Scotty Moore, Elvis Presley‘s longtime guitarist and a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, died Tuesday at his home in Nashville, the Commercial Appeal reports. No cause of death was provided, but Moore had been in poor health in recent months. He was 84. Karen Fontana, the wife of Presley drummer D.J. Fontana, also confirmed Moore’s death to Rolling Stone.
“It’s with great sadness we say goodbye to Scotty Moore, my first inspiration,” Keith Richards said in a statement. “The work he performed on those incredible early Elvis tracks stays with me forever. Farewell old friend.”
“We lost one of the finest people I have ever met today,” Sun Studio engineer Matt Ross-Spang wrote on Instagram. “I was lucky to call you a friend and I’m very glad I got to see you just a few days ago. The guitarist that changed the world … especially mine; I hope you don’t mind if I keep stealing your licks. Love you Scotty.”
Born in Gadsden, Tennessee, Moore began playing guitar at the age of eight, and after a stint in the U.S. Navy in the early Fifties, moved to Memphis and formed the Starlite Wrangers with bassist Bill Black. In 1954, Sun Records impresario Sam Phillips paired Moore with a teenaged Elvis Presley. Together, along with Black, they would record Presley’s first single, “That’s All Right (Mama).” The recording session was only meant to be an audition; instead, the trio made music history.
“I heard that Sam Phillips had a little studio and record label and I went to see him about getting a record out,” Moore told Rolling Stone in 2010. “I knew that if we could make a record, we’d get more places to play around town. Sam agreed to record us and he and I became good friends. Then one day we were having coffee, and his secretary actually brought up Elvis’ name. He had dropped by the studio with the hope of recording something. So Sam said, ‘Call this guy up and get him to go over to your house and see what you think of him.’ So he came to my house on the Fourth of July. It was kind of a pre-audition.”
Moore, Black and drummer D.J. Fontana would soon form the Blue Moon Boys, a union that would back Presley on dozens of legendary rock & roll songs over the next decade, including “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Mystery Train,” “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock” and “(You’re the) Devil in Disguise.”
Moore, with the Blue Moon Boys, would also appear in four of Presley’s films – Jailhouse Rock, Loving You, King Creole and G.I. Blues. In 1964, Phillips fired Moore after he recorded a solo album; however, Presley reunited with the guitarist for his ’68 Comeback Special; Black died in 1965.
Moore’s unique style – played on a Gibson Super 400 – on those iconic Presley singles inspired generations of future guitar players. “When I heard ‘Heartbreak Hotel,’ I knew what I wanted to do in life. It was as plain as day. All I wanted to do in the world was to be able to play and sound like that,” Keith Richards once said. “Everyone else wanted to be Elvis, I wanted to be Scotty.”
In addition to Presley, Moore worked with artists like Richards, Ringo Starr, Carl Perkins, Jeff Beck, Levon Helm, Ronnie Wood and more. Moore was also named to Rolling Stone‘s 100 Greatest Guitarists list.
Moore was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000 as part of the inaugural class celebrating sidemen, a category that honored “those musicians who have spent their careers out of the spotlight, performing as backup musicians for major artists on recording sessions and in concert.”
This story is developing.
“Blue Suede Shoes”
“Trying to Get to You”