Scotty Moore and the Art of Degenerate Hillbilly Juju

When I was a little kid, four or five years old, my dad came home with a box of 45 rpm records. My Uncle Ray was a part-time DJ, and there was a format change at his station. I was given some of the runoff.

 

I couldn't even read at that time. Several records, though, had a picture on the label. It was drawing of a white dog with brown ears, looking quizzically into what I thought was a megaphone.

 

Purely by happenstance, I pulled a record out, and asked what it was called. My dad told me it was "Hound Dog". My four-year old brain made the connection between the title and the illustration at the center.

 

I put the record on my little "Show and Tell" record player. And my world blew the fuck up.

 

As the vibrations rattled the player, that song went into the deepest recess of my brain and made itself at home.

 

I've tried my share of chemical mind alterants, legal and otherwise. I've meditated and stared at the red dot long enough for my third eye to punch a hole in my ego and kick the shit out of it. I still remember that first tit squeeze making me dizzy.

 

No offense to the drugs, the Buddha, or the girl, but I can say without hyperbole that nothing in my life has ever blown my mind like the two minute, fifteen second brainfuck engendered by that record with the dog on the label.

 

I was raised in a Pentecostal church, where my mom played the organ, so the rhythms weren't new to me. The one and three provided ballast, the two and four nailed things down, and the liberties taken with all points in between gave it the side-to-side. It stomped with an insistence no less committed than the Pew Jumper swing I heard every Sunday.

 

But there was something else there. A rough-hewn, caustic twang slithering around the lyrics, giving way to a meaner, juicier sound pinwheeling around in the vocal-free middle verse. Even more than the thunderous groove and the lascivious urgency of Elvis's growl, it was a sound that bounced off the menacing snare roll and kicked the savage gestalt of the whole affair into a higher, holy gear.

 

That was Scotty Moore playing guitar.

 

It may not be the greatest single in Rock and Roll. The solo wasn't the most elemental, although an argument could made for its influence.

 

But it meant something. And it still does.

 

Thanks, Scotty. Rest in peace.

 

June 28, 2016

 

 

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