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Scotty Moore - Guitar Man

By Jim DeRogatisJan 29, 2002
On the Chicago Sun's Website we found an interesting article with Scotty Moore and thought you might ant to read this.

"The Guitar That Changed the World!"--that was the title of Scotty Moore's 1964 solo album. But its hyperbole, while partially true, was out of character.

Moore may have played on many of Elvis Presley's most famous recordings, but the soft-spoken 70-year-old musician has never been one to unduly dwell on the past, or to boast about his accomplishments.

A native of Gadsden, Tenn., Moore started out as Presley's manager before sliding into the role of the guitarist whose frenetic rockabilly riffing powered hits such as "Heartbreak Hotel," "Blue Suede Shoes" and "Jailhouse Rock." He reunited with the King after Presley's stint in the Army, stayed with him through the early Hollywood days but left around the time of the so-called '68 comeback special to watch as the man and his music declined.

Moore has never stopped rocking long enough to rest on his laurels. Now, he's touring with former Stray Cats bassist Lee Rocker, performing a mix of that band's hits and the tunes he immortalized with Elvis.

"I grew up with Scotty as my hero, and now he's standing five feet away from me and playing the same licks just as I remember him in old footage playing with Elvis," Rocker says. "You can't beat that."

I recently spoke to Moore from his home in Nashville.

Q. How did you hook up with Lee Rocker?

A. I actually met Lee through a guitar player, Mike Eldred, who worked with him back when he had his Big Blue trio. Then Lee did an album in Memphis, I went down and played on a couple of numbers, and we just hit it off. I've been doing some stuff off and on with him ever since. He's a great bass player--right in the pocket, y'know?

Q. Lee is from the generation that falls in between yours and the younger kids who are just coming up today. Do you hear young players continuing in the style you helped patent?

A. Yeah, quite a few. Some of them are really good, and some are not. A lot of these guys play too fast, y'know? I don't know how I got the reputation, but most of the early things were not that fast! But Lee, now he's mellowed a little bit. It all mellows out after a while. [Laughs]

Q. It strikes me that there was always a certain swing to '50s rockabilly, and that's been almost entirely missing in rock since the '60s.

A. I know exactly what you're talking about! Actually, that's the thing about D.J. Fontana, who got the [drummer's] job with us with Elvis. He liked all the big bands growing up, and then when he was young, he played a lot of the strip joints around Shreveport [La.]. Everything he plays, if you listen, it always has a slight little swing to it; it wasn't like a straight country beat. I always say, "It's like you're out there on the edge just a little, but you're still relaxed."

When younger kids play Elvis tunes, I think they look to some of those '60s television shows where he took all the early stuff and when he played up-tempo things, he just threw them away. So, they miss that swing.

Q. One of the challenges for younger listeners is to hear those classic Elvis songs with fresh ears. The good stuff and the bad stuff has all becomes one big blur, and so much nonsense has been written, it's hard to get at the heart of what was great in that music.

A. The one thing that we tried to do, the musicians--because Elvis just showed up concerned about the song and his voice-- was that we tried to play on every song something that fit that particular song. Nothing was written for us, it was strictly up to us to put it together, and it was only for some of the movie tracks that they'd say, "We really need you to play a certain chord here" or "Emphasize this bit"-- y'know, for the picture. But for the most part, it was on us to come up with the arrangement and everything, and we tried to keep things simple but interesting.

Q. How much of what you read or see in documentaries squares with what you remember of those years and the Elvis that you knew?

A. Oh, about half of it, really. Maybe 40 percent.

Q. Are you still having fun? Is it still a kick for you when you're on stage?

A. It really is. My only problem now is a little arthritis in my left thumb that slows me down a little bit once in a while. And of course the traveling. That's never gotten any better! I've got some trips to Europe coming up this summer, and I'm dreading them, not because I'm afraid to fly, but because of what you have to go through now in the airport.
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