Scotty Moore

Click for Scotty Moore / DJ Fontana Audio Interview, Courtesy "American Routes," Real Audio

Listen to Scotty Moore with Elvis Presley on "That's All Right"

Scotty Moore It's been almost half a century since Scotty Moore reinvented rock 'n roll with Bill Black and Elvis Presley down at 706 Union Avenue. In those days, Sam Phillips' Recording Service and Sun label was hardly a tourist attraction. Even locals scarcely glanced at the small storefront on the west side of town, and had anyone noticed the activity going on inside -- bluesmen like Howlin' Wolf and Ike Turner coming and going, wanna-be singers recording acetates for $3.98 plus tax, and hill-billy groups like Moore and Black's Starlite Wranglers trying to catch Phillip's ear -- they would've shaken their heads and walked on, hardly aware that within those four walls a revolution was underway.

When Sam put Elvis (who, in the beginning, was one of those $3.98 customers), Scotty and Bill together, nothing gelled until the group took a break. Elvis was fooling around on his guitar when the blues song "That's All Right Mama" popped into his head. "All of the sudden," Scotty told author Peter Guralnick, "Elvis just started jumping around and acting the fool, and then Bill picked up his bass, and I started playing with them." Phillips stuck his head out of the control room to ask the trio what they were doing. "Back up," he said. "Try to find a place to start, and do it again." And the rest, as they say, is history.

Scotty Moore In '57, Scotty, Bill, and DJ Fontana resigned their positions backing the world's biggest rock and roll star after Elvis refused to bump their salaries from a paltry $200 a week. Scotty began engineering and producing around Memphis, working for the Fernwood label (where he produced a Top 10 hit, Thomas Wayne's "Tragedy") and at Sam Phillips' new studio at 639 Madison Avenue, just around the corner from Sun. There he produced the greatest blues album of the '60s, Frank Frost's "Hey Boss Man", for Stan Lewis' Jewel label. But in early '64, when he recorded his own instrumental album -- "The Guitar That Changed the World" -- Sam let him go, and Scotty headed straight to Nashville. Soured, Scotty hung his Gibson ES-295 up for 24 years. Time heals most wounds, however -- and today Scotty's back on stage, playing a Chet Atkins-model Gibson. "In fact," Moore told me, lowering his voice conspiratorially, "the Country Gentlemen I'm playing, I made a few changes on it. I made it feel good -- like an old pair of house shoes, or like cuddlin' a girl up in the cradle of your arm."

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