Scotty Moore served as Elvis Presley’s guitarist from 1954 to 1958, widely regarded as Presley’s golden years. Moore was a participant in the historic early sessions at Sun Recording Studio that mark the birth of rock and roll. It was on Monday, July 5, 1954, that Presley, Moore and bassist Bill Black broke into bluesman Arthur Cruddup’s “That’s All Right” in a freewheeling style that brought together country and blues. They took a similarly approach to bluegrass legend Bill Monroe’s “Blue Moon of Kentucky.” With these spontaneous breakthroughs, conceived in the most innocent and intuitive way, both sides of Elvis Presley’s legendary first single and the first new strains of rock and roll were in the can. Notably, the single (Sun 209) was credited to “Elvis Presley, Scotty and Bill.”
Moore, a devotee of Nashville guitarist Chet Atkins, led a group called the Starlite Wranglers before Sun founder Sam Phillips teamed him up with Presley. Moore’s early background was in jazz and country, and he put these influences to use by counterpointing Presley’s vocals with melodic yet forceful solos that helped launch the rockabilly revolution. As journalist Colin Escott noted, “The first generation of kids who grew up wanting to play rock and roll cut their teeth on Scotty Moore’s solos.” This observation was confirmed by Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards, who said: “Everyone else wanted to be Elvis. I wanted to be Scotty.”
Moore and Black, joined by drummer D.J. Fontana, served as Presley’s band onstage and on record until March 1958, when Moore and Black quit in a dispute over wages. Moore moved to Nashville in 1964. In addition to working as an engineer and session musician, he played on many of Presley’s Nashville sessions at RCA’s Studio B. Moore set up his own Nashville studio, Music City Records, in 1966. Moore and Fontana rejoined Presley for the televised 1968 “comeback special” (bassist Black had died in 1965). Moore and Fontana reunited in 1997 for an album entitled All the King’s Men that featured all-star backing by acolytes of the two Presley sideman.