Scotty Moore was Elvis Presley’s original lead guitar player, he was also Elvis’ close friend and worked as his manager for a short time.
“It’s been about seven or eight years since I was able to play,” Moore says by phone from his secluded home outside Nashville. “I had stopped playing professionally several years before that, but I’d still play once in a while for my own enjoyment ... just whatever song came to mind, really.
“Sure, I miss it. But the arthritis came on gradually, so I knew the day would come that I had to deal with it.”
Even though he makes few public appearances and spends most of his days working in his yard and watching “whatever I can find” on television, he is hardly forgotten.
“Paul called just the other day,” Moore says. That would be former Beatle Paul McCartney, who studied Moore’s work note by note as an aspiring musician in Liverpool, England.
“You know, it’s funny to me when people talk about Elvis swiveling his hips and all that,” Moore says. “That wasn’t put on. It was a natural thing for him to be on the balls of his feet when he played guitar and sang. You put a guitar in his hands, ask him to play, and that’s how he stood. That’s how he kept rhythm to what he was singing.
“But after we saw how much the fans loved it, we’d sort of encouraged him to do it. Bill Black was the one who would whisper in Elvis’ ear and tell him to shake his leg or throw his belt out into the audience. It became part of the show.”
Some critics didn’t care for Elvis’ onstage antics. “But I never could understand why,” Moore says. “It wasn’t vulgar. It was just a man filled with music from the top of his head to the tip of his toes, and it was the only way he knew to let it out.”
Elvis, Moore and Black formed the group The Blue Moon Boys, they soon added DJ Fontana “because we really needed drums so people could hear us ... the only amplification our instruments had was my amplifier, and it was nothing compared to the amps of today.”
Moore felt responsible for Elvis during their travels. “I remember his mother getting me off to the side before we left and said, ‘Please take care of my boy.’ I wasn’t much older than Elvis, but I’d been in the Navy for four years and I guess to her I seemed a little more equipped to handle the ways of the world. But I never forgot what she asked me to do, and I tried my best.”
When talking about Elvis’ final years, Moore is torn between anger and sadness.
“We could all see (his death) coming,” Moore says. “We knew things were not going along as they should have been ... that he wasn’t being taken care of like he should’ve been.
“I say this without any hesitation: If things had worked out differently, and that group of us that started out with him could’ve stayed with him all the way through, Elvis would still be alive today. I firmly believe that.
Go HERE to The Clarion Ledger for the FULL LENGTH interview by Billy Watkins.
--- “Scotty & Elvis: Aboard the Mystery Train,” his new book with music historian James Dickerson is out now.
source: ClarionLedger &