R.I.P. Scotty Moore – A Revered Rockfather


Scotty MooreSad to hear of the passing of one of the very first guitar heroes, Scotty Moore. All of us who play rock guitar, whether we’re aware of it or not, have a little bit of Scotty Moore in us. His playing was actually quite sensitive – not all the brash clang which the recognised character of much of early Rock and Roll guitar playing (which was also essential !) – but massively brave and new at the time. You can hear in his playing the excitement of that transition from the 40s to the 50s … the advent of the Day of the Young.

Scotty cited Chet Atkins as an influence – a deeply polished Country style electric guitar picker – and, like Chet, he used the kind of fingerpick which clips around your thumb – not very common today. You can hear that Scotty’s style on record was a mixture of melodic and two-part harmony stuff, and jazz chords, and the beginnings of string bending … his strings were too thick to bend very far, but he used the bend to make blue notes, squeezed up just a semitone and making it sound like a strain – which it actually must have been … ! This technique, absorbed from black blues players, by Scotty and a few of his contemporaries, ushered in the guitar as a voice in rock music – rather than just an accompanying instrument. Scotty was modest about the influence he’d had, saying that his manner of playing was common among his mates …. but really he was very innovative IMHO !! Scotty preferred a deep-bodied Gibson electric guitar, but his opposite numbers, Steve Cropper notably on Green Onions with Booker T and the MG’s) and James Burton (stupendously notably on the solo for Hello Mary Lou by Ricky Nelson), favoured the more metallic twang of the Fender Telecaster. So in comparison, Scotty sounds quite warm on record. Burton and Cropper pushed those strings across the fingerboard a little further, expanding the electric guitar vocabulary even more. But Scotty had his own territory carved out, and he had the greatest and most passionate white singer of his generation to play off … Elvis. He just might be regarded as the inventor of the power-chord riff (prior to the epic Kinks riffs) – for his fabulous slide-up motif which is the core of the verses of Elvis’s Jailhouse Rock. That’s an inimitable classic (I know for sure it’s inimitable – I’ve tried … we used to play it, but a little differently, as Queen).

I had the pleasure of working with Scotty briefly when the Sun Record Tribute was being put together a few years ago. I joined Scotty and DJ Fontana in Abbey Road studios to record ‘No Teasin’ Around’ – a little known song by Bill ‘The Kid’ Emerson which I’d found in a Sun Records catalogue. I was really taken by the song, and kinda hoped we’d make it popular. But the powers that be at Sun Records evidently didn’t share that feeling. They left it off the compilation. It only surfaced as a bonus track on the Japanese version of the album. Consequently it’s remained ‘little-known’. But I love it !

It’s here actually, I just noticed … https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oOumwngMl1c Of course EVERYTHING is on the Internet now !

Well, tell me what you think. I don’t know if there are any photos of that session in existence … if it were today we’d all be tweetin’ it around the world.

I performed this song only once live, I think, at the Montreux Jazz Festival around …erm … 2005 ? [Ed: 2001] backing vocals by my daughter Emily, Joe Botross, the first husband of my daughter Louisa, and my lady Anita !

But I digress. I was never in touch with Scotty after that, and of course I now regret that. But he was a lovely relaxed and modest man – it was such a pleasure and privilege to have that chance to play with him. Like I said, we all have a little piece of Scotty Moore in us.

RIP Scotty Moore, one of the founding fathers of Rock.


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