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Scotty Moore / D.J. Fontana

by Shaun Mather and Phil Davies

The Untold Story of Elvis' First Guitarist and Manager - SCOTTY MOORE
Scotty Moore as told to James Dickerson

Although this autobiography was first published in the US in 1997 by Schirmer Books we are reviewing it here as a fore runner to Scotty and D J Fontana's f orthcoming major European tour. It is available from sources such as A&R Booksearch (check out RHOF listing) and Amazon Books. Now available in paperback as well. James Dickerson is the author of the previous Goin' Back To Memphis, a fine music book, with an excellent chapter on the recording of the Class of 55 album.

For any X-Files type aliens out there, Scotty is described on the jacket as a giutarist, recording engineer and record producer. It omits key words LEGEND and member of the most important group this century (pipe down you Liverpudlians, no contest). the book is simply dedicated to Bill Black (1926-1965) which I think subtly sums up Scotty as a person. There's a telling brief moment in the video of the 68 TV Special when Scotty raises an eyebrow when Elvis merely calls Bill "a bass player" when recalling the early days.

If Scotty had only played on the Elvis Sun tracks his place in our hearts and history would have been assured. However there's a lot more than that to the life of Winfield Scott Moore 111. From rural roots, through the navy to Memphis and the sound of the guitar that changed the world. For a definitive over view and analysis of Elvis' life and career we now have both volumes of Peter Guralnick's epic biography Roll over Goldman and tell Dee Presley the news!).

One source that he carefully checked facts with repeatedly was Scotty. You also need this book because Scotty was there when it happened and this book is thoughtful, candid and above all heartfelt and honest. 270 pages packed with stories and great photos and copies of letters this is an essential purchase. Even if you think you know all about Elvis, Scotty and Bill (and beyond) can you answer these questions?

How did young Scotty become blind in one eye?
Does Scotty side with Sam or Marion's version of Elvis' arrival at Sun?
Which deceased country legend recalls Scotty playing guitar in his Dry Cleaning shop days?
Want to see the original Scotty/ Elvis management contract?
How to stop Elvis pinching your fries?
Why did Tom Diskin turn Elvis down in Jan 1955?
Did they all know Parker was an illegal immigrant?
Why did Parker return Scotty's solo LP?

That only takes you to page 100 odd!

Be amazed as to how little money Scotty made through working with Elvis. Stories about Bill, the early car trips and tours, recording sessions and films etc etc. All written up beautifully by Mr Dickerson. Read about Fernwood and Thomas Wayne, fights with Jerry Lee, life after Elvis and Scotty's enduring loyalty, later studio work, the struggles and Scotty's matter of fact telling of his many ups and downs. Laugh as Lee Rocker tells of a session with Scotty and learns how he gets that great guitar sound, so simple!

Despite all his tribulations Scotty comes over as a decent honest man, pity Parker didn't posess either attribute or Scotty would be living a life of riches. He is richly blessed in respect and the love of all music fans. His later work with Carl Perkins, Ronnie McDowell, DJ and All The Kings Men and this book have reminded the public at large that the man is a national treasure. Buy his book and listen to All the King's Men or the new Sunrise CD at the same time.

Final word to legendary song writer and producer Chips Moman "Scotty's music changed my life - - I always thought it sad that Scotty and Bill didn't stay their whole career with Elvis. They were unique together".

Phil Davies
Feb 1999

Polydor 539 066-2

Deuce And A Quarter - Keith Richards & The Band
I Told You So - The Mavericks
Locked Up In The State Of Illinois - The Bodeans
Goin' Back To Memphis - Bill Black Combo
I'm Gonna Strangle You Shorty - Joe Ely with Lee Rocker
Bad Little Girl - Cheap Trick
Soulmates - Ronnie McDowell & The Jordanaires
Hot Enough For Ya Steve - Earle with Lee Rocker
Strange Love - Joe Louis Walker
Is All Of This For Me? - Tracy Nelson
Unsung Heroes - Ron Wood & Jeff Beck

Thanks for this project should be given to joint Executive Producer Dan Griffin who took his idea to DJ Fontana, and having convinced the king of the skins he next met Scotty Moore and succeeded in persuading the king of the strings. Helped in no small part by Eric Krohel, ten tracks were recorded in Nashville and one in Ireland (with Ron Wood/Jeff Beck) with an array of talent ranging from country's Mavericks and Joe Ely to the blues of Joe Louis Walker. With other such "special guest" projects, the expectations can often out-weigh the results, as displayed constantly by the likes of John Lee Hooker and Buddy Guy. Fortunately, this project avoids such disappointments with only two tracks failing to excite me.

The opener, Deuce And A Quarter, is a rollockin' romp of good time rock 'n' roll with Keith Richards and The Band obviously enjoying the occasion. The Mavericks cut is a tribute to Scotty and DJ's former employer from Memphis. The song is great, the backing is sublime and Raul Malo's vocals are perfect. If Elvis were alive today, this is the type of stuff I would like to see him doing. The Bodeans track is set to the Bo Diddley beat, with DJ not missing a hit. I wondered whether this was the first time DJ's cut anything to the Bo beat and Phil suggested (Marie's The Name) His Latest Flame ! Whatever, he doesn't need any practise.

The album is dedicated to the memory of Bill Black, the fun loving bass player who was there at the beginning and it was therefore fitting that the Bill Black Combo reform to honour All The Kings Men - Scotty, DJ and Bill. Scotty called Reggie Young personally with the request, and together with stalwarts Mike Leech, Bobby Woods, Bobby Emmons, Ace Cannon and Satch Arnold, they laid down the best song on the album, the funky stroller, Goin Back To Memphis. Spiritually that's the only place this song could go, and boy does it go there in style. With the keyboards echoing the sixties feel of the Combo, Scotty signs off with Heartbreak Hotel licks.

Joe Ely and Lee Rocker contribute the closest thing to rockabilly on I'm Gonna Strangle You Shorty, with Scotty recreating the Sun sound of his Gibson and Rocker's double bass right up in the mix. Cheap Trick's sound is way too modern and heavy for me.

Soulmates by long time friends Ronnie McDowell and The Jordanaires is a great fifties ballad. When I saw McDowell in Memphis in '88 with my wife Julie and sister Sharon, we were swept away by his version of Suspicion. Written by McDowell, Soulmates sums up his friendship with the duo and is a fitting tribute to them and the King.

Hot Enough For Ya by Steve Earle and Lee Rocker is like the Joe Ely number. With the rockabilly rhythm of Scotty, DJ and Rocker, it's a cool three minute breeze. Strange Love by Joe Louis Walker is a mid tempo soul/blues with some funky runs from Scotty. The pop of Tracy Nelson did nothing for me, but her voice is strong and the sax was very "late night".

The album ends in fine style with Ron Wood and Jeff Beck joining the boys for a funky tribute, Unsung Heroes. As a vocalist Wood makes a good guitarist, but the lyrics are genuine and the playing is top notch.

Most people see it as a tribute to Elvis, but I think the guests saw it as a tribute to the men behind him which is fine with me and ultimately is the strength of the album.

Shaun Mather.
Feb 1999.

I bought this cd in Memphis, August 97. After buying a PC in summer 98, techno whiz Shaun showed me how to play the cd-rom element of this new fangled shiny wotsit. After clicking on "Sweetfish" in d-drive you find yourself looking at the inside of a 50s style movie theatre. There are 4 film cans to click on, the action unfolds on the movie screen.

The first, I Told You So, takes you inside the recording studio whilst Scotty, D J and Raul Malo of the Mavericks go through one of the best cuts on the audio cd. This guy has a cool early 60s Elvis meets Roy Orbison voice. The studio is sparsely lit and this adds to the feel of the song. If only video tape had recorded two of these guys and that other bloke in Studio B in Nashville back in those days!

Second film can, Tributes, features gravelly rock survivor Keith Richards reminiscing about listening to El, Bill, Scotty and DJ coming out of a radio (wireless!) in his boyhood bedroom. The only place to hear rock n roll then was on indie station Radio Luxembourg from the continent. The station only broadcast at night and the medium wave reception was notoriously bad. Keith recalls evocatively, charging around with the set trying to improve the reception which always perversely dipped during the best songs and would be crystal clear through the adverts or a Pat Boone tune!!! It is pleasing to hear a figure such as Keith remind us of how important rock was to the post war youths in Europe. I've a soft spot for ole Keef as he turned me on to Chuck, Bo and the blues greats back in 64-65. Fair play to Keef he always pays due respects to these guys and Chuck Berry in the most public way.

There's some clips of the famous Sun era silent colour footage from Lubbock here. Shots of Keith and Scotty in studio, they have a nice rapport. Fellow Stone Ronnie Wood pays some nice compliments also. Also featured is fellow Sweetfish guitar legend Paul Burlinson. Keith says "they were the greatest rock n roll band in the world, there wouldn't be any others without them, give thanks, give praise". Nice one, perhaps that should be played daily on MTV and VHI!!

Next can, In Their Own Words, here Scotty describes the crowds in the 50s being a loud rush or phasing, kinda like diving into water --- couldn't hear the music and were directed by Elvis' body language. DJ Fontana recalls working for them for the first time and being asked to go on a brief tour of Texas and joining full time. Gail Pollack recalls working in a studio where Scotty engineered and introducing some guy to Scotty. Later he asked if that was THE Scotty Moore who played with the king. She replied "No, he's an engineer here" and the studio owner told her "Scotty will dance at your next 3 or 4 weddings for saying that!"

There are sincere words too from Ronnie McDowell and the Jordanaires ("Scotty was the foundation of Elvis") before a funny tail piece with the dynamic duo and Ronnie Wood professing lifelong friendship outside an Irish pub before deciding to be come reacquainted back inside!!! Finally an unintentionally unny US tv news item, about All The King's Men, where the reporter describes them as the original Blue MOUNTAIN Boys!!!! Little wonder film director Peter Lipman and producer Dan Griffin needed to do this project, to remind the public at large just what national treasures these guys are. Both have had health problems in recent years, make sure you see them on their upcoming tour.

Phil Davies
Feb 1999


EPIC - 1964

Hound Dog (Leiber-Stoller)
Loving You (Leiber-Stoller)
Money Honey (Stone)
My Baby Left Me (Crudup)
Heartbreak Hotel (Axton-Durden-Presley)
That's All Right (Crudup)
Milk Cow Blues (Arnold)
Don't (Leiber-Stoller)
Mystery Train (Parker-Phillips)
Don't Be Cruel (Blackwell)
Love Me Tender (Presley-Matsen)
Mean Woman Blues (DeMetruis)

Scotty Moore, Guitar
DJ Fontana, Drums
The Jordanaires, Vocals
Bill Pursell, Piano
Buddy Harmon, Drums
Jerry Kennedy, Guitar
Bob Moore, Bass
Boots Randolph, Saxaphone

Whereas All The Kings Men is critically acclaimed and enjoying the promotion worthy of the Grammy nominated album that it is, the same could not be said of Scotty Moore's first solo venture. After a couple years of talks and promises from Sam Phillips that such a venture would be undertaken, the right time never seemed to be upon them! Eventually Scotty was offered the backing of Epic Records and after a little prompting from producer Billy Sherril, he agreed. Sam's reaction was unfortunate and he hand served Scotty with his notice from Sun Records on 17th March 1964. The sessions were held over late February through March and Sherril has since said "I think Scotty made history. I was glad to be part of that history" adding that he wished Epic had done more to promote it, but they didn't seem to see any potential. After the album was recorded, Scotty sent a copy tape to Colonel Parker asking if he would endorse and write the liner notes. Parker turned down the liner notes, weakly claiming that it wouldn't be condusive to the RCA contract. He then returned the acetate saying that he'd personally buy a copy and in his usually "modest" manner adding that that would be the best endorsement possible. In his autobiography, Scotty said that Parker would have endorsed it, if he'd of paid him. The album failed to sell and didn't even cover it's costs. Today a British copy would fetch about £35-40. It really is a great album and it's a shame it wasn't given heavy promotion at the time.

The album kicks off with DJ Fontana's trademark machine-gun drumming and the band join in for a great rockin' version of Hound Dog. The song features all the trademarks of the King's '56 version, guitar, drums and hand-clapping and is a strong opener, leaving the listener in no doubt that they purchased wisely.

Loving You sounds like a Duane Eddy RCA record, it's a neat version helped in no small part by the Jordanaires who fill in the gaps smoothly.

Money Honey is a bouncy rendition which really works well with Scotty duplicating his original breaks to perfection. The fun and spirit of '56 is captured.

There's great teamwork between Scotty and DJ on the early parts of My Baby Left Me and it really is their song until The Jordanaires join in and spoil the whole feel. A nice Boots Randolph sax break redeems it somewhat.

Heartbreak Hotel was never my favourite Elvis song but the version here is nice and jazzy. All the instruments are given plenty of air to breathe and Bill Pursell is particularly effective on piano throughout. Boots is on fine form as is Scotty (nothing new there!).

That's All Right is a fine rock Īn' roll instrumental. It seems strange to hear it with a sax, but there's a great understanding between Scotty and the Jordanaires.

Side two starts with my favourite of the album, Milk Cow Blues. It a real blast from start to finish with DJ driving the thing along and some fine interplay between the guitars of Scotty and Jerry Kennedy. Instrumentals were big business in the early Ī60s and with a bit of push from Epic this could easily have hit the Hot 100.

Don't again could be Duane. The guitar is nice and twangy and Boots contributes a couple of beautiful short solos.

Mystery Train, not surprisingly, is another rockin' tribute to the Sun years. The picking is unmistakably Scotty with some fabulous solos which nearly burn the wax on the turntable.

Don't Be Cruel doesn't quite work as well as the others. It's nice and bouncy but the problem is probably that the original had such perfect vocals.

Love Me Tender is obviously slow and a bit lifeless but it features more classy sax playing from Boots.

Mean Woman Blues is great. Jerry Kennedy keeps the track driving along nicely and there's a good short piano break. Scotty takes an absolute crackerjack solo and it's a great way to round off the album and show us all why his was The Guitar That Changed The World!

Robert Johnson, music journalist for the Memphis Press-Scimitar was certainly in the right place at the right time. He was there when Elvis started breaking into the big-time, he reported the signing to RCA, he was at the Million Dollar Quartet session on 4 December 1956 and also reported the episode when Scotty and Bill Black resigned. He also wrote the first official biography of Elvis in 1956. When the album was reissued in 1983 in England, the liner notes were by Johnson (Are these the original liner notes?). The notes are worth repeating here for anyone who shamefully doesn't have the album.

"Scotty was part of the most amazing musical adventure of modern times, the rise from rags to riches, and international fame, of Elvis Presley. His was the other guitar - the lead guitar! This album grew out of the fantastic experience of being at the side of the man who has sold more millions of records than any other singer in history. Scotty Moore's guitar has been heard on more million-record sellers than any other guitar, and he has been on all but a few of Elvis' major hits.

Scotty has been wondering, for some time, what the response might be to an up-dated instrumental interpretation of the music associated with Elvis. He wanted the same basic arrangements, but he wanted a bigger instrumental sound. It is now ten years since That's'All Right, for instance, and Scotty wanted to up-date the rhythm pattern to meet the changes involved in a decade.

Scotty was the lead guitar on the original versions of all but one of the twelve numbers on this album. The exception is Love Me Tender, and the movie people used studio men for this. All of the musicians in this album, with one exception, have worked with Elvis in his later recording sessions. Drummer D.J. Fontana was along with Scotty on most of the originals. Most are featured stars in their own right - Bob Moore on bass; Boots Randolph, sax; Jerry Kennedy, guitar; Buddy Harman for the second drums; Bill Pursell, piano. The Jordanaires have, of course, been closely associated with most of Elvis' records.

The same idea Scotty had been nursing had also been in the mind of Billy Sherrill, A and R man in Nashville, who produced the album. This is the way it began - in 1954. I wrote the story about Elvis, Scotty and Bill Black, ran the pictures of them, and wrote thousands of words about them in later years. It is generally known how Elvis walked in and made a little record as a birthday present for his mother at Sam Phillips' Sun Studio in Memphis. Later, Phillips remembered Elvis and called him to sing everything he knew. Something was there, and Phillips sent Elvis to Scotty and said; "Work with this boy".

Then happened one of those strange coincidences which often make history. Scotty lived a few doors from Bill Black, bass player. They worked with Elvis, hour after hour, then Elvis started singing a song which popped i nto his mind, That's All Right, and all at once it was there - the drive, the excitement, the something. When they heard the playback, they couldn't believe it. All three had been exposed since childhood to a strange blend of music, from Negro field shouts to rhythmic church music, from blues to country and sophisticated jazz. Somehow they all seemed to run together.

They had a hit, but they were broke. They got together some money for petrol and hit the road in Scotty's old car, and when the car broke down, Elvis got a second-hand Lincoln, which Bill wrecked. They made a Grand Ole Opry appearance, then they went to the Louisiana Hayride, and suddenly it began to happen. DJ joined them. Once they drove home from Texas with 100 dollars each, and kept feeling it to make sure it was there. The fabolous Col. Tom Parker took them over. The crowds became bigger, the screams louder, and now you could feel the excitement. It broke wide open with Heartbreak Hotel, and Hound Dog set off a stampede. They were on TV with Milton Berle, and Ed Sullivan, for that fantastic 50,000 dollars an appearance, just a year after they had holes in their pockets.

Then came Las Vegas the first time - I was there, and saw that some of the older crowd were interested in spite of themselves. It was too big to be stopped. The rest is history.

Scotty was in four movies. Loving You, Jailhouse Rock, King Creole and G.I. Blues and worked on the soundtracks of all. When Elvis' movie work took him off the road, Scotty stayed close to records, and came up with his own million seller; Tradgedy. Bill Black's Combo also made it's name. Whenever Elvis goes to Nashville for recording sessions, or makes charity appearances, Scotty is right there at his side - the other guitar, the lead guitar - THE GUITAR THAT CHANGED THE WORLD!"

Shaun Mather.
Feb 1999.

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