If there is an ur-moment of the birth of rock ‘n’ roll I would name the Sun Sessions with Elvis Presley. This is Elvis at his greatest, with a band that cranks it up.
If asked about the birth of rock I would chatter about Joe Turner and Little Richard. These are the giant creators of rock ‘n’ roll. And there was more going on at Sun than just Elvis in 1954.
But there are two records I put on when I want to hear the original stuff. The Sun Sessions with Elvis Presley and whatever compilation of Buddy Holly tunes I can find at hand.
Scotty Moore had jazz ambitions, but he gladly took the session backing Elvis. And you can hear in the finger picking that he inserts along with his rhythm part that his ambitions are greater than simply sideman.
Moore’s guitar is essential to Mystery Train.
What surprised me reading about this legend’s career was that his footprint wasn’t large. He made a deep impression early, and had influence forever, but there is not a big body of work out there that is Scotty Moore’s.
Still, this grab from Wikipedia explains his importance and his reticent impact:
“Moore is given credit as a pioneer rock ‘n’ roll lead guitarist, though he characteristically downplayed his own innovative role in the development of the style. “It had been there for quite a while”, recalled Moore. “Carl Perkins was doing basically the same sort of thing up around Jackson, and I know for a fact Jerry Lee Lewis had been playing that kind of music ever since he was ten years old.” Paul Friedlander describes the defining elements of rockabilly, which he similarly characterizes as “essentially … an Elvis Presley construction”: “the raw, emotive, and slurred vocal style and emphasis on rhythmic feeling [of] the blues with the string band and strummed rhythm guitar [of] country”. In “That’s All Right”, the Presley trio’s first record, Scotty Moore’s guitar solo, “a combination of Merle Travis–style country finger-picking, double-stop slides from acoustic boogie, and blues-based bent-note, single-string work, is a microcosm of this fusion.”“