Scotty Moore died the other day. He was 84 years old. Some of you will recognize the name. For those who don’t, he was one of the original rockabilly guitarists, in fact maybe the most prominent architect of that sound.
Moore was Elvis’ original guitarist and inspired a generation of musicians. (James Burton, originally Ricky Nelson’s guitarist, played behind Elvis later. Also great, he is still very much with us and, according to his web site, will be soon touring the UK.)
Here’s what Rolling Stone magazine said about Scotty when they named him #29 on their list of 100 greatest guitarists. I can’t improve upon it:
“On July 5th, 1954, Elvis Presley, guitarist Scotty Moore and bassist Bill Black messed around with a hopped-up version of Arthur Crudup’s “That’s All Right” during a break in a session at Sun Records in Memphis. The guitar would never be the same:
Moore’s concise, aggressive runs mixed country picking and blues phrasing into a new instrumental language. The playing was so forceful that it’s easy to forget there was no drummer. If Moore had done nothing but the eighteen Sun recordings – including “Mystery Train” and “Good Rockin’ Tonight” – his place in history would be assured.
But he continued to play with Elvis, contributing the scorching solos to “Heartbreak Hotel” and “Hound Dog.” And when Elvis wanted to get back to his roots on the 1968 “comeback special,” he summoned Moore for the sound that helped change the role of the guitar in pop music. “Everyone else wanted to be Elvis,” Keith Richards said. “I wanted to be Scotty.””
Keith has stated many times that he could never figure out how to play the “stop time” break and figure that Moore plays on “I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone” (and Scotty wouldn’t tell him), and that he hopes it will remain a mystery. And I guess now, yes it will.
Scotty Moore was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000 and the Memphis Music Hall of Fame in 2015.