Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Scotty Moore - Hall of Fame Guitarist Dead at 84 - His Guitars and Amplifiers

Scotty Moore, Elvis Presley’s guitarist, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and one of the most admired guitarists in the world passed away on June 28th, 2016 at the age of 84. Those close to him confirmed he had recently been in poor health. He was beloved in the world of music,especially by those in Nashville, Tennessee, where he resided and recorded. Countless guitar players learned to play Rock and Roll guitar by copying his licks.

The Starlite Wranglers
Scotty Moore began playing guitar at the age of eight. In 1954 he formed a group with bass player Bill Black called the Starlite Wranglers. They recorded at Nashville’s Sun Records after meeting Sam Phillips, the studios owner.

Around that time Phillips got word that a kid in Nashville was looking to record a single and Phillips asked Moore to listen to him sing. Scotty Moore was blown away and suggested that Phillips book a session, which was meant to be an audition for Elvis.

Scotty, Elvis and Bill Black
So in 1954, Scotty Moore playing guitar and Bill Black playing bass backed up Elvis on the Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup blues song, That’s Alright Mama.” There were no drums on the track.

Because Elvis sounded Black, and these were the days before civil rights, Bill Black commented,"Damn. Get that on the radio and they'll run us out of town."

Original Record
Phillips gave copies of the record to local disc jockeys. Interest in this record was so intense that it was repeatedly requested to be played on the air. And that was what started it all for Elvis, Scotty and Bill Black.

Elvis and the group followed up with a rockin’ version of the Bill Monroe song, Blue Moon of Kentucky. For a brief time Scotty Moore was Elvis’ manager.

Elvis and the original band
For shows they needed a drummer and D.J. Fontana was recruited. Elvis, Scotty, Black and Fontana made history by touring the country and performing on television, most notably the Ed Sullivan Show.

Elvis is drafted

In 1958 Elvis was drafted into the U.S. Army. During Elvis’ Army years Scotty Moore kept busy at another studio called Fernwood Records. In 1960 Moore backed up Elvis in sessions at RCA studios in Nashville and Moore also served as production manager for Sam Phillips Recording Service.

Elvis, Bill, Scotty, Sam Phillips
Moore played on Elvis’ recordings of Good Rockin’ Tonight, Milk Cow Blues, Baby, Heartbreak Hotel, Mystery Train, Blue Suede Shoes, Hound Dog, Jailhouse Rock, Hard Headed Woman, Surrender, Rock-a-Hula Baby, Kiss Me Quick, Good Luck Charm and many others.

The Guitar That Changed The World
In 1964, Moore released a solo album on Epic Records called The Guitar That Changed the World, played using his Gibson Super 400. Moore, D.J. Fontana and Presley reunited in 1968 for a television special called The ‘68 Comeback Special. Moore played guitar, like Chet Atkins with a thumb pick, but played in a Rockabilly style with all the necessary fills.

Scotty with Gibson ES-295

Though Scotty Moore is best known for using his 1952 Gibson ES-295, he has owned and made use of at least seventeen guitar throughout his career.

Scotty Moore Signature Model
This would include his own signature ES-295 that the Gibson Guitar company offered as special orders in 1999. Only fifteen instruments were made by the Gibson custom shop. Twelve of these guitars were sold through Scotty’s friend Jacque Vroom. These twelve instruments were autographed by Scotty Moore before Gibson applied the clear coat finish.

Scotty Moore's 1952 Esquire

Moore’s first professional electric guitar was a 1952 Fender Esquire. He purchased this guitar and a Fender Deluxe amp upon leaving the Navy in 1952. At some point a Stratocaster pickup was added to it. Moore stated that he did not like the small body and traded it for his first Gibson ES-295.

Scotty with ES-295

In 1953 he purchased the ES-295 through the OK Houck Piano Company of Memphis Tennessee and played it during his first years in Presley’s band.

Scotty Moore's 1954 L-5

In 1955 Moore went back to this same music store and traded the ES-295 for a Gibson L-5 CESN. The L-5 was a very expensive guitar even in those days. The music store charged Scotty $629.28 for the L-5 and $52.56 for the case but gave him a credit of $225.00 for his Telecaster. Scotty Moore used this guitar through 1957 on many Elvis recordings, including Mystery Train. He also used it on stage for Presley concerts.

Moore's Super 400
In 1957 the Gibson Guitar Company/Chicago Musical Instruments saw the value of Scotty Moore’s use of their instruments and sent him a blonde 1956 Super 400 CESN on consignment. Moore used this guitar through the remainder of his career with Elvis; up through 1968.

He wound up giving it to recording engineer and record producer Chips Moman. In April of 2000 Moman put it up for auction at Christie’s and it fetched £58,000.

1963 Super 400

By 1963 Moore ordered another Gibson Super 400 CES directly from Gibson/Chicago Musical Instruments. This time the guitar cost $472.00, with the case included. He traded in a Gibson EB-6 bass and was given $235.50 for the bass with its original case. This version had a Florentine cut-a-way instead of the Venetian (rounded) cutaway that was on his 1955 model.

Elvis with Scotty's Super 400
The ‘63 version was done up with a sunburst finish. It also included a George Van Eps string damper. This contraption fit right behind the guitars nut and included an felt pad mounted on an arm that could be lowered onto the strings between the nut and first fret. It served as a way to eliminate feedback from vibrating strings. Moore used this guitar on the ‘68 Elvis Comeback Special.

Here is a famous picture of Elvis playing Moore’s Super 400.

1938 Epiphone Masterbuilt Spartan
The oldest guitar that Scotty owned was a 1938 Masterbuilt Epiphone Spartan. This was a beautiful guitar with a handcarved solid spruce top and solid walnut back and sides. The body featured single binding. The bound neck was made of mahogany topped with a Brazilian rosewood fretboard.

The fret markers were notched mother-of-pearl blocks. The headstock was also bound and had a Doric column inlay below the inlaid Epiphone logo. A vintage DeArmond pickup was added. The guitar had a single volume control was mounted on the pickguard. Moore purchased this at a guitar show.

Scotty with 1976 L-5 CES
Scotty also acquired another Gibson L-5 CES. This time it was a 1976 model. He had visited the Guitar Network music store in Frederick Maryland with a friend. The store's owner, Buck Sulcer, noticed that Scotty kept picking up and playing this guitar. Later that year Buck was displaying guitars for sale at a Nashville guitar show when Scotty showed up. Buck handed it to him and said, “Here, it’s on the house.” Moore said he couldn’t do that, but Sulcer insisted.

The next day Moore came back with an old Gibson and Magnatone amp as payment for the guitar. It seems Scotty’s favorite Gibson guitar is the L-5 and he frequently played this one at his home.

1981 '59 ES-335 reissue

During the 1990’s Scotty made another visit to Guitar Network and while there purchased a blonde 1981 Gibson ES-335. He gifted this guitar to a friend in 1994.

1983 Super 400 CESN

In 1987 Scotty purchased another Super 400 CESN from Cartee Music.. This one was a 1983 model that cost him $1500. Scotty used this guitar on a 1992 recording with Carl Perkins and on tours. Moore had this guitar modified by having a Nashville luthier install a sound post. This guitar resides in the Musicians Hall of Fame in Nashville.

Gibson Country Gentleman
In 1989 Chet Atkins was visiting Scotty Moore at his home and spotted an old RCA 77DX microphone that Moore had been using as a paper weight. Scotty gave it to Chet, who had it rebuilt and used it in his studio. In return Chet gave Scotty a prototype of his new Gibson Chet Atkins Country Gentleman model guitar. This guitar was custom made by Gibson for Chet. It did not have a Bigsby vibrato, but instead had a “finger-style” trapeze bridge. It also had a ABR tune-o-matic bridge.

The body was finished in “Country Gentleman Brown”. The pickups were specially designed and built by Ray Butts. When Moore went back to touring and playing in 1993 he used this guitar.

Scotty with 2nd Country Gentleman

After an airlines nearly lost Scotty’s Chet Atkin’s Country Gentleman prototype, Moore purchased another one. This one had the same modifications done to it as the original.

Yamaha AEX 1500
Scotty met guitarist Martin Taylor while Taylor was in Nashville. One of Scotty’s other friends was Mike Eldred, who worked for Yamaha Musical Instruments at the time. Eldred gave Scotty a 1994 Yamaha AEX 1500 guitar. This guitar was designed in collaboration with Martin Taylor. It was a jazz style guitar that featured a bound body with a solid sycamore top, and solid maple back and sides. The bound neck was also made of maple and topped with an ebony fretboard with dot inlays. It featured a gold-plated Johnny Smith floating humbucker pickup and a piezo pickup in the ebony bridge.

The saddle and nut were made of bone. The strings were attached to a trapeze tailpiece. Moore had put a mute behind the bridge.

Custom Shop '52 Esquire

Mike Elred went on to become the manager of the Fender Custom Shop. In 1997 Elred presented Scotty Moore with a custom made Fender Esquire guitar. Scotty did not like the feel of the neck since it was too wide. Eldred had it redone and sent it back to him with the neck plate engraved with the phrase, “Custom buit for Scotino.”

Scotty with Tal Farlow
In February of 2002 Gibson Guitars presented Scotty Moore with the Orville H. Gibson Award that recognizes guitarists for the artistic accomplishments. The winner is chosen by members of the music industry during the Grammy nomination season. Winners are presented with a special instrument and Scotty received a Tal Farlow model Gibson with a special tag that can be seen from inside the f-hole. This guitar had been modifled with reverse J-200 inlaid fret markers and Ray Butts pickups. It is a beautiful guitar.

'02 L-5 CES

During the winter of 2002 and 2003 Scotty was ill. As a get well gift Gibson president Henry Juszkiewicz sent Moore a 2002 Gibson L-5 CES. In 2004 Moore donated this instrument to the Tennessee State Museum in Nashville.

Gibson L-5 CT
In 2003 Moore was once again presented with the gift from Gibson president Henry Juszkiewicz of a specially designed guitar to celebrate 50 years of Moore playing Gibson guitars. This was a Gibson L-5 CT. In 1958 Gibson had designed a special acoustic version of the L-5 for comedian George Gobel. He wanted a thinner version with a cutaway. This explains the designation CT. The guitar that Moore received was beautiful. The body and neck were triple bound.

The fret position markers were made of spectacular abalone as was the truss rod cover. The inlaid flower pot emblem was specially made with a g-clef coming out of it. The trapeze tailpiece was custom etched.

 Fender Deluxe 5B3
I’ve already mentioned Scotty Moore’s first amp which was a 1952 Fender Deluxe that he purchased from the O.K. Houck Piano Company in Memphis. (Elvis bought his Martin D-18 at this same shop.) This was a Fender 5B3 wide panel Fender Deluxe amp, which was the most modern at the time. Moore paid $65 for this amplifier.

He used the Fender Deluxe until 1955 when he purchased an EchoSonic custom built amp, built by Ray Butts.

Scotty with EchoSonic amp

The EchoSonic was purchased and financed through the same music store. This was the same amplifier that Chet Atkins was using. This amplifier put out 25 watts of power. The unique thing about the EchoSonic amp is the tape delay unit that was housed in the bottom of the amplifier.

Much like the Echoplex delay, the Echo-sonic utilized a tape recorder that featured an adjustable sound-on-sound feature that recorded the players track and immediately replayed it milliseconds later. The length of delay was adjustable by moving one of the tape heads. Ray Butts played accordion in a band in Illinois, but tinkered with electronics. He had only built two amplifiers before Scotty ordered his. Ray Butts amplifiers are extremely rare finds since they were custom made. Scotty used this amp through 1968.

Gibson GA-77RVT Vanguard Amp
In 1965 Scotty purchased a Gibson GA-77RVT Vanguard amplifier on consignment through the Chicago Musical Instrument Company which owned Gibson Guitars. The Gibson GA-77RVT was a 50 watt amplifier that featured  a Hammond long tank reverb unit, and tube based tremolo. The speaker was a 15” model.

Gibson Super 400 Amplifier
Scotty also purchased a Gibson Super 400 amplifier. This was an unusual amp. Not only did it have a pre-amp section and a power amp section, it also had a built in compressor. This amplifier had twin 12” speakers and an output of 60 watts and was heavy enough to have built in coasters.

Magnatone Victory Amplifier
In 1972 Moore purchased a Magnatone Victory amplifier. This amp featured twin Oxford 12” speakers, it put out 35 watts of power and had the Magnatone True-Vibrato sound. Moore used this through 1995 when he traded this amp for a Gibson L-5. He then purchased a Fender Dual Professional amplifier.

Fender Dual Professional Amp
The Fender Dual Professional amplifier was designed by Bruce Zinky, who worked at Fender at the time. It featured twin Celestion 12” speakers and had an output of 100 watts into it’s two channels. The reverb on this amp was similar to the self-contained Fender reverb units.

The reverb control included dwell, mix and tone controls. The amp also featured a vintage style tremolo section. The Dual Professional weighed 70 pounds. Moore used this amplifier through 2001 when he purchased a much lighter Peavey Classic 30.

Peavey Classic 30
The Peavey Classic 30 contained a single 12” speaker. Scotty placed a Boss DD-3 digital delay unit and a Boss CH-1 Super Chorus pedal on top of this amp to replicate the EchoSonic sound. He used this amp through the remainder of his career up to his final performance in 2007.

Yamaha T-100
If more power was needed, Scotty used the Peavey 30 in conjunction with a Yamaha T-100 C amplifier. This amp was designed by Mike Soldano for Yamaha and is a tube based amp that provided 100 watts of power.

Though he did not take it on the road, Scotty owned a Gibson Super Goldtone GA-30RV amplifier. It had an output of 30 watts through a 10” and 12” Celestion speaker.

Magnatone 213 Troubadour
In 1995 Scotty bought another Magnatone amplifier called a Magnatone Troubadour. This was a smaller version of his previous amp. This was an 18 watt version that utilized twin 6V6 power tubes.

In early photos of Elvis performances one thing that stood out for this observer was an old tweed Fender Bassman amplifier, which I thought was Scotty Moore's amp. It was purchased by the group for use as a P.A. System. Elvis had one microphone and the other was placed in front of Bill Blacks Kay string bass.

Links to the sources for all the pictures can be found by clicking on the caption or clicking on the links in the text.


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