From: 50th Anniversary Of Rock & Roll, August 2004
by Phil Arnold
The 50th anniversary of the birth of rock & roll cannot pass without giving just praise to one of the men who was there: Bill Black. Scotty Moore and Bill were the old pros in Sun Records studio on July 5,1954, when “That’s All Right (Mama) was recorded. They were pioneers, just like Elvis, in the unearthing of this new sound. Their musical talents on guitar and base blended with Elvis’s powerful vocal to create history.
Scotty Moore is a headliner of the 2004 Legends Salute. Bill Black, unfortunately, will not be on stage, as he died in 1965 of a brain tumor. His memory should be honored, not just for his contributions in the studio, but also for the huge benefits Elvis’ early live shows got from his stage presence. Quite often Bill’s joking around warmed up the crowd and took some heat off Elvis. Scotty Moore states, “If it hadn’t been for Bill, there were a bunch of shows where we would have died on the vine.”
Bill Black’s bag of tricks included blacking out some of his teeth, wearing oversized bloomers, and riding his stand-up base across the stage. In “That’s Alright Elvis” Scotty Moore tells of the times on stage when Bill would take off Scotty’s belt while he was doing a guitar solo, and throw it out into the audience.
Bill parted company with Elvis in 1958. He went on to considerable success with a string of instrumental hits by Bill Black’s Combo in the early 60’s. He is a true trailblazer in the birth of rock & roll, and should be remembered when “The Legends” salute the 50th anniversary of rock & roll. Bill Black’s spirit will be up on stage with them that night, a legacy from the ‘unsung legend.’
© 2004 Philip R Arnold