By Christopher Scapelliti
Keith Richards has done his fair share of slagging his contemporaries, including the Beatles (twice) and Led Zeppelin, as well as metal acts like Black Sabbath and Metallica.
So it’s rather heartwarming to see him riff with fondness about one of his guitar heroes: the great Scotty Moore, who played on Elvis Presley’s earliest cuts, and who died this past June 28 at the age of 84.
Richards recalled Moore to Rolling Stone, telling the magazine, “He was my hero” and reminiscing about how he first heard Moore on influential Presley tracks like “Jailhouse Rock” and “Heartbreak Hotel.”
“There’s a little jazz in his playing, some great country licks and a grounding in the blues as well,” notes Richards. “It’s never been duplicated. I can’t copy it. The closest I came was tracks like ‘Parachute Woman’ [from the Rolling Stones’ Beggars Banquet album], where I fooled around with echoes—those early Elvis recordings got me interested in the possibility of the studio.”
Richards and Ron Wood backstage on the Rolling Stones’ Bridges to Babylon tour with Scotty Moore (second from left) and DJ Fontana, circa 1998. PHOTO: Paul Natkin | Getty Images
Richards recalls that he was lucky enough to play with his hero.
“In 1996, I went up to Woodstock to do a session at [Band drummer] Levon Helm’s barn with Levon, Scotty and Elvis’ drummer D.J. Fontana,” he says. “I’ve gotten used to playing with my heroes—I played with Little Richard in his dressing room when I was 19, thinking, ‘This’ll do!’
“But this,” Richards explains, “was the crème de la crème.”
Apparently, Scotty was a joy to jam with—“He was a gentle, unassuming guy,” Richards says—but he liked to keep his secrets.
“There’s a run-down that Scotty does on several [Elvis Presley] cuts, like ‘I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone,’ which I’ve never figured out. When I’d ask Scotty, he’d just give me a sly grin.”
You can read Richards’ complete tribute at RollingStone.com.
Here are “I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone,” and “Parachute Woman.”