By Robyn Collins
Scotty Moore, Elvis Presley’s innovative guitarist and a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, died Tuesday at his home in Nashville. He was 84.
“As a musician, I consider him one of the co-founders of rock and roll because of the guitar licks that he invented,” biographer James L Dickerson said.
Presley’s ex-wife, Priscilla Presley said, “Elvis loved Scotty dearly and treasured those amazing years together, both in the studio and on the road. Scotty was an amazing musician and a legend in his own right. The incredible music that Scotty and Elvis made together will live forever and influence generations to come.”
A native of Gadsden, Tennessee, Scotty Moore began playing guitar at the age of eight. After serving in the U.S. Navy in the early Fifties, he moved to Memphis and to form the Starlite Wrangers with bassist Bill Black.
In 1954, Sun Records’ Sam Phillips paired Moore with a teenaged Elvis Presley. Moore, Black and Presley recorded Presley’s first single, “That’s All Right (Mama).” The recording session is part of music history.
“I heard that Sam Phillips had a little studio and record label and I went to see him about getting a record out,” Moore told Rolling Stone in 2010. “I knew that if we could make a record, we’d get more places to play around town. Sam agreed to record us and he and I became good friends. Then one day we were having coffee, and his secretary actually brought up Elvis’ name. He had dropped by the studio with the hope of recording something. So Sam said, ‘Call this guy up and get him to go over to your house and see what you think of him.’ So he came to my house on the Fourth of July. It was a kind of pre-audition.”
Moore, Black and drummer D.J. Fontana formed the Blue Moon Boys, which backed Presley on dozens of legendary rock and roll songs over the next decade, including “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Mystery Train,” “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock” and “(You’re the) Devil in Disguise.”
Moore and the Blue Moon Boys appeared in four of Presley’s films – Jailhouse Rock, Loving You, King Creole and G.I. Blues. In 1964, Phillips fired Moore after he recorded a solo album; however, Presley reunited with the guitarist for his ’68 Comeback Special.
Moore’s innovative performances on a Gibson Super 400 inspired generations of future guitar players. “When I heard ‘Heartbreak Hotel,’ I knew what I wanted to do in life. It was as plain as day. All I wanted to do in the world was to be able to play and sound like that,” said Keith Richards. “Everyone else wanted to be Elvis, I wanted to be Scotty.”
Moore was included on Rolling Stone‘s 100 Greatest Guitarists list and inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000. He was part of the inaugural class celebrating sidemen, a category that honored “those musicians who have spent their careers out of the spotlight, performing as backup musicians for major artists on recording sessions and in concert.”