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It was with great sadness, that we received news today of the death of the great Scotty Moore, Elvis Presley’s loyal guitarist and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer. Moore had not been well for some time and today, at 84 years of age, passed away. It triggered my memory that I had once transcribed an interview with Scotty that Australian Musical Imports (Australian importer of Gibson guitars) CEO Con Gallin had recorded in 1994 while he was in LA at an album autograph signing session. The interview appeared in Rhythms magazine’s musician section in April 1994, a section of the mag I was responsible for at the time.  Here’s a reproduction of the interview between Con and Scotty.

Scotty Moore’s musical resume would have to be one of the most impressive in rock ‘n’ roll. His former employee was one Elvis Aaron Presley. His lead guitar credits include: Jailhouse Rock, Hound Dog, Blue Suede Shoes, Heartbreak Hotel and Mystery Train. He’s not just a part of modern music history, he helped to invent rock ‘n’ roll. Together with The Jordanaires and friends like Carl Perkins, in the confines of Sun Studios in Memphis, they produced a style of rockabilly that influenced musicians and music fans worldwide.

Scotty was a loyal employee too, sixteen years with Elvis and never touched a string for anyone else. In fact, in the beginning of Elvis’ career, Scotty was also responsible for assorted management duties such as gig bookings. Yet despite the status of being involved in the world’s greatest rock show, a job is all Scotty considered the gig to be. He found comfort in the steady employment and a regular wage. Faced with the choice of a brief two week stint in Vegas with Elvis and risking the loss of permanent work in his own recording studio in Nashville, Moore chose what he believed to be the secure option. As it turned out, he never worked with Elvis again. In fact he quit playing altogether, content with his post as house engineer at the studio.

It wasn’t for another 20 years that he thought about playing guitar again. At an award presentation for Carl Perkins in 1989, the two discussed the possibility of doing ‘something’ together. Three years on, Moore phoned Perkins to check on his health and the subject of recording was finally raised. The result of the conversation was a journey back to Sun  Studios in Memphis to record an album of old rockabilly and honky tonk tunes and spoken recollections. The album was titled 706 ReUnion (named after the address of the famous Sun studios at 706 Union Rd, Memphis, Tennessee). A second recording followed in 1993 featuring Carl and a reunion of The Jordanaires (Moore ‘Feel Good Music’).

Con Gallin happened to be in Los Angeles in early 1994  for a Scotty Moore autograph signing for his new album and was granted some interview time. Here’s what went down.

Con: You were one of the first ever guitar heroes but who had you been listening to?
Scotty: I listened to a lot of jazz, still do. It’s my favourite thing. Unfortunately, I was never really good at playing much of it. I’m not talking about what I call the ‘far out’ stuff but Johnny Smith, Tal Farlow. I was also listening to blues players like Merle Travis, Chet Atkins, anyone who could play guitar. I stole everything I could.

The equipment you used to record your new albums must have been a hell of a lot different to the old sessions?
No, not at all. In fact I used the same amp I used in the early days. I don’t have any of the guitars anymore but I used a Super 400 like I used back then.

What equipment are you using now?
The amp is a custom-built Ray Butts Liquisonic. The amp has a delay built into it, what we used to refer as slap-back. The humbucker … I don’t know… didn’t really keep up with it. It’s an 80 or 85. The strings are mediums, ten through first through 46 or 48. They are lighter than the old days. I think I used a Gretsch flat would. My hands were a little stronger then.

Did you practice much as a band with Elvis? Did he fuss over sound checks and PA’s or microphones?
Sound check! He’d never heard of that thing. He’d wonder what you were talking about. No. No rehearsal, no stage monitors, any of that stuff.

How did you cope with the sound systems in the past? Was it just a matter of the sound not being important because there was so much excitement anyway or were you putting out what you thought was a good sound?
You just had no control. I probably had the first heavy duty amp. The amp that I had was only 25 watts but the man who made it went back and built two 50 watt boosters that looked just like the other amp. They had 4 JBLs in each one of then and the cabinets all looked alike. We’d set one up on each side of the stage, their nose right open and the other one was a pre-amp. So I had a total of 125 watts.

What about tuning up?
Well if there was a piano around and it was in tune, I’d use that … otherwise by ear.

How did you originally get involved with Elvis?
We were called in to Sun Studios in ’52 to play with Elvis, so that they could see what he sounded like on tape.

What about recording with Elvis? Was the band in control of the creative side or did he have producers?
Yeah, we were. We would just look for a feel or something. We were a lot more experienced than Elvis but Sam Phillips, the producer… he would always want another take. (Note: there is a track on the 706 ReUnion album titled ‘Damn Sam’ which gives an insight into what went down during the old sessions).

When Elvis was seen with an acoustic guitar, was it ever miked up?
Very seldom. But he’d play loud enough and bleed in. He had good rhythm, excellent timing.

When did you actually finish playing with Elvis?
The last thing I did was the ’68 TV special. I had a studio in Nashville and it was the busiest Nashville had ever been. DJ (Fontana) and I were working, engineering. They rang and wanted us to do the Vegas thing. It was only a 2 week gig. The price they offered for the 2 weeks was what we were making in a day in Nashville, so nobody could take the gamble.

Why didn’t he ever tour outside of America?
I don’t know. There has been a lot of speculation on that. I know for a fact that when we did the ’68 special, he was winding down all his movie contracts. He had two to finish. He talked to DJ and myself during that show and asked us if we’d like to do a European tour. He said, “I really want to do one.” That was the end of it. Next thing we knew, he was fixin’ to go to Vegas. There was speculation that Parker (Colonel Tom) didn’t have a passport, couldn’t get one … I don’t know.

RIP Scotty Moore

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