“I can’t believe I’m talking to a living legend,” I groveled
during an exclusive interview with Moore for Twelveteen.
“Well, thank you very much,”
he laughed. I immediately
wondered if he had also influenced Elvis’ politeness as well as the music.
with Lee Rocker earlier,” I said, hoping my name-dropping skills might get e
past the ‘fan’ stage. “He told me how much fun you’re having during
yeah, we have fun when we work together. We do some of Lee's stuff and some
Elvis tunes, of course. Some Blues... and whatever pops out, I guess.”
ever dream you’d still be playing rock’n roll guitar in 2002?” I asked.
hoped that I would be!” he laughed.
mean YOU!” I said. “Of course we knew you’d still be here. I’m talking
about the music. The songs you started out playing on with Elvis back in 1954.
What if someone had told you then that fifty years later you’re still going to
be playing these songs and everyone is still going to be into it?”
“It must be
quite flattering for people to tell you they’re still listening to what
you’re playing. You have really been an innovator.”
“It is very
flattering,” he answered, “and the thing I feel the most proud about is how
the music has held up all these years. I mean people still want to hear the
early stuff. The Sun (Records) stuff, some of that even.”
guitar solos on those early songs have just influenced all the great guitar
players that followed this style of music,” I noted. “Rock’n roll,
rockabilly, country, blues… When they talk about their influences, your name
comes up all the time.”
said before, someone will ask me, ‘Who influenced you?’ And I'd say anybody
that played the guitar. I didn't know back then. When you listened to the radio,
they didn't tell you who the players were and maybe it'd be months or years
later I'd find out somebody's name that played on a certain record that I
you learn to play?” I asked. “Was it from listening to the radio?”
he answered. “Just hearing things then sitting down and trying to figure them
out. I had three brothers and my dad who all played string instruments, but I...
Well, there's 14 years difference between me and the next brother up the line.
Until I got to 9 or 10 years old, or old enough to see what was going on, they
were gettin' married, joining the navy and leaving home. I told lots of folks
that I think I'm just hard headed. I felt like I missed out on something.”
doesn’t sound to me like you missed out on too much,” I said. “Do you ever
reminisce about those early Sun Sessions with Elvis?”
They were fun,” he laughed. “All of the work we did together... Aw, the
travel. The travel is always the worst part of the business.”
it like traveling with Elvis back in those days? I think I’ve seen movies and
documentaries where you’re all piled into one car.”
the very beginning we were. And as soon as we started making a few bucks we
bought a couple Cadillacs,” he said. “We also traveled in a Fleetwood
Limousine. It wasn't a stretch, but it was a legit limousine.”
“Very nice,” I commented.
helped a lot,” he continued. “But when you were talking about the music
earlier, in the back of my mind I was thinking that Carl Perkins, he put the
best label on all of it. He said it's 'feel good' music. It feels good when you
listen to it and it feels good when you play it and sing it. It just feels
understand you and Lee Rocker keep the show pretty loose,” I said.
the audience what they want.”
“We try our
best,” he agreed. “Lee's great and the other guys he's got with him are all
good too. It's a good little group.”
were doing the early recordings, you were really stretching the envelope. No one
had made the sounds you were making on the guitar.”
realize I was, but I did stand on the edge of a limb all the time,” he
“You didn’t think about it?”
think about it,” he said. “Always tried to play something that I thought fit
the particular song we was workin' on. Not just the notes. I tried to make it
mean something to that song.”
“So you had
your own ideas on how the songs should sound,” I noted.
know that. I look back now and on some of those things I say, ‘How'd I do
that?” he answered with a big laugh.
reading an interview a few years ago with Keith Richards from The Rolling
Stones,” I said, needing that ‘name-dropping fix.’ “He was talking about
the second guitar break on the recording of ‘Hound Dog’ and said it sounded
like you just took off your guitar, dropped it on the floor and it got the
perfect sound. He said he’s never been able to figure out how you did that.”
“I don't know either,” Moore laughed.
huge compliment,” I continued. “And every time I hear that song, that’s
what I think about. How did you get that sound…?”
was actually pissed off to tell'ya the truth.”
just... Sometimes in the studio you do it too many times and you go past that
peak. Like three takes before was really the one you should use. That was it. We
had done the thing, (“Hound Dog”). I think it was printed somewhere that we
did it about forty or sixty… I don't know, give or take. But if someone was
counting it off, just a couple notes and we stop, that's a take. You know?
‘Take Two.’ But I was frustrated for some reason and in the second solo I
just went, BLAH,” he laughed.
there’s a real musical explanation!” I said.
he laughed louder. “BLAH!!!”
worked and it lives on today,” I laughed. “A lot of it still sounds fresh
just one of those things that I play,” he said. “And I play it back to
people the same way, but each time it will come out just a little bit different.
It's just one of those... You know, you just hit it perfectly the time you did
did these Elvis songs, you guys were recorded playing live – as a band – in
the studio. Right?”
signing as you were playing and every thing was happening in one room,” I
“That’s the only way,” he said.
“Do you still think that’s the best way?”
projects have you been working on?” I asked. “Have you been recording with
“Well, I did a couple of things with Lee a couple years back when he had his Big Blue
want to know is how you feel about the recording technology today, compared to
what you started out with. Is it easier?”
“Some of it
is,” he answered. “Some of it I like. Unfortunately, everything in music
comes along and it's taken too far. All the digital computer stuff was designed
to restore old records and stuff, and it was just fantastic and wonderful for
stuff like that.”
feel it takes the life out of the recordings?” I asked.
those Sun Recordings just come alive,” I continued.
got a little studio here at home and I can sit down and mix something. And mix
it ten times in a row. And each time I want to change this or that - just a
little bit - it won't be something massive. It just jumps out at you. But the
idea is when I like it, I can say I did that. That damn machine didn't do it. I
did it. You know? That's one reason I headed into engineering way back... I got
interested in it and when Elvis went into the army I got into that side of it.
And I really enjoyed it because I could play all the instruments then.”
into engineering for quite a while,” I noted.
did that for years and years - and I'm still doing it. Just not on a daily
came out of the army, did you go back with him?” I asked.
full time. ‘Cuz he never went back on the road until he went to Vegas. We did
two or three charity shows, a couple TV things when he came out, then he went
right into the movies. Head on - ya'know?”
part of his 1968 television come back special.”
“Did you go with him to Las Vegas after that?”
“No,” he answered.
having as much fun today as you did back when you were starting out?” I
really am,” he laughed. “Like I said, other than the traveling part of it, I
think I've had more fun in a lot of ways.”
“Why would that be?” I pried.
one thing, I can let somebody else worry about if there's enough gas in the car
to get to the next gig!” he laughed.
the average person wouldn’t think about that part of the rock’n roll
lifestyle,” I added.
it really like in those early days with Elvis?” I asked. “Was it really
crazy with those crowds and screaming girls? Was it too much? Or was it too much fun?”
“It was fun
then,” he said. “It was enjoying the smaller venues where you're closer to
the people. Up to a thousand seater’s and stuff like that. When we started
getting really big we got into the bigger places. It was, you know, 20,000 -
which compared to some of these concerts today is nothing. But the noise got so
loud, we're talking about... There were no big sound systems. We had a
microphone for Elvis, maybe one on the bass and sometimes that was it!”
no stage monitors back then to hear yourselves play,” I added.
still don't care that much for'em. Count out ‘one, two, three four’ and
that's it, you know? But the only way I can explain it is if you dive into a
swimming pool, the phasing underwater - the rush of the water. Well, the crowd
would get so loud that your ears would close up and you hear that... phasing
“Man, I never heard it put that way,” I said.
a reporter with us and I thought the boy was gonna faint. He was talking about
the noise. And I would refer to DJ, (Fontana – Elvis’ drummer), playing the
drums. He would watch Elvis like a hawk. Elvis loved for him to accent stuff
just like you would... Well, DJ did play for strippers back in his younger days.
And I told this guy, "Well, we're probably the only group in the world led
by an ass! I was talkin' about Elvis' movements,” he laughed loudly.
you were very close to Elvis back then,” I commented.
we were like… Well, all of us were just like a bunch of brothers really.”
Elvis handle this early fame?” I asked. “Was this really exciting for all of
you, or was there a lot of pressure?”
it very well,” Moore answered. “But to be honest with you, I don't know...
You see the ‘Comeback Special’ thing was the last time I saw him and worked
with him. And I don't know who or what got him on the downgrade. At that point
he was fit, he was in great shape, felt good and he was looking forward to
gettin' out and doin' some tours. He wanted to do a lot of things. He wanted to
get back out in front of the people. That was his thing.”
going to ask if you were close with Elvis up until the end…”
answered thoughtfully. “I've been asked that many times and I just say he
could get in touch with me easier than I could get in touch with him because I'd
never know if he'd get the message.”
know you have to get going. But I just want to say it’s been an honor talking
with you,” I said sincerely, not caring if I was groveling or not.
“I’ve been a big fan for a long time.”
keep rockin’ and having fun,” I added, “because you’re THE MAN!”
“Okay. Great!” he laughed loudly.
This interview reprinted here with permission was conducted by Dave
Schwensen in the spring of 2002 and initially appeared in the the summer
2002 issue of the online magazine TWELVETEEN.