Personalities | Scotty Moore | Leading the Field | Guitar Heroes

The original rock’n’roll lead guitarist, Scotty Moore (b. 1931) was born near Gadsden, Tennessee. Moore began playing guitar at the age of eight, largely self-taught. Although he aspired to playing jazz like Barney Kessel and Tal Farlow, he was also influenced by country guitarists like Merle Travis and, in particular, Chet Atkins.

After Navy service, Moore formed a hillbilly group, The Starlite Wranglers, in 1952, with Bill Black on upright bass. After Moore struck up a rapport with Sam Phillips, the proprietor of Sun Records, Phillips suggested that Moore and Black accompany his protégé, Elvis Presley. Initially, the sessions were unproductive, until the trio began playing ‘That’s All Right (Mama)’, which captured the chemistry between them and became Presley’s first single in 1954.

Moore and Black, along with drummer D.J. Fontana, backed Elvis on his greatest records. Before Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley, Moore fused various strands of American music to create the language of rock’n’roll lead guitar, establishing it as the main instrument and inspiring countless guitarists. His style was clean, simple and economical, primarily at the insistence of Sam Phillips. Moore favoured Gibson guitars, using the semi-acoustic ES-295 on early Sun recordings with Presley, and switching in 1955 to an L5 and later to a Super 400 CES.

Moore continued to back Elvis until 1958. He made his only solo album, the all-instrumental The Guitar That Changed The World (1964), and worked with Presley again during the 1960s, appearing with the singer for the last time in the ‘’68 Comeback Special’ television performance. Afterwards, Scotty virtually retired from playing for 23 years, founding his own recording studio in Memphis and concentrating on engineering records and television productions. He was reunited with D.J. Fontana on All The King’s Men (1997), an all-star celebration of Elvis’s music.

Moore has spent most of the last 10 years performing tribute shows with disciples such as Eric Clapton and Mark Knopfler, and accepting awards for his legendary contribution to rock’n’roll. He was inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2009.

Essential Recordings

Elvis Presley: Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley: Elvis

Solo: The Guitar That Changed The World

Elvis PresleyThe Sun Sessions

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