June 28, 2016: Scotty Moore, Guitarist on Presley’s Early Hits, Dies

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Scotty Moore and Elvis Presley in an undated photograph

Guitarist Scotty Moore who was one of two musicians to play with Elvis Presley in his early recordings for Sun Records – and then at The King’s home at RCA Records – died June 28, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. He was 84 years old; no cause of death was announced, although it was known that Moore had been ill for a while.

It was Moore who established the electric guitar as the lead instrument in rock ’n’ roll. In the early days there was as likely to be a sax solo as a guitar solo on a rock ’n’ roll record. Moore’s work with Elvis set the stage for the guitar’s rise—visually as well as musically—as the quintessential instrument in the music.

Along with Bill Black on double bass, the two combined with Presley to help launch modern day rock ‘n’ roll. These recordings, made at Sam Phillips’ Sun Studios in Memphis, included Elvis’ first hit, 1954’s “That’s All Right (Mama).” The song – a cover of blues singer Arthur Crudup’s “That’s All Right” – was recorded on July 5 of that year.

The next day, the trio recorded the Bill Monroe standard, “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” which became the B-side when “That’s All Right (Mama)” was released just two weeks’ later – such were the times – on July 19.

During a break on that July 5 recording session, the players started fooling around with an upbeat version of Crudup’s song. It caught Phillips’ ear and he recorded it. Two days later Phillips played an acetate of the song for local DJ Dewey Phillips (no relation). The next night Dewey played it on his popular “Red, Hot and Blue” show on Memphis’ WHBQ. Listeners start calling in to request that he play it again. The rest is rock ’n’ roll history.

Related: Details of the “That’s All Right” recording session

Later that year, Moore and Black were joined by drummer D.J. Fontana and named the Blue Moon Boys and became Presley’s recording and touring band.

Moore would end up playing on such legendary Presley singles as “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Hound Dog,” “Mystery Train,” “Jailhouse Rock” and “Heartbreak Hotel,” among many others. In 1956, no less than five of Presley’s singles reached #1 (though the Blue Moon Boys did not perform on “Love Me Tender”).

Moore reunited with Presley and Fontana on Elvis’ so-called 1968 Comeback Special which aired on NBC. After years of cookie cutter movies, Presley’s manager Colonel Tom Parker arranged for him to perform on primetime television. Dressed in black leather, Presley taped four intimate performances with, among others, Moore and Fontana. The special’s enormous success and the audience’s response led to Presley’s renewed enthusiasm for touring.

Related: Paul Simon dedicated a song to Moore after his passing

Moore was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000 in the “Sideman” category. In October 2015, he wasn’t able to attend his own induction into the Memphis Music Hall of Fame and Keith Richards accepted on his behalf, saying in part: “I think without Scotty, I wouldn’t be here. He was such an inspiration.”

Years ago, Jimmy Page wrote: “Scotty Moore had been a major inspiration in my early transitory days from acoustic to electric guitar. His guitar playing on those early Elvis Sun recordings, and later at RCA, was monumental. It was during the 1950s that these types of song-shaping guitar parts helped me see the importance of the electric guitar approach to music.”

Moore was born December 27, 1931. Services for Moore were hold on June 30, in his hometown of Humboldt, Tenn. Bill Black died in 1965 at just 39. Fontana died in 2018 at 87.

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  1. herbgart2
    #1 herbgart2 30 June, 2016, 17:55

    Scotty published a Buddy Holly song. He was a modest and fun person to be around. His office had one of the earliest huge Klipch speakers that took up a lot of the office. He also owned Telecaster #2!

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