Scotty Moore

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.

5 thoughts on “Scotty Moore

  1. Saw this comment about Scotty Moore from Paul McCartney that I thought you would like.

    Dear Scotty Moore died this week. When we were growing up in Liverpool the sound of Scotty’s guitar on early Elvis records was nothing short of miraculous. It sounded to us like nothing we’d ever heard before and the gods in Valhalla couldn’t have made a better sound. His technical skills, mixed with his sometime wild abandon, set the perfect tone for Elvis’s vocals.

    “I was lucky enough to record with him and D.J. Fontana for a Sun Records tribute record that Ahmet Ertegun put together and Scotty’s quiet manner and subtle sense of humour made the occasion very special for a fan like me. I saw him a few more times and spoke to him on the phone and he never ceased to be the hero he had been in my youth.

    “Rest in peace Scotty, one of the great gods of the guitar.”

    – Paul

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    1. That is freakin’ awesome. I actually have that Sun Records tribute CD. Found it in the debris of what I laughingly refer to as my “home office.” Have to give it a spin. Had a long conversation yesterday about Scotty with a good friend who is THE Sun Records/Elvis guy. Anyway, thanks for sharing. Scotty was very, very important to rock music and I’m glad he’s being remembered.

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  2. Yeah, it’s hard to convey to someone who hasn’t heard the Sun stuff how revolutionary it was for its time. Nobody was doing exactly that. The sound of That’s All Right – when played back to Presley – surprised even him.


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