In a year that’s already seen the untimely passing of too many musical icons, the world lost another this week.On June 28, Scotty Moore, Elvis Presley’s longtime guitar player and rock n’ roll pioneer, died in Nashville at the age of 84. And while Elvis may have been king, Moore’s influence shaped both the sound and swagger of that band as much as Presley’s southern baritone or swiveling hips.But don’t take our word for it. “All I wanted to do in the world was to be able to play and sound like that [Moore],” Keith Richards once said, reflecting on one of his earliest influences. “Everyone else wanted to be Elvis. I wanted to be Scotty.”
Moore’s journey began July 5, 1954, when Sun Records founder Sam Phillips recruited him and bassist Bill Black to back a then 19-year-old and still unknown Presley. And while the day started as only an audition, it quickly turned into history.The trio’s spontaneous take on Arthur Crudup’s That’s All Right impressed Phillips so much that he released it as a single.
An almost immediate hit in Memphis, the band followed up it with regional releases and strong live performances that grew their reputation.Presley was eventually signed to RCA Records a year later, where Moore performed on such iconic tracks as Jailhouse Rock, Heartbreak Hotel, Hound Dog and Don’t Be Cruel. Moore also found himself by Presley’s side during the almost non-stop touring, countless television appearances and eventual film work that would define the earliest days of both Presley’s career and rock n’ roll history.
And while his guitar sound and style helped define both a legend and a genre, Moore also left a mark with his solo material and his work as both a producer and an engineer. In the mid-1960s, while Presley’s attention had turned toward Hollywood, Moore found himself in Nashville after parting ways with Sam Phillips and Sun Records, where he was working as a production manager. He soon launched the Music City Recorders, his own studio, and Belle Mead Records, his own label.
In 2000, Moore was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Last October, he was enshrined in the Memphis Music Hall of Fame. Keith Richards accepted the award on his longtime-idol’s behalf. Moore survived by five children: Donald, Linda, Andrea, Vikki and Tasha.