"People don't know what they want until they hear it," Scotty Moore once said. After the world heard Moore, who died Tuesday at age 84, it became clear that his sound was in high demand. As Elvis Presley's lead guitarist in the Fifties and Sixties, he helped solidify the guitar's role as a focal point and foil for the lead singer within a rock & roll context and influenced multiple generations of players that followed in his wake. With his quick licks, fierce solos and lithe rhythms, Moore provided the perfect backdrop for Presley to burst to the fore with his wide array of soon-to-be-legendary histrionics. Before there was Keith and Mick, before Page and Plant, before Morrissey and Marr, before Axl and Slash, there was Scotty and Elvis.
Moore wasn't just a pioneering rock guitarist; he was also one of the best. (In Rolling Stone's ranking of the 100 Greatest Guitarists, Moore comes in at Number 29.) Throughout a given song he would alternate between impressively cool detachment and intense, explosive passion. As he played, he wove together a wide range of different blues and country flavors and in doing so, created something truly
Beyond the multitude of Number One singles, you need only listen to the diverse array of pupils who studied his every move on wax to get a sense of his lasting legacy. "Tone is the thing," Jeff Beck said. "That's something that came from Scotty Moore, who once told me, 'Get some better tone and you're
there.'" Keith Richards was equally effusive, if not more to the point, when he wrote in his autobiography, Life, that "Scotty Moore was my icon."
"I'm very proud of how much the music has held up over the years," Moore told RS back before he was finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000. So it has. Here are 10 of his greatest contributions to rock & roll.