, influenced by country music as well as jazz. One of Moore's biggest influences was Chet Atkins. Moore served in the US Navy from 1948-1952, came home & began a legendary music career.
Moore & his band the Starlight Wrangler got to audition for Sam Phillips at Sun Records. It was Phillips who knew that Moore's guitar playing, Bill Blacks double bass slapping style, were going to be perfect behind a young Elvis Presley. Elvis had recorded a song at the studio a year earlier for his mother & Phillip's secretary Marion Keisker had kept a demo. She asked a young Elvis- What kind of singer are you?" He said, "I sing all kinds." I said,"Who do you sound like?" He said, "I don't sound like nobody." She called him back a year later & Phillips put the band together.
On a classic night in 1954 at Sun Studios, the band had what seemed like an unproductive rehearsal.
Quotes: Moore recalled, "All of a sudden, Elvis just started singing this song, jumping around and acting the fool, and then Bill picked up his bass, and he started acting the fool, too, and I started playing with them. Sam, had the door to the control booth open ... he stuck his head out and said, 'What are you doing?' And we said, 'We don't know.' 'Well, back up,' he said, 'try to find a place to start, and do it again.'"
Drummer D.J. Fontana was added in October of 1954 & would be a part of Elvis's band for the next 16 years. The boys officially formed the group "The Blue Moon Boys". This would be the classic Elvis lineup, who made all the ground breaking television appearances & legendary recordings that put rock & roll on the map.
The group would appear together until Elvis went to the Army in 1958, returned in 1960 & stayed together for the 1968 Elvis Comeback Special, although Bill Black had passed away in 1965. The '68 Comeback Special was a huge success & is looked back at as the first to have that Unplugged type of format. This was the last time the band played together & it was the last time Scotty Moore saw Elvis.
Moore cab be heard on songs: Jailhouse Rock/ Hound Dog/ All Shook Up/ Blue Suede Shoes/ Heartbreak Hotel/ Dont Be Cruel/ Thats All Right/ Are You Lonesome Tonight/ Good Rockin Tonight /Blue Moon of Kentucky/ Milk Cow Blues / Hard Headed Woman/ Baby Lets Play House/ Mystery Train & others. He also appeared in the Elvis Movies: Loving You, Jailhouse Rock, King Creole & G.I. Blues from 1957-1960.
Moore was famous for playing a Gibson Super 400, known as "the guitar that changed the world" it is called the largest, fanciest-adorned, highest-priced factory built archtop / hollow body guitar ever. One of the key pieces of equipment in Moore's sound was the use of the Ray Butts Echosonic , first used by Chet Atkins.
This is a guitar amplifier with a tape echo built in, which allowed him to take his trademark slap back echo on the road. Moore said he took his style form every guitar player he ever heard, with Elvis he played around him never trying to top over him. The idea was to play something that wet the other way- a counter point.
During those days, Moore & Presley were good friends with Moore feeling like an older brother to the younger Presley. He was the Elvis' first manager before Colonel Tom Parker took over.
For a time Moore supervised operations at Sun Studios as well. Moore would work with his friend Carl Perkins, as well as Keith Richards, Ron Wood, Jeff Beck, Paul McCartney, & Levon Helm.
In 1970 he even engineered the Ringo Starr album Beaucoup of Blues, as well as collaborating with many other artists through the years. He was once ranked the 29th best Guitarist of all time.
Over the past few months Moore's health had gotten bad, he passed away in Nashville at age 84.