Scotty Moore, Elvis Presley’s First Guitar Player, Dies
The guitarist who was literally present at the birth of rock n' roll has died. Scotty Moore, who played with Elvis Presley in the first few years of his fame, passed away. He was 84.
The Memphis Commercial Appeal notes that he was at his home in Nashville at the time, and that he'd been in bad health for a while. Last October, he was too ill to attend his induction into the Memphis Music Hall of Fame, with Keith Richards accepting on his behalf.
Born on Dec. 27, 1931, Winfield Scott Moore III began playing guitar at the age of eight and settled in Memphis after being discharged from the Navy in 1952. While trying to get a record deal for his band, the Starlite Wranglers, which also featured bassist Bill Black, he became friends with Sam Phillips of the Memphis Recording Service, better known as Sun Studios.
According to Peter Guralnick's Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley, Phillips asked Moore to check up on a singer who had recently been in the studio to see if they could work together. After running through some material -- all ballads -- with Black, the trio went into Sun the next evening, July 5, 1954, for a session. When hours of recording left them with nothing substantial, they were about to call it off until the singer -- Elvis Presley -- began playing a blues song by Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup called "That's All Right (Mama)," and they unexpectedly found a sound that was equal parts country and R&B.
Moore graced virtually all of Presley's early songs -- and even managed him in the early days and toured with him through 1958, when Presley went into the Army. He continued to work with Presley upon his discharge in 1960, but, with Elvis holed up in Hollywood making movies and not touring, his role became marginalized to that of a session guitarist. And he recorded an album in 1964 that was aptly titled The Guitar That Changed the World. But he returned to the fold for the famous 1968 Comeback Special -- that's Moore's Gibson Super 400 that Presley borrows during the informal jam session -- which was the last time the two performed together.
Moore remained active as an engineer at his own Music City Recorders studio in Nashville, working on Ringo Starr's 1970 country album Beaucoup of Blues, among many others. He began playing guitar again in the early-'90s, working with another Sun alum, Carl Perkins, and people he'd influenced, including Ronnie Wood, Levon Helm and Jeff Beck. Moore was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000.
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