June 28 - Elvis’ Guitarist Scotty Moore Dies

He was the man behind "The Man," the one producing the signature licks amid the screams and hysteria and history making moments. Scotty Moore was one of the foundational figures in rock and roll, a profoundly influential guitarist, and the musician who helped Elvis Presley become The King.

Moore, who had been in poor health in recent months, died Tuesday in his longtime home of Nashville. He was 84.

News of Moore's death was confirmed by several sources, including Moore's friend and Phillips Recording Service engineer Matt Ross-Spang.

Along with bassist Bill Black, Moore was a member of Elvis' original band, the Blue Moon Boys, playing on the singer's epochal Sun Records sides, and continuing to work with Presley into his career with RCA. His playing would come to shape a genre and several generations of musicians, from Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page to the White Stripes' Jack White.

To Jerry Phillips' — younger son of Elvis producer/Sun founder Sam Phillips — Moore's role in the history Elvis was utterly crucial.

"Elvis Presley wouldn't have been Elvis Presley without Scotty Moore. I think my dad would agree with that," Phillips said. "You gotta remember, there were only three instruments on those things. Scotty, Bill (Black) and Elvis. Scotty really just made everything work."

As Commercial Appeal music critic Bill Ellis once noted, "Moore's style really had no precedent. His sophisticated yet economical use of the fretboard, combined with alternating flat and finger-picking techniques, may have drawn from jazz and blues, but how it was put to use — on Sun classics such as 'That's All Right,' 'Good Rockin' Tonight' and 'Mystery Train' — was something utterly new."

"I loved some of the stuff Chet (Atkins) would play, thumb and finger stuff," recalled Moore in a 2000 interview with The Commercial Appeal, "but I also loved stuff by jazz players Tal Farlow and all these guys. I'd hear a little note or two and try to make it all fit together."

Winfield Scott Moore III was born Dec. 27, 1931, on a farm situated halfway between Gadsden and Humboldt, Tennessee. The youngest of four boys, Moore began playing guitar at the age of 8.

In 1948, while under age at 16, he enlisted in the Navy, serving in Korea and China. He was discharged in 1952 and eventually moved to Memphis. His professional career began when he joined Doug Poindexter & the Starlite Wranglers, a country-western sextet that also included future Elvis bassist Bill Black. They made one single in 1954 for Sam Phillips Sun Records, "My Kind of Carryin' On." But bigger things awaited Moore and Black.

A few months after the Starlight Wranglers record came out, Moore met Presley, inviting him to his apartment for an informal audition with Black. The following evening the trio cut loose at Sun during a rehearsal break. Phillips captured them playing what many would come to consider the big bang of rock and roll, "That's All Right."

"It was a world-changing event," said Jerry Phillips, "but without Scotty it wouldn't have been world-changing."

Asked what had drawn Presley to the musicians who would be dubbed the Blue Moon Boys, Moore joked that the real appeal was that they came free. "We were all hungry looking," said Moore. "We didn't go in to cut a record. . . . Bill was working at Firestone building tires and I was working for my brother's cleaning plant blocking hats."

For the first few months of Presley's career, Moore also doubled as his manager, before being replaced by local disc jockey Bob Neal, and eventually Col. Tom Parker.

Louisiana Hayride drummer D. J. Fontana joined Presley's group in 1955. Two years later, money issues between the band and Presley's management came to a head and Moore and Black quit. They soon returned, but by then Presley had been drafted and the group effectively ended.

Black went on to form his own hit instrumental combo and record hits for Hi Records — most notably 1960's "Smokie (Part 2)" — before dying in 1965 from a brain tumor. Moore, meanwhile, focused on engineering and producing. His time at Memphis' Fernwood Records brought the 1959 hit "Tragedy" by Thomas Wayne. Moore also made records for Sam Phillips, notably the juke classic "Hey Boss Man!" by bluesman Frank Frost.

As a player, Moore would appear on several Chess sessions by Dale Hawkins and the Moonglows and cut his own solo album, 1964's "The Guitar That Changed the World," with producer Billy Sherrill.

Moore did eventually reunite with a post-Army Presley and played on many of his sessions in the 1960s. His final gig with The King came with the televised '68 Comeback special.

For much of the '60s and '70s, Moore continued to focus on his work behind the board, setting up his own studio, Music City Recorders, after moving to Nashville in 1964. He sold the studio a decade later, launching a tape duplication business while continuing to engineer sessions on a freelance basis. Over the years he worked on records for Charlie Rich, Jerry Lee Lewis, Tommy James and Ringo Starr, among others.

Following his work with Presley on the '68 Comeback special, Moore mostly gave up guitar for the better part of two decades. In 1992, fellow Sun alum and rockabilly great Carl Perkins coaxed Moore back into playing, and he appeared on the album "706 ReUnion: A Sentimental Journey."

By the late '90s, Moore had returned to the spotlight, publishing his autobiography "That's Alright Elvis," and working with D. J. Fontana on the "All the King's Men" project, an album which featured a group of high profile Moore acolytes, including Keith Richards, Jeff Beck, and Ron Wood.

Moore — inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000, and the Musicians Hall of Fame in 2006 — was elected to the Memphis Music Hall of Fame last October. He was scheduled to attend ceremonies at the Cannon Center, but the illness and eventual passing of his longtime companion Gail Pollock scotched those plans.

Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards accepted the award on his behalf. Richards praised Moore's influence on his career and those of so many other guitarists. "I started out on an acoustic guitar, then I heard Scotty Moore and I went electric," said Richards. "He opened up avenues musically in the way he worked with (bassist) Bill Black, and Elvis, of course. That was the kick-off for me and a lot of guys."

Mr. Moore was preceded in death by his father, Winfield Scott Moore Jr., his mother, Mattie Priscilla Hefley, 3 brothers and 1 sister. He is survived by 5 children, 7 grandchildren, 11 great grandchildren, 3 great-great grandchildren, and many, many friends all over the world.


A private burial ceremony will be held for family and close friends in his hometown of Humboldt, Tennessee. A public memorial service will be held in Nashville within a few weeks. Details will be furnished at a later time.

Statement from Graceland

“Lisa and I, along with the entire Presley family, join the staff of Graceland in expressing our deepest condolences upon Scotty Moore’s passing," Priscilla Presley said. "Elvis loved Scotty dearly and treasured those amazing years together, both in the studio and on the road.  Scotty was an amazing musician and a legend in his own right. The incredible music that Scotty and Elvis made together will live forever and influence generations to come.” 


“The staff of Elvis Presley's Graceland is deeply saddened by the passing of Elvis's friend and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Scotty Moore," said Jack Soden, CEO of Elvis Presley Enterprises. "Scotty’s immense talent and tremendous influence on rock ‘n’ roll is legendary. His groundbreaking recordings and performances with Elvis and Bill Black launched Elvis’ career and forever changed music and the world. We send our heartfelt condolences to Scotty’s family, friends and his millions of fans worldwide.” 


Steve Binder
When I told Elvis my idea about video taping the improv segments, he asked me  if he could have Scotty Moore and D.J. Fontana fly in to participate in the  segment. He told me that nobody could play "the licks" on a guitar like Scotty.  I believed him and boy, I'm glad I did! What an amazing talent and what a  gentleman! RIP

Pasty Anderson
It is true! Scotty Moore died early this morning peacefully in his sleep. My  heart is broken. 

James Burton and Louise

Wow...another great one gone. Sadly, I was given the news today that my friend Scotty Moore has passed away. He was truly a great player...one of the  pioneers...  and his friends and fans will truly miss him. Please join Louise and I in  praying for Scotty's family and may he rest in peace. Thank you and God  Bless.

(Source: Commercial Appeal / Bob Mehr / Jody Callahan / EPE)

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