Scotty Moore

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Scotty Moore
Scotty Moore Elvis 2000.jpg
Moore in 2000
Background information
Birth nameWinfield Scott Moore III
Born(1931-12-27)December 27, 1931
Gadsden, Tennessee, U.S.
DiedJune 28, 2016(2016-06-28) (aged 84)
Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.
Genres Rock and roll, rockabilly
Years active1950s–2009
Labels Sun
Associated acts

Winfield Scott "Scotty" Moore III (December 27, 1931 – June 28, 2016) was an American guitarist and recording engineer. He is best known for backing Elvis Presley in the first part of his career, between 1954 and the beginning of Elvis's Hollywood years. [1]

Elvis Presley American singer and actor

Elvis Aaron Presley was an American singer and actor. Regarded as one of the most significant cultural icons of the 20th century, he is often referred to as the "King of Rock and Roll" or simply "the King".


Rock critic Dave Marsh credits Moore with the invention of power chording, on the 1957 Presley song "Jailhouse Rock", the intro of which Moore and drummer D.J. Fontana, according to the latter, "copped from a '40s swing version of 'The Anvil Chorus'." [2] Moore was ranked 29th in Rolling Stone magazine's list of 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time in 2011. [3] He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000 and the Memphis Music Hall of Fame in 2015. The Rolling Stones' lead guitarist Keith Richards has said of Moore,

Dave Marsh is an American music critic, author, editor and radio talk show host. He was an early editor of Creem magazine, has written for various publications such as Newsday, The Village Voice, and Rolling Stone, and has published numerous books about music and musicians, mostly focused on rock music. He is also a committee member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

In guitar music, especially electric guitar, a power chordPlay  is a colloquial name for a chord that consists of the root note and the fifth. Power chords are commonly played on amplified guitars, especially on electric guitar with distortion. Power chords are a key element of many styles of rock and especially in heavy metal, and punk rock.

Jailhouse Rock (song) 1957 US rock song

"Jailhouse Rock" is a song written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller that first became a hit for Elvis Presley. RCA Victor released the song on a 45 rpm single on September 24, 1957, the song had a film release of Presley's motion picture under the same name, Jailhouse Rock.

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. Everyone else wanted to be Elvis, I wanted to be Scotty. [4]

Heartbreak Hotel single

"Heartbreak Hotel" is a song recorded by American singer Elvis Presley. It was released as a single on January 27, 1956, Presley's first on his new record label RCA Victor. It was written by Tommy Durden and Mae Boren Axton.


Moore (right) performing with Elvis Presley (left) in 1956 Elvis and Scotty Moore (cropped).jpg
Moore (right) performing with Elvis Presley (left) in 1956

Winfield Scott Moore III was born near Gadsden, Tennessee, to Mattie (née Hefley) as the youngest of four boys by 14 years. [5] [6] He learned to play the guitar from family and friends at age eight. Although underage when he enlisted, Moore served in the United States Navy in China and Korea from 1948 through January 1952. [7] [8]

Given name name typically used to differentiate people from the same family, clan, or other social group who have a common last name

A given name is a part of a person's personal name. It identifies a person, and differentiates that person from the other members of a group who have a common surname. The term given name refers to the fact that the name usually is bestowed upon a person, normally to a child by their parents at or close to the time of birth. A Christian name, a first name which historically was given at baptism, is now also typically given by the parents at birth.

United States Navy Naval warfare branch of the United States Armed Forces

The United States Navy (USN) is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. It is the largest and most capable navy in the world and it has been estimated that in terms of tonnage of its active battle fleet alone, it is larger than the next 13 navies combined, which includes 11 U.S. allies or partner nations. with the highest combined battle fleet tonnage and the world's largest aircraft carrier fleet, with eleven in service, and two new carriers under construction. With 319,421 personnel on active duty and 99,616 in the Ready Reserve, the Navy is the third largest of the service branches. It has 282 deployable combat vessels and more than 3,700 operational aircraft as of March 2018, making it the second-largest air force in the world, after the United States Air Force.

Moore's early background was in jazz and country music. A fan of the guitarist Chet Atkins, Moore led a group called the Starlite Wranglers before Sam Phillips at Sun Records put him together with then-teenage Elvis Presley. The trio was completed with the bass player Bill Black, who brought a "rhythmic propulsion" that much pleased Phillips. [9] In 1954, Moore and Black accompanied Elvis on what would become the first legendary Presley hit, the Sun Studios session cut of "That's All Right", a recording regarded as a seminal event in rock and roll history. [10]

Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African-American communities of New Orleans, United States, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and developed from roots in blues and ragtime. Jazz is seen by many as "America's classical music". Since the 1920s Jazz Age, jazz has become recognized as a major form of musical expression. It then emerged in the form of independent traditional and popular musical styles, all linked by the common bonds of African-American and European-American musical parentage with a performance orientation. Jazz is characterized by swing and blue notes, call and response vocals, polyrhythms and improvisation. Jazz has roots in West African cultural and musical expression, and in African-American music traditions including blues and ragtime, as well as European military band music. Intellectuals around the world have hailed jazz as "one of America's original art forms".

Country music, also known as country and western, and hillbilly music, is a genre of popular music that originated in the southern United States in the early 1920s. It takes its roots from genres such as folk music and blues.

Chet Atkins American guitarist and record producer

Chester Burton Atkins, known as "Mr. Guitar" and "The Country Gentleman", was an American musician, occasional vocalist, songwriter, and record producer, who along with Owen Bradley and Bob Ferguson, among others, created the country music style that came to be known as the Nashville sound, which expanded country music's appeal to adult pop music fans. He was primarily known as a guitarist. He also played the mandolin, fiddle, banjo, and ukulele.

This session, held on the evening of July 5, 1954, proved entirely unfruitful until late in the night. As they were about to give up and go home, Presley took his guitar and launched into a 1946 blues number, Arthur Crudup's "That's All Right". Moore recalled,

All of a sudden, Elvis just started singing this song, jumping around and acting the fool and then Bill picked up his bass and he started acting the fool too, and I started playing with them. Sam, I think, had the door to the control booth open...he stuck his head out and said, "What are you doing?" And we said, "We don't know." "Well, back up," he said, "try to find a place to start and do it again." Phillips quickly began taping as this was the sound he had been looking for. [11]

During the next few days, the trio recorded a bluegrass number, Bill Monroe's "Blue Moon of Kentucky", again in a distinctive style and employing a jury-rigged echo effect that Sam Phillips dubbed "slapback". A single was pressed with "That's All Right" on the A side and "Blue Moon of Kentucky" on the reverse. [12]

Phillips's rhythm-centered vision led him to steer Moore away from the pretty finger-picking style of Chet Atkins, which he deemed fine for pop or country but not for the simple, gutsy sound Phillips was aiming at. [13] Simplify was the keyword. [9]

By his performance at the Louisiana Hayride in October 1954, Black and Moore were called the Blue Moon Boys. [14]

For a time, Moore served as Presley's personal manager. [15] :85 They were later joined by the drummer D.J. Fontana. Beginning in July 1954, the Blue Moon Boys toured and recorded throughout the American South and as Presley's popularity rose, they toured the United States and made appearances in various Presley television shows and motion pictures. The Blue Moon Boys, including Moore, appear in the few surviving 1955 home movie clips of Presley before he achieved national recognition. Moore, Black and Fontana also appeared on the Dorsey Brothers, Milton Berle, Steve Allen, and Ed Sullivan live TV shows from January 1956 to January 1957. Moore and Fontana also reunited on the 1960 Timex TV special with Frank Sinatra welcoming Presley upon his return from service in the U.S. Army.[ citation needed ]

Moore played on many of Presley's most famous recordings, 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", "Too Much", "Jailhouse Rock", and "Hard Headed Woman". He called his solo on "Hound Dog" "ancient psychedelia". [16]

During the filming and recording of Loving You in Hollywood in early 1957, Moore and Black drove the boredom away by jamming with Presley between takes but they usually saw little of Presley, who stayed only a couple of floors away from them. They grew hurt and resentful at the separation, which they came to perceive as willfully organized. [17]

They did not accompany Presley on the soundtrack recordings for his first movie, Love Me Tender , because 20th Century Fox had refused to allow him to use his own band, with the excuse that they could not play country. [18] By December 1956, they were experiencing financial difficulties because there had been few performances since August: when there were, they received $200 a week (US$1,843 in 2018 dollars [19] ), but only $100 (US$922 in 2018 dollars [19] ) when there were not. Moore and his wife were forced to move in with her three sisters and brother-in-law. In an interview with the Memphis Press-Scimitar that December, they spoke about this and their lack of contact with Presley himself. The reason for the interview was their announcement that management had given them permission to record an instrumental album of their own, which RCA Victor would release. Such permission was needed in order to appear as a group without Presley. [20]

During Presley's 1957 tour of Canada, the concert promoter Oscar Davis offered to represent them as his manager. Moore and Black, who had seen Presley become a millionaire while still earning $200 a week themselves, were willing to work with Davis but the backing vocalists, the Jordanaires, were not, because they did not trust him. [21]

Tension came to a climax right after the September 1957 sessions for Presley's first Christmas album. Moore and Black had been promised an opportunity to cut tracks after the session, on Presley's studio time. Yet when the session was over, they were told to pack up. That same evening, the duo wrote a letter of resignation. They had only had one raise in two years and with the lack of personal appearances had to live off $100 a week. They also felt the Colonel was working against them. They had been denied virtually all access to Presley and felt as if "they were no longer even permitted to talk to him." [22] Colonel Parker didn't interfere but RCA Victor executive Steve Sholes, who had little regard for the ability of Presley's band, hoped the separation would be permanent. Back in Memphis, a journalist found out and interviewed the duo. Presley responded with a press statement wishing them good luck, saying things could have been worked out if they had come to him instead of bringing it to the press. In an accompanying interview, Presley revealed that during the last two years, people had tried to convince him to get rid of his band so from his point of view he had stayed loyal to them. [23]

Presley was scheduled to appear in Tupelo within the next two weeks and started to audition new musicians. He performed with Hank Garland on guitar and D.J. Fontana's friend, Chuck Wiginton, on bass but despite their musical ability it didn't feel the same to him. The week after his Tupelo engagement he hired them back on a per diem basis. In the meantime, the duo had played "a miserable two-week engagement at the Dallas State Fair." Moore declared there were no hard feelings, though Presley himself, according to biographer Guralnick, seems to have taken a more melancholic view. One day, Guralnick writes, Presley heard "Jailhouse Rock" on the radio "and declared, 'Elvis Presley and his one-man band,' with a rueful shake of his head." [24]

Moore and the Blue Moon Boys performed (and have additional small walk-on and speaking roles) with Presley in four of his movies ( Loving You , Jailhouse Rock , King Creole , and G.I. Blues ) filmed in 1957, 1958 and 1960.

Early in 1958, when Presley was drafted, Moore began working at Fernwood Records and produced a hit record, "Tragedy", for Thomas Wayne Perkins, the brother of Johnny Cash's guitarist Luther Perkins.[ citation needed ]

In 1960, Moore commenced recording sessions with Presley at RCA Victor and also served as production manager at Sam Phillips Recording Service, which involved supervising all aspects of studio operation. Moore played on such Presley songs as "Fame and Fortune", "Such a Night", "Frankfort Special", "Surrender", "I Feel So Bad", "Rock-a-Hula Baby", "Kiss Me Quick", "Good Luck Charm", "She's Not You", "(You're the) Devil in Disguise", and "Bossa Nova Baby". Moore remained as a guitarist for the majority of songs recorded after Presley's work was dominated by Hollywood sessions. He mostly played rhythm guitar however, with his last lead guitar work occurring by 1962.

In 1964, Moore released a solo album on Epic Records called The Guitar That Changed the World, played using his Gibson Super 400. For this effort he was fired by Sam Phillips. Moore reunited with Fontana and Presley for the NBC television special known as the '68 Comeback Special , again with his Gibson Super 400, which was also played by Presley. This special was the last time these musicians would play with Presley, and for Moore it was the last time he ever saw him. [25]

Style and influence

Moore's playing on his Gibson with his unique finger-picking style using a thumbpick, as on the Sun and early RCA Victor recordings, represented a move of the Chet Atkins style into a more rockabilly mode. Moore's best performances are often considered precedent-setting.

Of Presley's first single "That's All Right", the critic Dave Marsh wrote that "Moore's guitar—especially the solo—toughens the song up and forces it to rock." [26] Though Marsh credits Presley with introducing "the vocal stutter" on "Baby Let's Play House", "Other than that, it's guitarist Scotty Moore's show and he sets a few precedents of his own." [27] Of the other Sun recordings, Marsh cited the "urgent Scotty Moore guitar lick" as a standout element of "Mystery Train", [28] while "Good Rockin' Tonight" displays his "stinging guitar". [29]

In Marsh's description, the teamwork of Moore and other musicians turns the 1957 single and movie title song "Jailhouse Rock" into an "enduring smash for at least three reasons: the great walking bass, Scotty Moore's invention of power chording, and D.J. Fontana's drumming, which is halfway between strip joint rhumba and the perfect New Orleans shuffle." [30]

On the 1961, post-Army Presley single "Little Sister", "Scotty Moore comes up with his greatest post-Sun guitar lick and not only converts a comparatively humdrum Pomus-Shuman teen love triangle number into the best of Elvis's early sixties hits but (together with D.J. Fontana's heavy-footed thunderation) gives more than a few pointers toward the metallic rock to come." [31] According to Presley discographer Ernst Jorgensen however, Hank Garland was the lead guitarist on the song, while Moore played acoustic guitar. [32]

Moore is given credit as a pioneer rock 'n' roll lead guitarist, though he characteristically downplayed his own innovative role in the development of the style. "It had been there for quite a while", recalled Moore. "Carl Perkins was doing basically the same sort of thing up around Jackson and I know for a fact Jerry Lee Lewis had been playing that kind of music ever since he was ten years old." [33] Paul Friedlander describes the defining elements of rockabilly, which he similarly characterizes as "essentially ... an Elvis Presley construction": "the raw, emotive, and slurred vocal style and emphasis on rhythmic feeling [of] the blues with the string band and strummed rhythm guitar [of] country". [34] In "That's All Right", the Presley trio's first record, Moore's guitar solo, "a combination of Merle Travis–style country finger-picking, double-stop slides from acoustic boogie and blues-based bent-note, single-string work, is a microcosm of this fusion." [35]

Many popular guitarists cite Moore as the performer that brought the lead guitarist to a dominant role in a rock 'n' roll band.[ citation needed ] Although some lead guitarists and vocalists, such as Chuck Berry and the blues legend BB King, had gained popularity by the 1950s, Presley rarely played his own lead while performing, instead providing rhythm guitar and leaving the lead duties to Moore. As a guitarist, Moore was a noticeable presence in Presley's performances despite his introverted demeanor. He became an inspiration to many subsequent popular guitarists, including George Harrison, Jeff Beck, and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones. [36] While Moore was working on his memoir with co-author James L. Dickerson, Richards told Dickerson, "Everyone else wanted to be Elvis—I wanted to be Scotty." [15] :xiii Richards has stated many times (in Rolling Stone magazine and in his autobiography, Life) that he could never figure out how to play the "stop time" break and figure that Moore played on "I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone" (Sun) and that he hopes it will remain a mystery.[ citation needed ]


While with Presley, Moore initially played a Gibson ES-295 (nicknamed "The Guitar That Changed the World") [37] before switching to a Gibson L5 [38] and subsequently a Gibson Super 400. [39]

One of the key pieces of equipment in Moore's sound on many of the recordings with Presley, besides his guitars, was the Ray Butts EchoSonic, first used by Chet Atkins, a guitar amplifier with a tape echo built in, which allowed him to take his trademark slapback echo on the road. [39]

Last years and death

Moore had to give up playing guitar a few years before his death because of arthritis. [40] He died on June 28, 2016, in Nashville, Tennessee, at the age of 84. [36]


Scotty Moore co-wrote the songs "My Kind of Carrying On" and "Now She Cares No More" which were released as Sun 202 on Sun Records in 1954 when he was a member of the group Doug Poindexter and the Starlite Wranglers with Bill Black as the bassist. He co-wrote the instrumental "Have Guitar Will Travel" in 1958 with Bill Black, which was released as a 45 single, 107, on the Fernwood Records label. [41]


For his pioneering contribution, Moore has been recognized by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. In 2000, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. [42]


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