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R.I.P. Scotty Moore, Elvis’ guitarist

Scotty Moore (center) and Elvis Presley, on the set of Jailhouse Rock. (Photo: Getty Images)

Variety is reporting that Winfield “Scotty” Moore, the man whose Gibson ES-295 became known as “the guitar that changed the world” for its role in the rise of Elvis Presley, has died. Moore was 84.

Born in Tennessee in 1931, Moore met Presley in the mid-1950s, when legendary producer Sam Philips put the pair (and double bassist Bill Black) together for the recording of Presley’s first break-out hit, “That’s All Right (Mama)”. Moore, Presley, and Black (and, eventually, drummer D.J. Fontana) founded the Blue Moon Boys in 1954, touring around the United States and building Presley’s skyrocketing popularity. Moore’s guitar—initially the ES-295, and later the Gibson Super 400—appeared on most of Presley’s early hits for Sun Records, and, later, RCA, including “Hound Dog,” “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Jailhouse Rock,” and numerous others. The Blue Moon Boys also appeared in several of Presley’s films in small roles, including King Creole and G.I. Blues.

Moore’s guitar works was known for its fluid, finger-picking style, and is credited with helping to give rise to the rockabilly genre. Although largely overshadowed by Presley—despite the fact that the singer usually relegated himself to rhythm guitar in concert, leaving Moore as lead—Moore became a legendary figure to the generation of guitarists who grew up in the post-Elvis world. (The Rollings Stones’ Keith Richards once noted, “Everyone else wanted to be Elvis—I wanted to be Scotty.”)


After Presley returned from military service in 1960, he and Moore reunited. (This, despite the fact that Moore—and Black—had resigned from the band in 1958, after not sharing in the massive profits Presley was bringing in.) Recording together at RCA, Moore contributed guitar parts to several new songs, including, “(You’re The) Devil In Disguise.”

Although never coming close to the stratospheric rise and fame of Presley, Moore has been widely recognized for his pioneering contributions to rock and R&B music. He was an inductee of both the Rockabilly and Rock And Roll Hall Of Fames, and was recognized by Rolling Stone magazine in 2011 as the 29th greatest guitarist of all time.

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