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Elvis’ Guitar Playing Analyzed

1

When I first started playing guitar my initial goal was to be able to play as good as Elvis does in the 1968 Comeback Special. It was fun for me to see this video for that reason.

2

Looks like Scotty's Super 400 ? or something similar?

4

Yeah, it's Scotty's guitar. At their big reunion here of some of the original band from the Sun days...Elvis takes Scotty's guitar off him in exchange for his acoustic. Never happy about that. Watch the footage, it's embarrassing and Scotty looks miserable about it.

5

Yeah, it's Scotty's guitar. At their big reunion here of some of the original band from the Sun days...Elvis takes Scotty's guitar off him in exchange for his acoustic. Never happy about that. Watch the footage, it's embarrassing and Scotty looks miserable about it.

– Vince_Ray

You nailed it Vince_Ray. I have the DVD of the entire concert and have watched it several times.

The portion featuring the original band is a great show. It does show that Elvis could play "well enough" but was nowhere close to Scotty Moore's level. Scotty Moore never seemed to be thrilled with the event.....

6

In his autobiography Cash, Johnny Cash writes about the first time he saw Elvis perform in 1954.

“The thing I really noticed that night, though, was his [Elvis’s] guitar playing. Elvis was a fabulous rhythm player. He’d start in ‘That’s All Right, Mama’ with his own guitar alone, and you didn’t want to hear anything else. I didn’t, anyway. I was disappointed when Scotty Moore and Bill Black jumped in and covered him up…You know, I’ve never heard or read anyone else praising Elvis as a rhythm guitar player, and after the Sun [Records] days I never heard his own guitar on his records.”

(Except taken from Cash: The Autobiography, by Johnny Cash w/ Patrick Carr; pgs. 95–96; 1997, HarperCollins, NY, NY.)

7

Keith Richard said 'everyone wanted to be Elvis. I wanted to be Scotty'. Sadly, Scotty had very little to do with Elvis after that gig.

8

Thanks for posting that Deed. I'm in complete agreement with Mr Cash.

10

In his autobiography Cash, Johnny Cash writes about the first time he saw Elvis perform in 1954.

“The thing I really noticed that night, though, was his [Elvis’s] guitar playing. Elvis was a fabulous rhythm player. He’d start in ‘That’s All Right, Mama’ with his own guitar alone, and you didn’t want to hear anything else. I didn’t, anyway. I was disappointed when Scotty Moore and Bill Black jumped in and covered him up…You know, I’ve never heard or read anyone else praising Elvis as a rhythm guitar player, and after the Sun [Records] days I never heard his own guitar on his records.”

(Except taken from Cash: The Autobiography, by Johnny Cash w/ Patrick Carr; pgs. 95–96; 1997, HarperCollins, NY, NY.)

– Deed Eddy

I absolutely love Scotty Moore's guitar playing but the reason I posted this video is to showcase just how strong of a rhythm player Elvis was. As a young musician and even now I felt his guitar playing in my soul the same way I felt Scotty's solo breaks when he rips on Hound Dog. It always appeared to me that Scotty was having a blast in the round at that TV special.

11

Elvis was a very good rhythm player. There was more to him than just the swivel in the hips. fwiw, Hank Williams was a good rhythm player also.

12

There may be some discussion on Elvis’s guitar talents, but few could argue that it doesn’t get much better than Scotty’s guitar. That thing is gorgeous!

13

awful analysis. Elvis had great rhythm (not only from the waist down) and could play chords for rr songs. otherwise wank.. wank. wank. wank.. wank.. wank.. wank.

14

Elvis was as good as he needed to be. I, IV, IV, and the relative minors ( no pun about his penchant for young girls intended!) and a little vamping, and that’s about it. And that’s about all it had to be. In the early days at Sun he strummed the acoustic rhythm and it was fresh and energetic and worked well with Scotty and Bill. Later, he had Scotty, Chet Atkins, Hank Garland... a bunch of great guitar players, so he really never needed to push himself beyond the basics. And he didn’t write songs, so no pressure there either. And then came the movies. And the Army. And more movies. And as much as I liked Elvis, I was pissed when he swapped guitars with Scotty on the 68 Special. I not only wanted to hear Scotty play, but wanted to hear Elvis’ driving rhythm acoustic guitar as well. As it was, Scotty looked like he was just along for the ride at that point. But he never complained. A real gent. And Elvis never really gave him adequate respect . Sad.

15

I got mixed feelings about it to be honest, I was a massive fan of the 68 Comeback and it was without doubt what got me into rock and roll. I had the LP when I was ten and over the next few years, I wore it out and learnt every bit of dialogue and can still remember most of it! So yeah, I'm a fan.

But in later life, I discovered what happened with Scotty and his guitar and also the way he felt about it. Plus I learned that the sun didn't shine outta Elvis's ass hole. Still love the guy of course!

And really....Scotty's guitar was a MAJOR part of the sound of those early recordings. C'mon, it wouldn't have been some sort of 'lost master' if Scotty and Bill hadn't ruined it all. Plus having some kinda 'expert' explain it to us on youtube....just had to add some missing info about what had really happened.

16

I have strong opinions about this subject. I think Elvis was much better than most people think. He was also a Gretsch guy and loved his Country Gent. Most of his early shows post the “comeback special” featured a segment with Elvis on a stool playing his Gent and interacting solo with the audience. (Here is where my bias comes in) since I do an Elvis tribute act, I get to perform the way I think Elvis would have done if he had allowed himself the opportunity to play guitar the whole time. Here is a clip from my show. Link

17

M’boy, M’boy... I used to do an Elvis tribute, as a segment of my overall show, way back in the day when Elvis was still with us. Had the good fortune to meet him backstage at the Cow Palace in San Francisco in 1976. (Long story). And had the chance to talk guitars a bit with Charlie Hodge! After Elvis passed, my agent and manager were pressuring me to do an Elvis tribute show (boy, did we have offers!) but I wouldn’t... I didn’t want to stop doing all the other things I did (Holly, Cash, Perkins, rockabilly, and my originals. And I was also getting into voiceover and acting).

I guess it’s somewhat subjective, but Elvis was, first and foremost, an entertainer. He was brilliant at what he did, entertaining audiences! He wanted people to think of him as a musician as well as a singer, and he played piano and guitar onstage. In fact, in the studio as well as at home, he played piano more often than he played guitar.

There are other videos of E with his Gent. He had trouble figuring out the switches at times. And I’m guessing he didn’t change his own strings, do any setup work, or even know much about guitars in general. He didn’t have to. He knew what he wanted, whatever was considered the biggest and the best (Martin, Gibson, Gretsch and Guild) to use to entertain...and someone took care of all of that for him. He just did what he wanted to do, long enough to make his point, and then moved on.

He allowed himself to do anything he wanted to do, to play as much or as little as he cared to. And if the song was above what he knew how to play, then he just didn’t play! And didn’t care to progress any further as a musician. He was already the King of entertainment!

18

I got mixed feelings about it to be honest, I was a massive fan of the 68 Comeback and it was without doubt what got me into rock and roll. I had the LP when I was ten and over the next few years, I wore it out and learnt every bit of dialogue and can still remember most of it! So yeah, I'm a fan.

But in later life, I discovered what happened with Scotty and his guitar and also the way he felt about it. Plus I learned that the sun didn't shine outta Elvis's ass hole. Still love the guy of course!

And really....Scotty's guitar was a MAJOR part of the sound of those early recordings. C'mon, it wouldn't have been some sort of 'lost master' if Scotty and Bill hadn't ruined it all. Plus having some kinda 'expert' explain it to us on youtube....just had to add some missing info about what had really happened.

– Vince_Ray

Scotty’s guitar playing was indeed a major part of the success of Elvis in the early years! And if Scotty and Bill hadn’t had as much patience as they did, Elvis might not have happened at all! And prior to the Colonel, Scotty was the manager, road manager, and agent getting whatever bookings he could get and arranging the sessions at Sun. Scotty worked his butt off! And they were close. But over time Scotty and Bill thought they should be paid and treated a little better but the Colonel just thought of them as replaceable sidemen. Sad. They should have been treated better.

Kinda brings to mind Chris Isaak and Jimmy Wilsey... wow, what a sound! Jimmy was DEFINITELY half of the sound of those songs and the overall vibe! And after their biggest success, Wicked Game, Jimmy was out!

Dwight Yoakam and Pete Anderson...amazing together. Pete was also the producer! But after finally breaking through, they split.

Sad how that happens.

19

I had a chance 15 or so years ago to have dinner with Sleepy LaBeef which I accepted . Great guy, had a blast. During dinner he told us a story where he, Elvis, and George Jones were playing some carnaval type show early in Elvis's career. He's on stage while Jones and Sleepy watched from the wings waiting their respective turns to play. After one song Elvis runs to the side stage with an acoustic with about half the strings busted. He's begging for someone to loan him a guitar, Jones just pretended not to hear him so Sleepy reluctantly gives him his. A few songs later he returns it with, yup, half the strings dangling. Sleepy laughed about it, but said at the time he was pretty pissed.

20

Elvis was as good as he needed to be. I, IV, IV, and the relative minors ( no pun about his penchant for young girls intended!) and a little vamping, and that’s about it. And that’s about all it had to be. In the early days at Sun he strummed the acoustic rhythm and it was fresh and energetic and worked well with Scotty and Bill. Later, he had Scotty, Chet Atkins, Hank Garland... a bunch of great guitar players, so he really never needed to push himself beyond the basics. And he didn’t write songs, so no pressure there either. And then came the movies. And the Army. And more movies. And as much as I liked Elvis, I was pissed when he swapped guitars with Scotty on the 68 Special. I not only wanted to hear Scotty play, but wanted to hear Elvis’ driving rhythm acoustic guitar as well. As it was, Scotty looked like he was just along for the ride at that point. But he never complained. A real gent. And Elvis never really gave him adequate respect . Sad.

– Steve

I have a DVD special addition pack of the Comeback Special and there are 2 different sit down sections. On one of the shows Elvis mostly plays acoustic and I believe he may swap near the end. There is a version of Scotty playing lead on Baby What You Want Me To Do.

22

Elvis 68 Comeback Special

– BuddyHollywood

Great DVD! I have these two, which contains just about every inch of footage from the 68 Special, raw, un-cut, bloopers and all! Elvis on acoustic, Elvis with Scotty’s Gibson, and the red Hagstrom. Cool stuff.

23

Great DVD! I have these two, which contains just about every inch of footage from the 68 Special, raw, un-cut, bloopers and all! Elvis on acoustic, Elvis with Scotty’s Gibson, and the red Hagstrom. Cool stuff.

– Steve

You know what? This is the same edition I have! I posted the wrong one!

24

That video keeps on showing up on my suggested videos to watch but never watched because in my option Elvis was a very good rhythm player so I didn’t feel the desire to hear what that guy said about Elvis, good or bad. But now that you posted this I want to watch it and will tomorrow.

25

You nailed it Vince_Ray. I have the DVD of the entire concert and have watched it several times.

The portion featuring the original band is a great show. It does show that Elvis could play "well enough" but was nowhere close to Scotty Moore's level. Scotty Moore never seemed to be thrilled with the event.....

– senojnad

Well yeah because Elvis was a rhythm player and Scotty Moore a lead and rhythm player. But Elvis played his parts very well.


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