By Damian Fanelli | Photo: GAB Archive/Getty Images
Scotty Moore, Elvis Presley’s first guitarist and one of the most important and influential figures in early rock and roll, died Tuesday (June 28) in Nashville. He was 84.
According to several sources, Moore had been in poor health in recent months. In October, he was too ill to attend his induction into the Memphis Music Hall of Fame, so Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards accepted the award on his behalf.
Richards’ generation of Sixties rockers—a crew that includes the Stones, the Beatles, Jimmy Page, Hank Marvin and everyone from the Animals to the Zombies—was profoundly influenced by Moore’s tasteful and exciting guitar solos on countless Presley masterpieces from the Fifites, including “That’s All Right,” “Good Rockin’ Tonight,” “Milk Cow Blues Boogie,” “Baby Let’s Play House,” “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Mystery Train,” “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock” and “Hard Headed Woman.”
While Moore was working on his memoir (That’s Alright, Elvis: The Untold Story of Elvis’s First Guitarist and Manager, Scotty Moore) with co-author James L. Dickerson, Richards told Dickerson, “Everyone else wanted to be Elvis—I wanted to be Scotty.” Richards has said many times that he could never figure out how to play the “stop time” break and figure Moore plays on Presley’s “I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone”—and he hopes it will remain a mystery.
Along with bassist Bill Black, Moore was part Presley’s original band, the Blue Moon Boys, playing on the singer’s legendary Sun Records singles and continuing to work with Presley into his time with RCA Records.
Moore was a noticeable presence in Presley’s early performances, despite his introverted demeanor. His unique fingerpicking style, which incorporated a thumbpick, represented a segue from the pure “Chet Atkins style” into what became known as rockabilly and rock and roll guitar.
While with Presley, Moore initially played a Gibson ES-295 (which has been called “The Guitar that Changed the World”) before switching to a Gibson L5, followed by a Gibson Super 400. Moore also is known for his use of the Ray Butts EchoSonic (first used by Atkins), a guitar amp with a built-in tape echo; the mechanism allowed him to take his trademark slapback echo on the road.