The legendary guitarist whose fluid guitar picking for “The King” Elvis Presley’s signature screams defined Rock and Roll music in the 1950s — Scotty Moore — died on Tuesday in Nashville. Moore was 84 and the cause of death hasn’t been determined yet. However, Moore had been sick for the past few months. The news of Moore’s death was also confirmed by Karen Fontana to The Rolling Stones, the wife of D.J. Fontana, who played drums for Elvis Presley.
Matt Ross-Spang, Sun Studios engineer — the Birthplace of Rock N’ Roll and home to the “Million Dollar Quartet” — Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee, and Carl Perkins — and Moore’s friend, also confirmed the death of the guitarist on Instagram.
“We lost one of the finest people I have ever met today.I was lucky to call you a friend and I’m very glad I got to see you just a few days ago. The guitarist that changed the world… especially mine; I hope you don’t mind if I keep stealing your licks. Love you Scotty.”
Moore was born in 1931 in Tennessee. He was first drafted to play for Elvis Presley, an untested teenage singer, in the mid-1950s, by Sam Phillips, the owner of Sun Studios. This is where Moore’s relationship with the Sun Studios was bolstered. The Variety reports, “His crisp, flowing, melodic guitar lines, heavily influenced by Chet Atkins’ early work but also infused with deep blues feeling, highlighted the singles issued by Sun during Presley’s rise to fame in 1954-55.” For the first few months, Moore also doubled up as Presley’s manager.
Moore spoke to The Rolling Stones in 2010 for an interview. He said,
“I heard that Sam Phillips had a little studio and record label and I went to see him about getting a record out. 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 kind of a pre-audition.”
Moore and double bassist Bill Black got together with Elvis Presley and recorded the first hit song “That’s All Right (Mama).” In 1954, the trio founded the Blue Moon Boys, which eventually included drummer D.J. Fontana. the Blue Moon Boys toured across the country thereafter and boosting Elvis’ popularity. Moore, using his trusted Gibson 400 guitar, picked for massive hits like “Hound Dog,” “Heartbreak Hotel,” and “Jailhouse Rock.” Elvis Presley’s movies King Creole and G.I. Blues also included The Blue Moon Boys.
Moore is credited for giving rise to the rockabilly genre owing to his fluid, finger-picking style of guitar playing. In fact, The Rolling Stones Keith Richards had once said, “Everyone else wanted to be Elvis — I wanted to be Scotty.” Interestingly, Moore and Black had quit the Blue Moon Boys in 1958 but returned to the band in 1960 after Elvis Presley had returned from military service. Moore’s final gig with Elvis Presley was the Comeback Special, which was televised in 1968.
After this, Moore moved to Nashville and set up his own studio — Music City Recorders — after the gig. Moore had given up playing the guitar for almost two decades and made a comeback in 1992, when he appeared on the album “706 ReUnion: A Sentimental Journey.” Later in the decade, Moore also published an autobiography about Elvis titled, “That’s Alright Elvis.”
While Moore was always in the shadow of Elvis’ popularity, he was honored for his contribution to music and was inducted into the Rockabilly and Rock And Roll Halld Of Fame. The Rolling Stones also called him the 29th greatest guitarist of all time.
[Photo by Mike Brown/Getty Images]