Scotty Moore, the groundbreaking rock guitarist most famous as a member of Elvis Presley’s original backing band, died Tuesday at the age of 84. He passed away in his Nashville, Tennessee home after suffering several months of ill-health, The New York Times reports.
The musician played on numerous Presley hits in the 1950s, including “Heartbreak Hotel” and “Hound Dog.”
Born Winfield Scott Moore III in Gadsen, Tennessee in 1931, he began playing guitar at the age of 8. On July 4, 1954 he was introduced to a 19-year-old Presley by pioneering record producer Sam Phillips.
“[Elvis] had dropped by the studio with the hope of recording something,” Moore recalled to Rolling Stone in 2010. “So Sam said, ‘Call this guy up and get him to go over to your house and see what you think of him.’ So he came to my house on the Fourth of July. It was kind of a pre-audition.”
It was a pre-audition Elvis clearly passed. The next day they recorded together at Phillip’s Sun Studios, along with bassist Bill Black. The fast and loose jam session yielded a recording of “That’s All Right (Mama).” It would become Presley’s breakthrough smash.
Moore and Black drafted drummer D.J. Fontana to become the Blue Moon Boys, the band that would accompany Presley throughout his rise to superstardom. In addition to the string of hits, the group appeared in four of Presley’s movies – Jailhouse Rock, Loving You, King Creole and G.I. Blues.
Presley was drafted into the Army in 1958, and he abounded live performances upon his return two years later. This effectively ended the band, but Moore found work as a producer and studio owner. He teamed with Presley only once more, during his 1968 NBC “comeback” television special.
His guitar work influenced countless rock icons. Tributes continue to pour in from industry figures, including Billy Idol, Bryan Adams, Joe Satriani, and other.
Presley’s former wife, Priscilla Presley, paid tribute to Moore in a statement Tuesday night. “Elvis loved Scotty dearly and treasured those amazing years together, both in the studio and on the road. Scotty was an amazing musician and a legend in his own right. The incredible music that Scotty and Elvis made together will live forever and influence generations to come.”
Moore was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000. It was the first year that the institution honored sidemen, categorized as “those musicians who have spent their careers out of the spotlight, performing as backup musicians for major artists on recording sessions and in concert.”