Elvis Presley Guitarist Scotty Moore Dead at 84
Scotty Moore, who was a key figure in the music and career of Elvis Presley, has passed away at the age of 84.
The Memphis Commercial Appeal reports that Moore had been struggling with his health for several months, and passed away at his home in Nashville on Tuesday (June 28).
Moore is widely acknowledged as one of the most influential guitarists in the history of popular music. His early work with Presley helped bring together country, rockabilly, jazz and blues influences into a new sound that became the paradigm for rock and roll.
Born Winfield Scott Moore III on Dec. 27, 1931, Moore grew up on a farm in rural Tennessee as the youngest of four brothers. He took up the guitar at the age of 8. Moore enlisted in the Navy in 1948, though he was underage at 16, and served in China and Korea before his discharge in 1952.
He then moved to Memphis, where he began playing in a country band that also featured future Elvis Presley bass player Bill Black. The group made a record for Sun Records, and shortly thereafter, Moore met Presley and introduced him to Black. The next night the three were jamming at the Sun studio during a break when Sun Record founder Sam Phillips recorded them playing "That's All Right," the record that launched rock music.
"It was a world-changing event," Sam Phillips' son, Jerry Phillips, tells the Commercial Appeal, "but without Scotty it wouldn't have been world-changing."
That single launched a career that would soon see Presley become a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon, and Moore served as his manager for the first few months of that rise. He played on all of Presley's earliest hits. Jerry Phillips says he was the musical glue that held the records together.
"Elvis Presley wouldn't have been Elvis Presley without Scotty Moore. I think my dad would agree with that," Phillips states. "You gotta remember, there were only three instruments on those things. Scotty, Bill [Black] and Elvis. Scotty really just made everything work."
That version of Presley's band effectively broke up after disputes over money in 1957, and came to an end permanently when Presley was drafted the next year. Moore went on to play on a number of sessions, but mostly focused on his work as an engineer and producer until reuniting with Presley in the mid-'60s to play on many of his sessions. His final performance with Presley was for the acclaimed 1968 TV special that launched Presley's comeback after a commercial cooling off period.
Moore mostly abandoned playing after that, and spent much of the next two decades running a studio in Nashville, engineering sessions and launching a tape duplication service. He returned to playing in 1992 at the urging of Carl Perkins, appearing on the album 706 ReUnion: A Sentimental Journey. Moore was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000, and the Musicians Hall of Fame in 2006. Most recently, he was elected to the Memphis Music Hall of Fame in October of 2015.
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