From: 50th Anniversary Of Rock & Roll, August 2004
The heart of any band is the lead guitar player, and Scotty Moore will be ‘The Man’ for the 50th Anniversary Legends Salute, just as he was for Elvis. Scotty will be the most admired and appreciated man in Memphis this year during “Tribute Week, 2004.” Now that Sam Phillips is gone, Scotty Moore is the only remaining link to Elvis’ original start in music.
In June 1954, Elvis came to Scotty’s house and met him and Bill Black for the first time. Eight days later, the three musicians recorded “That’s All Right (Mama)” at Sun Records. Everybody knows the story after that. The history of rock ‘n roll spun into a new orbit, with Elvis at the helm and Scotty stoking that musical engine.
The closest we can now come to those days will be at Darwin Lamm’s Legends Salute on August 13 at the Peabody Hotel Grand Ballroom. A few thousand lucky folks are going to have a real treat. Scotty will be surrounded by a group of superb musicians and singers, but his work on guitar will be the main item of interest for most fans. It’s worth the price of admission just to hear Scotty’s guitar licks. After all these years, he produces charming guitar sounds so close to the original, it’s like those fifty years had never passed.
What makes this even more incredible is that Scotty did not perform live for 24 years. After the ’68 Comeback Special on TV, Scotty pretty much put his guitar away and took on new challenges in the music business. He started a record label, supervised all elements of studio operation, and produced albums and a hit record. He owned a tape-duplicating business, and he specialized in record and TV engineering, the latter for Opryland Productions.
In 1992, publisher and concert promoter Darwin Lamm, along with the help of Carl Perkins and DJ Fontana, lured Scotty back on stage. He was paired with Carl Perkins as part of the “Good Rockin’ Tonight Concert,” an Elvis Week staple. Scotty’s reemergence into the public eye was so well received, it became the catalyst for his return to regular touring and recording.
Which brings him back to where it all started. Memphis – 50 years later – reunited with DJ Fontana and the Jordanaires – and backed by a most excellent crew of bandmates. This is going to be such a terrific show.
The early touring schedule for Elvis, Scotty, and Bill took them to the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport in October, 1954. The house drummer, DJ Fontana, joined in during their performances, and he meshed perfectly with the other musicians. Soon, DJ was a full-fledged member of the Elvis team, and he went on to play on approximately 460 RCA cuts with Elvis.
For decades, DJ Fontana has been a veritable fixture in the Nashville music scene. He has recorded with a who’s who of country and rock singers and musicians, including Paul McCartney, Dolly Parton, Kieth Richards, Waylon Jennings, Jim Reeves, and Ringo Starr. For nine years he toured with an all-star band, the Sun Rhythm Section.
In 1998, DJ and Scotty teamed up to record a new CD, All The King’s Men. It received the Nashville Music Award for the best Independent Album Of The Year.
Now, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the birth of rock & roll, interest has intensified to get DJ inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. In fact, a campaign to make this happen is led by four famous drummers: Levon Helm of The Band, Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones, Ringo Starr of the Beatles, and Max Weinberg from Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band.
DJ has performed in every “Good Rockin’ Tonight Concert” since 1989, and Darwin Lamm, promoter of the concerts has been quoted, “DJ is such a down home ‘good ole boy’ that when you get to know him, you’ll forget what a great legend he really is.” After you see him in the Legends Salute, you will never forget it.
DJ has more fun at Elvis Week than just about anybody. He makes hundreds of new friends each year as he tirelessly signs autographs. DJ is a great guy, and everybody loves him. Plus he plays some mean drums.
When it comes to legendary achievements, it’s hard to top the Jordanaires. It has been estimated that songs with their backing vocals have sold over 2.6 billion records. Think about that: 2,600,000,000 records in a half century of singing behind stars like Marty Robbins, Patsy Cline, Jim Reeves, George Jones, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, Dolly Parton, K.D. Lang, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Ricky Nelson, Ringo Starr, Chicago, Neil Young, Jimmy Buffett, Connie Francis, Julie Andrews, the Judds, Billy Ray Cyrus, Vince Gill, and, of course, Elvis Presley.
The Jordanaires were formed in 1948 in Springfield, MO, and made their first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry the next year. In early 1955, they appeared at the Cotton Carnival in Memphis. Elvis, who was just in the beginning of his career, came back stage to meet them. He remarked, “If I ever get a recording contract with a major company, I want you guys to back me up.” True to his word, soon after Elvis signed with RCA, the Jordaiaires backed him on the session that produced “Hound Dog,” “Don’t Be Cruel,” and “Any Way You Want Me.”
The Jordanaires personnel at that time were Gordon Stoker (lead tenor), Neal Matthews (second tenor), Hoyt Hawkins (baritone), and Hugh Jarrett (bass). They appeared behind Elvis on most of his landmark TV appearances in 1956 and 1957. In 1958, Ray Walker replaced Jarrett, and the new lineup performed together for the next 24 years. The lineup appearing at the Legends Salute will be Gordon Stoker and Ray Walker, along with newer members Louis Nunley (baritone) and Curtis Young (second tenor).
Elvis had many musical influences, but it was the gospel quartets that moved him the most. The Jordanaires were one of his favorites, because he heard them every Saturday night on the Opry radio show. Once Elvis connected with them, they sang on almost every song he recorded over the next 13 years.
The Nashville Music Association has presented the Jordanaires the coveted ‘Masters Award.’ The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences gave them an award for having sung on more top-ten records than any other vocal group. If awards were presented during Darwin Lamm’s Elvis Good Rockin’ Tonight concerts this year, the Jordanaires, Scotty Moore, and DJ Fontana would all be recognized for what they are: Genuine American Music Legends.
Since rumor has it that this will be Darwin Lamm ‘s last concert in Memphis, this could very well be the last time you will see all the legends performing together. Don’t miss it.
© 2004 Philip R Arnold
Contributing Editor Phil Arnold will be in a front row seat for the Legends Salute. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org