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Scotty and Elvis

Aboard the Mystery Train

Scotty Moore

Publication Year: 2013

When Elvis Presley first showed up at Sam Phillips's Memphis-based Sun Records studio, he was a shy teenager in search of a sound. Phillips invited a local guitarist named Scotty Moore to stand in. Scotty listened carefully to the young singer and immediately realized that Elvis had something special. Along with bass player Bill Black, the triorecorded an old blues number called "That's All Right, Mama." It turned out to be Elvis's first single and the defining record of his early style, with a trillingguitar hook that swirled country and blues together and minted a sound with unforgettable appeal. Its success launched a whirlwind of touring, radio appearances, and Elvis's first break into movies. Scotty was there every step of the way as both guitarist and manager, until Elvis's new manager, Colonel Tom Parker, pushed him out. Scotty and Elvis would not perform together again until the classic 1968 "comeback" television special. Scotty never saw Elvis after that.

With both Bill Black and Elvis gone, Scotty Moore is the only one left to tell the story of how Elvis and Scotty transformed popular music and how Scotty created the sound that became a prototype for so many rock guitarists to follow. Thoroughly updated, this edition delivers guitarist Scotty Moore's story as never before

Published by: University Press of Mississippi


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pp. 1-7


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pp. vii-viii

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1 Digging Up West Tennessee Roots

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pp. 3-16

When I came into the world two days after Christmas 1931, the same year that George Jones and Skeeter Davis were born, Rudy Vallee and his Connecticut Yankees were all the rage, even in rural West Tennessee, where my mother gave birth to me at home on the family farm. That year Louis Armstrong had a hit with “Lazy River” and Bud and Joe Billings had ...

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2 Slow Boat Out of China

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pp. 17-30

By the time I entered the Navy in 1948, the number of enlisted personnel had dropped from 2.9 million in 1945 to a little more than 300,000. I could have been sent to boot camp at one of three training centers: Baltimore, Maryland; Waukegan, Illinois; or San Diego, California. By the luck of the draw, I got San Diego, also the training site for the U.S. Marines....

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3 Doing the Memphis Thang

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pp. 31-45

During the four years I had sailed the Pacific, experiencing the horrors of war, the sensual and sometimes bizarre pleasures of foreign cultures, and the mind-numbing boredom of life as a below-the-deck seaman, the America I left behind had undergone radical changes. On the day of my discharge, the federal government conducted the largest drug bust in ...

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4 The Sun Rises on the Blue Moon Boys

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pp. 46-72

If you have ever been in Memphis in July, you know that the heat is unbearable. On most days the temperature hits one hundred degrees. Drive ten miles in any direction, out into the rich farmland of north Mississippi, east Arkansas or west Tennessee, and the temperature drops noticeably. Whether Memphis is a thermal hot spot because of the tons of concrete ...

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5 Hitting Pay Dirt

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pp. 73-89

Sam sparred with the Louisiana Hayride for several weeks over booking Elvis for its weekly, Saturday-night radio program. Broadcast on KWKH, a 50,000-watt station in Shreveport, it was second only to the Opry in influence with country-music audiences. In some ways the six-year-old program had eclipsed the Opry in importance, especially in the area of ...

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6 On the Road with Elvis

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pp. 90-101

The summer of 1955 was in many ways the most eventful year of our ca-reer. It began with us further honing our skills as stage performers and experiencing the first wave of fan hysteria. As the summer progressed, it became even more hectic. Back in Memphis after a 21-day tour with the Hank Snow jamboree that had taken us across the Southeast—and ...

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7 Scripting the Movie Years

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pp. 102-134

Our first recording session with RCA Records took place on January 10, 1956. By the time we arrived in Nashville the record label already had re-leased our previous records under its own imprint. Overnight, it was as if Sun Records had never existed in Elvis’s career. That should have been a lesson to the remnants of the Blue Moon Boys, but we were much too ...

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8 Tragedy Is a Revolving Door

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pp. 135-152

Once I was officially unemployed, I wasted no time looking for work. I booked Bill and me for a sixteen-day engagement at the Texas State Fair. As it turned out, it was the most lucrative booking of our career. We were asked to play four shows a day from October 5 through October 20. We were paid $1,600 plus expenses. It was double what we made working for ...

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9 My First Album with Royalties

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pp. 153-170

By the time I began working at Sam Phillips’s Recording Service, Sun Records had not placed a record in the Top 20 in over two years.11 The record label was on a downward spiral. The two major talents left in Sam’s stable were Jerry Lee Lewis and newcomer Charlie Rich, whose song “Lonely Weekends” had been a regional hit in 1959. Johnny Cash ...

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10 A Farewell Performance

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pp. 171-186

Not long after Bill Black’s funeral, Bobbie and I got back together. Death has a way of nudging people to count their blessings. In 1966, Bobbie and Andrea moved to Nashville to live with me. Andrea turned six in time to start school that year. Bobbie was reluctant to give up a secure job with Sears, but she wanted Andrea to have a live-in father when she entered ...

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11 Ringo, Tracy, and a Cast of Thousands

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pp. 187-202

Tracy Nelson was never one to mince words. When asked where she lived, she said, “I live way the fuck out in Crib Death, Tennessee—my nearest neighbor is three-quarters of a mile away.” The blues singer explained that her farm was west of Nashville. There are many ways to get to that farm, but the road that led her there began in 1969 at Music City Recorders....

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12 On the Road Again

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pp. 203-223

Carol Burnett and Dolly Parton could not have been more different. Dolly was bubbly, effervescent, and charmingly democratic in her approach to those with whom she worked. She’d just as soon hug you as look at you. By contrast, Carol was intense and standoffish, someone who avoided eye contact and conversation, preferring the solitude of her own company....

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13 Jamming with a Rolling Stone

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pp. 224-228

The way Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards tells it, he was thirteen the first time he heard me play guitar. It was late at night and—stubbornly against his parents’ explicit orders to go to sleep—he was in his bedroom behind closed doors listening to Radio Luxembourg on a transistor radio. One minute the reception was fine, the next it was riddled with nerve-...

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14 I’m Pretty Much Still Here, I Guess

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pp. 229-240

One of the first things that I did after my autobiography, That’s Alright, Elvis, was published in the fall of 1997 was to hit the road with my co-author to promote the book. We began our book tour with a train ride to New York City, a re-creation of the ride that Elvis, Bill, and I made on our first trip to New York, only this time around, there were two major ...

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15 Happy Birthday to Me

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pp. 241-244

The worst part about surviving to 80 is not the aches and pains, or the frequent trips to the doctor, or even the realization that physically you can’t do the things that you used to do. The worst part is the memories you carry of those who did not make it. It is almost always a long list. ...

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pp. 245-255

... For his part, Scotty takes praise today much as he took it in the beginning: with a grain of salt. To his way of thinking, some 50 years after he helped lay the foundation for a multi-million-dollar music industry, it still has a surreal quality to it—not the music, but the history of it, the way it happened as he lived it day to day. When he says “walk a mile in my ...

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pp. 247-257

Scotty Moore would like to thank the following for their help in putting this project together: Ed Frank and Cathy Evans of the Mississippi Valley Collection at the University of Memphis, John Bakke for authorizing use of the Jerry Hopkins Collection at the University of Memphis, Craig Gill, our editor at University Press of Mississippi, the late James Lewis, ...

Guitars Owned by Scotty Moore

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pp. 249-259

Scotty Moore’s Income

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pp. 251-261

Scotty Moore Discography

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pp. 253-258


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pp. 259-261

Index [Includes Image Plates]

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pp. 262-264

E-ISBN-13: 9781621039501
E-ISBN-10: 1621039501
Print-ISBN-13: 9781617038181

Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2013

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Subject Headings

  • Moore, Scotty.
  • Guitarists -- United States -- Biography.
  • Presley, Elvis, 1935-1977.
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