Scotty Moore, who played with Elvis Presley in the first few years of his fame, died on Tuesday June 28. He was 84. No cause of death was noted but the guitarist had been in poor health for some time. A private funeral service is being held.
The Memphis Commercial Appeal reported that Moore was at his home in Nashville at the time of his death. Last October, he was too ill to attend his induction into the Memphis Music Hall of Fame, with Keith Richards accepting on his behalf.
Richards has paid tribute, saying: “It’s with great sadness we say goodbye to Scotty Moore, my first inspiration. The work he performed on those incredible early Elvis tracks stays with me forever. Farewell old friend.”
Presley’s ex-wife, Priscilla, said, “Elvis loved Scotty dearly and treasured those amazing years together, both in the studio and on the road. Scotty was an amazing musician and a legend in his own right.”
Born on December 27, 1931, in Gadsen, Tennessee, Winfield Scott Moore III began playing guitar at the age of eight and settled in Memphis after being discharged from the Navy in 1952. While trying to get a record deal for his band, the Starlite Wranglers, which also featured bassist Bill Black, he became friends with Sam Phillips of the Memphis Recording Service, better known as Sun Studios.
According to Peter Guralnick’s Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley, Moore and Black recorded with Elvis at Sun Studios on July 5, 1954 and after hours of recording mainly ballads Presley began playing a blues song by Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup called “That’s All Right (Mama),” which producer Sam Phillips recognised as the sound for which he had been searching.
Moore played on most of Presley’s early songs and toured with him until 1958, when Presley went into the Army. He continued to work with Presley upon his discharge in 1960, but, with Elvis holed up in Hollywood making movies and not touring, his role became marginalized to that of a session guitarist.
Moore recorded his own album in 1964 that titled The Guitar That Changed the World and returned to Elvis’s band for the famous 1968 Comeback Special, the last time the two performed together.
Moore remained active as an engineer at his own Music City Recorders studio in Nashville, working on Ringo Starr‘s 1970 country album Beaucoup of Blues, among many others. He began playing guitar again in the early-’90s, working with another Sun alum, Carl Perkins, and people he’d influenced, including Ronnie Wood, Levon Helm and Jeff Beck. Moore was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000.