Keith Richards on the guitarist that’s “never been duplicated”

Music has always been involved in the life of Keith Richards. Initially, jazz was his first love, but once rock ‘n’ roll became accessible, The Rolling Stones founding member was convinced it was his calling and was determined to follow in the footsteps of his newfound heroes. While he successfully achieved his dream, there was one figure he could not eclipse.

In the 2015 documentary Keith Richards: Under The Influence, The Stones guitarist explained how his family were crucial to him becoming a musician. In the film, he spoke lovingly of his late mother Doris, recalling: “My Mum was a beautiful music freak with incredible taste. She was a wizard of the dial — if there was anything worth listening to [on the radio], she would find it.”

Additionally, his grandfather was another strong influence and was crucial in Richards picking up the guitar for the first time. Once Keith could reach the instrument with his hands and take it off the wall, he was allowed to play it, an offer that started a life-long obsession.

However, when he got older, Richards began to carve out a music taste of his own, which largely stemmed from listening to Radio Luxembourg late at night in his bed. Firstly, it turned him into a fan of Little Richard, and then Elvis Presley, whose song ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ changed his life.

In his autobiography Life, Richards recalled: “I think the first record I bought was Little Richard’s ‘Long Tall Sally”‘ Fantastic record, even to this day. Good records just get better with age. But the one that really turned me on, like an explosion one night, listening to Radio Luxembourg on my little radio when I was supposed to be in bed and asleep, was ‘Heartbreak Hotel’.”

He continued: “That was the stunner. I’d never heard it before or anything like it. I’d never heard of Elvis before. It was almost as if I’d been waiting for it to happen. When I woke up the next day I was a different guy.”

While most people fixated on the brilliance of Elvis Presley, Richards was more interested in the guitarist Scotty Moore. At that stage, Keith had yet to consider the possibility of playing the electric guitar, but Moore single-handedly made him want to plug in his instrument and turn up the volume.

Following the death of Moore in 2016, Richards paid homage to his talent and told Rolling Stone: “Elvis would not have been Elvis without Scotty Moore. When I was a kid, after the BBC would shut off, another station would come on, called Radio Luxembourg. It had terrible reception – I’d be carrying my radio all around my room. That’s how I heard ‘Heartbreak Hotel’. I was an acoustic player, lurking in the folk area. But that’s when I knew I wanted to go electric.”

Richards continued: “Scotty Moore was my hero. There’s a little jazz in his playing, some great country licks and a grounding in the blues as well. It’s never been duplicated. I can’t copy it. The closest I came was tracks like ‘Parachute Woman,’ where I fooled around with echoes – those early Elvis recordings got me interested in the possibility of the studio.”

Moore played in Presley’s backing band throughout the most successful years of his career and played an understated role in his success. While he’s not a household name, Moore helped craft some of the most beloved songs in rock ‘n’ roll history, and his music will live on forever.

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