Scotty Moore, Elvis Presley’s First Guitarist, Dead at 84

Played on Sun Sessions, “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Blue Suede Shoes” and Many Other Classics

Scotty Moore, Elvis Presley’s original guitar player and early manger, died Tuesday (June 28) at his home in Nashville at the age of 84.

His playing on Presley’s early recordings influenced a generation of guitarists, including Keith Richards, George Harrison, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page and Mark Knopfler.

Winfield Scott Moore III was born near Gadsden, Tennessee, on Dec. 27, 1931. An admirer of country and jazz guitarists, including Chet Atkins, Moore began learning the guitar when he was 8 years old. After serving four years in the Navy, Moore returned to civilian life in the early 1950s and formed a band called the Starlite Wranglers.

Familiar with Moore’s musical skills, Sam Phillips, owner of Sun Records in Memphis, chose him and bassist Bill Black to back Presley on his first hit recording for the label, “That’s All Right.”

Moore and Black would tour and record with Presley over the next several years, eventually with the addition of drummer D.J. Fontana. They would also play bit parts in Presley’s early movies. Among the Presley hits enlivened by Moore’s distinctive guitar work were “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Mystery Train,” “Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock” and “Blue Suede Shoes.’

Following his tenure with Presley, Moore worked as a producer and sound engineer, as well as continuing as a session musician.

Moore was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2000 in the sideman category. In 2011, Rolling Stone magazine ranked him 29th among the 100 greatest guitarists of all time.

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to CMT.com.