Don’t Be Cruel

Scotty has left the building

You ain’t nothin ….

A few days from now (and 60 years ago), on 2nd July 1956, Elvis Presley went into a recording studio in New York to record a track that he had been performing live for a couple of months and with which he had caused such a sensation on the Milton Berle Show. Because of it he would be called ‘perverted, disgusting and a cause of teenage juvenile delinquency.’ Twenty years before punk happened in the UK Elvis was the original punk rocker. The song was ‘Hound Dog’; he would perform it from when he first heard it all the way up until his final tour in 1977. It is a song completely associated with Elvis and yet there is one person playing on this record that is forgotten by most people in the modern era.

Inspiring and gone

A name that inspired Keith Richards to pick up a guitar for the first time. A man whose sound inspired a generation of guitar players: John Lennon, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck; a man who defined rock n roll as much as Elvis, Chuck Berry and Eddie Cochran. That man was Scotty Moore; he died on Tuesday 28th June 2016 with little fanfare, but with sorrow to those who knew how much he had contributed to music.

How they did it

Two years before ‘Hound Dog’ Scotty, along with Elvis and double bass player, Bill Black, were messing about in a break on the Independence Day holiday weekend. It was the first time they had ever recorded together and on their first night they captured lightning in a bottle. The song was ‘That’s Alright Mama’, a blues record turned country to find a sound called rockabilly, or to those not so fussy it was rock n roll. For the next year or so Elvis, Scotty and Bill recorded five singles for the Sun record label that some people would say that Elvis never surpassed. They were simple: a rhythm guitar (Elvis), the double bass (Bill) and Scotty on the Gibson ES-295.

Who was this guy?

I was a boy when I first became aware of Scotty. I had listened to Elvis’ records many times before discovering who the guitarist was. I was never inspired enough to learn how to play, but I knew a great sound when I heard it. He played on most of Elvis’ records from 1954 until 1968. He was offered a part in Elvis’ comeback band, but was already tied up in studio work. He would never see Elvis again after he supported his old friend in his ’68 Comeback ┬áTV Special. It was Scotty’s guitar that Elvis played in the live sections of the show. Scotty can be seen on the edge of the stage, looking nervously at his guitar.

He was the sound

Bill Black died in 1965 and Elvis in 1977. Scotty lived a long and full life; there was plenty more for him to do once the Elvis connection had been severed, but in truth he never touched souls as he had done in the 1950’s. Hound Dog, Don’t Be Cruel, Heartbreak Hotel – these were songs that changed the fabric of life. In a two minute single people would find their true calling. It didn’t matter if they danced to it, played along to it or just luxuriated in the sound, it touched them. It changed them. Scotty Moore helped to change the world. If Elvis was the voice then Scotty was the sound.