Scotty Moore – 27 December 1931 - 28 June 2016
Here is a photograph taken in 1954 of Elvis Presley, aged 19. This was long before ‘college boy hair cut’ post-military service Elvis, star of some mind numbing films like ‘Paradise Hawaiian Style’, the weird ‘Harum Scarum’ and the even more grisly ‘Clambake’… and even longer before lardy Las Vegas, pilled up Elvis, of spangled jump suit fame, handing out souvenir scarves at the International Hotel.
This is the beautiful, lean, mean, leg shaking, sideburn toting ‘Hillbilly Cat’ Elvis, taking blues and country music and turning them into Rock ‘n’ Roll. The guitarist standing next to him is Winfred Scott Moore III, a.k.a ‘Scotty’ who along with slap bass player Bill Black and drummer D.J Fontana backed Elvis Presley on his earliest recordings at Sun Studios in Memphis, banging out primeval Rock ‘n’ Roll classics like “That’s All Right”, “Mystery Train”, “Jailhouse Rock” and “Hound Dog”. Scotty described his solo on “Hound Dog” as ‘ancient psychedelia’.
By 1957 Elvis and Scotty, Bill and D.J, a.k.a The Blue Sky Boys who had once been so close were growing apart, split up by the machinations of their management. Scotty continued to work with other rock ‘n roll stars such as Carl Perkins and later Keith Richards, Jeff Beck, Ronnie Wood and Ringo Starr In 2000 he was inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame and later the Memphis Music Hall of Fame. In 2011 ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine ranked him 29th in the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.
Scotty Moore died last week in Nashville aged 84 and he will be missed, particularly by those musicians who learnt their licks from him. He never made his name as a spotlight seeking showman. He didn’t smash up guitars or play them behind his neck. He didn’t wear stylish horn rimmed glasses like Hank B Marvin or duck walk across the stage like Chuck Berry but he set a style of playing that still holds sway today and established forever the role of the guitar in rock ‘n’ roll.
“Thank you Scotty for shaping my universe. What a beautiful noise you made. I hope the train isn’t a mystery anymore. Bless you dearest and greatest of guitar players.”
“He was the guitarist that changed the world.”
MATT ROSS-SPRANG - Engineer at Sun Studios in Memphis
“When I heard ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ I knew what I wanted to do in life. All I wanted was to be able to play and sound like that. Everybody else wanted to be Elvis - I wanted to be Scotty.”
KEITH RICHARDS - Rolling Stones
Keith Richards often said that he could never figure out the ‘stop time’ break and lick that Scotty played on “I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone” and he hopes that it will always remain a mystery…
I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone
– from Martyn Day