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SCOTTY MOORE - AN APPRECIATION
July 01, 2016  -  By Jim Bessman, Manhattan Local Music Examiner /  Elvis Express Radio
Simply put, it was Scotty Moore who established the electric guitar as the lead instrument in rock ‘n’ roll.

So states music historian/producer Gregg Geller, who oversaw the reissue of the Elvis Presley catalog when he worked at RCA Records. Moore, who died Tuesday at 84, was
Presley’s guitarist during the first part of his career, and with bassist Bill Black backed Presley on his historic 1954 Sun Records session in Memphis for “That’s Alright Mama”, which
became Presley’s first single.

“Remember, in the early days there was as likely to be a sax solo as a guitar solo on a rock ‘n’ roll record,” says Geller. “There was also Danny Cedrone, whose classic solo on
‘Rock the Joint’—later duplicated on ‘Rock Around the Clock’—was seminal, but he was a session hire [and] not an actual member of Bill Haley & The Comets. Scotty’s work with
Elvis set the stage for the guitar’s rise--visually as well as musically--as the quintessential instrument in the music.”

According to veteran New York guitarist James Mastro (The Bongos, Health and Happiness Show), Moore was a sophisticated and exciting player, who together with Chuck Berry
“single-handedly created what we now define as rock ‘n’ roll guitar--combining a pure blend of country swing, jazz, and blues into something never heard before. Listen to ‘That's
Alright Mama’ or ‘Hound Dog’ and you are at the epicenter.”

“Scotty’s tone always impressed me,” adds Mastro, “and when I found out part of that was attributed to tape delay, I rushed out and bought one and still use it all the time. I truly
believe Elvis would not have been crowned king if it weren’t for Scotty being there to help open the castle door!”

Jimmy Vivino, the celebrated guitarist who is bandleader for Conan and a member of ultimate Beatles tribute band the Fab Faux, says that Moore “was the single most important
influence in my playing at the beginning of my journey as a guitarist. It felt like he was putting his arm around me and pointing the way down the road. All rock ‘n’ roll roads lead back
to Scotty Moore and Memphis.”

Boo Reiners, guitarist for New York’s Demolition String Band, points out how Moore and Presley “could be feral one minute and polished the next. The way they complimented one
another was so dynamic and was a big part of all the excitement and innovation. Elvis without Scotty Moore? Who can imagine that?”

Wisconsin Music Hall of Fame bandleader/guitarist Jon Paris, a Monday night Times Square fixture for years at New York club B.B. King’s smaller room Lucille’s, recalls a Les Paul
birthday party at Iridium where Moore was sitting in with the birthday boy.

“Les called me up to sing and play harmonica with them,” says Paris. “I called [Presley’s 1955 Sun single] ‘Mystery Train,’” which I’d done before with Les, but with Scotty there, man,
it was perfect! A gentleman, an innovator, and an extremely important influence.”

Robert Kenison, who as Troy Charmell was a member of the legendary 1970s Midwest rock ‘n’ roll show band Dr. Bop & The Headliners, seconds both Paris and Reiners.

“I was at Les Paul’s 90th birthday party and all the great guitarists were there to honor him—but for me it was Scotty Moore,” says Kenison. “I never do this, but I couldn’t resist and
introduced myself to shake the hand of the guitar player who revolutionized rock ‘n’ roll. He was really very friendly and a down-home guy, and since he didn’t run away I told him
how I used to listen to his records all the time and pick out every little lick but could never figure out the solos on ‘Hound Dog’—especially the second one. He said, ‘I just got mad!’
and I thought, I’ll always remember that he didn’t say how he put his first finger on the tenth fret or anything technical, just that he had that feeling. It was awesome, the sound on his
guitar and slap-back echo and rockabilly thumb-picking on all that early Elvis stuff, and he said, ‘We were just trying to do a little something different.’ He influenced everybody!”

“He was just extraordinarily inventive,” continues Kenison, who’s currently touring Wisconsin with fellow former Dr. Bopper Al Craven, the White Raven, as the duo the Mighty
Weasels. “Even last night we did ‘That’s All Right,’ which everyone does, even today. That answering guitar thing that Scotty does after Elvis sings a verse—if you don’t play that, it’
s not the same song! His guitar is almost up there with Elvis’s voice in being important to the music.”

Moore, concludes Kenison, wasn’t “just a three-chord rockabilly guitar player.”

“He was a jazz guy as well,” says Kenison, citing the “jazzy chord intro” on Presley’s 1956 hit single “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You.” “He had pretty sophisticated harmonic
vocabulary, all done in a tasteful way that popular music listeners would enjoy.”

He adds, “I was reading some of the coverage, and even Keith Richards said how everyone wanted to be Elvis, but he wanted to be Scotty Moore!”