From: Winter 2000 Issue
(Scotty Moore’s 1964 LP Finds New Life On CD)
by Phil Arnold
About ten years ago, I came across an interesting book in the music section of a large bookstore. The title was something like The 100 Worst Record Albums of All Time, which spiked my curiosity as an avid record collector. I flipped through it with mild amusement to see what albums the author had selected, but had quite a jolt when I came upon The Guitar That Changed The World by Scotty Moore.
“Wow,” I thought, “I didn’t know Scotty Moore recorded a solo album of Elvis songs.” Although I was pleased to learn of its existence, it bugged me that some jerk author could write such a bad review about the work of a legendary rock guitarist held in high esteem by Elvis fans. His argument was basically that the original songs were so outstanding nobody should have the audacity to record cover versions.
In an effort to hopefully disprove this slap at Scotty, I contacted a few record-collecting buddies to see if one of them had a copy of the album. One friend in Nebraska did and gladly volunteered to make a cassette copy and mail it to me. I couldn’t wait for it to arrive.
Well, the wait was worth it. The Guitar That Changed The World may have been a bit exuberantly titled, but it contained great music. All twelve songs were from the 1955-56 period, a wonderful tribute to the originals recorded by Elvis and the boys at Sun Records and RCA.
During the first listen or two, I especially liked the up-tempo songs. Now, after repeated listening, the three slow numbers, “Loving You,” “Don’t,” and “Love Me Tender,” all are much more appreciated for their different kind of charm. They are the most successful of the six songs where Scotty directly takes on Elvis’ vocal parts with his guitar.
Scotty holds his ground here well, with a sound reminiscent of Duane Eddy’s more mellow instrumental releases. “Love Me Tender” is an interesting choice for inclusion on the song list, because Scotty did not play guitar on the original hit. All of the songs featured in Elvis’ first movie were recorded with Hollywood studio musicians.
To my ears, it is the rockers where the old Scotty Moore sound really comes through. All his familiar guitar licks from the originals are on them, but he also gets to jam on new solo breakouts.
Part of the credit for the total sound must go to the group of band-mates Scotty assembled for the recording sessions. D. J. Fontana on drums was a natural choice. Also joining them was Boots Randolph on saxophone and famed session-man Jerry Kennedy on guitar. Bob Moore (no relation to Scotty) replicated the fine bass sounds of Bill Black, and Bill Purcell added some piano to the mix. Finally, there was the Jordanaires to add vocal touches and complete the sound.
The album opens with the classic “Hound Dog.” complete with DJ’s trademark machine-gun drum lead-in and the familiar hand-clapping of the original. The Jordanaires and Boots Randolph get to work-out on all the parts where we are used to hearing Elvis’ vocals. Scotty is happy to provide instrumental breaks connecting their verses, and they are great He does four guitar solos, every one is different, and every one is killer.
Speaking of DJ’s drumming, it’s noteworthy that two of the song selections had no drum part on the famed Elvis versions. “That’s All Right” and “Milk Cow Boogie” were originally recorded at Sun Records with just Elvis, Scotty and Bill making all the sound. Bill’s slapping on that stand-up base provided the rhythm back then, but the songs shine with the addition of DJ’s handiwork on drums.
“Milk Cow Boogie” ranks as one of my two favorites on this album. It features a large contribution by Jerry Kennedy on guitar, with a sound completely different than Scotty’s. The interplay between these two wizards is superb.
If I had any complaint about the album, it would be that we don’t get enough of Scotty’s solos. A good example would be “My Baby Left Me,” which starts off great as an instrumental, and then, halfway through, switches to the Jordanaires on vocal lead. However, we do get to hear extended solos by Scotty on the instrumental breaks of “Mystery Train” and “Money Honey,” and he kicks butt with his distinctive guitar style taking over the Elvis vocal part on “Don’t Be Cruel.”
My other choice for best song has to be “Mean Woman Blues,” the last song on the album. Again, the combination of two very different guitars is wonderful, but Scotty takes over for a gritty solo that makes you wish they’d looped it around for two or three more repetitions.
The last few years have seen a huge renaissance for Scotty Moore. In 1997, he published his biography, titled That’s Alright, Elvis. He has recorded with Carl Perkins and teamed up with DJ Fontana and a dozen other recording artists for the acclaimed All The Kings Men CD. Scotty and DJ also thrilled audiences on several European tour dates, including one with the Rolling Stones in Hamburg. Germany. Keith Richards is credited with a wonderful quote about his youth: “Everybody else wanted to be Elvis. I wanted to be Scotty.”
Gibson Guitars has come out with a hot, new guitar named in Scotty’s honor, and autographed by him, selling for thousands of dollars. In 1999, Scotty had an interview in Rolling Stone magazine, the result of his well-deserved induction into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame.
In conjunction with this great honor, Scotty’s 35 year old album was re-released on CD. Now every fan of the old Elvis music (and the distinctive guitar sound that propelled it along) can enjoy this long-lost classic. I strongly urge you to add The Guitar That Changed The World to your music library. Don’t worry if you can’t find it at the local record store. You can purchase it on the internet at CDNow.com or Amazon.com for a gentle price of about $12.
If you ever come across a copy of the old vinyl LP, please let me know. I’m still looking for one for my collection. “The Guitar That Changed The World” is absolutely not one of the worst record albums of all time, but it sure is hard to find.
© 2000 Philip R Arnold
Phil Arnold is a free lance writer and big Elvis fan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.