Elvis Presley, the legendary “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” has captivated audiences worldwide with his electrifying performances and soulful voice. But there has always been a lingering question: could Elvis actually play the guitar or was it all just part of his act? Let’s dive deep into the history and separate fact from fiction.
The Early Years: A Gifted Singer, a Novice Guitarist
Elvis’s journey with the guitar started when he received one as a substitute for a bicycle on his eleventh birthday. While his vocal talent was evident from a young age, his guitar-playing skills were not as natural. He relied on the guidance of family and friends, who taught him a few chords and helped him improve his technique.
Learning the Ropes
Uncle Vester and Pastor Frank Smith played a crucial role in Elvis’s guitar education, showing him the ropes and introducing him to new chords and runs. With time, Elvis began to grasp the fundamentals and started to learn how to play the guitar correctly.
The Blue Moon Boys: Elvis’s Guitar Takes Center Stage
As Elvis’s fame grew, so did his band, The Blue Moon Boys, consisting of Scotty Moore on lead guitar and Bill Black on bass. Together, they crafted a unique sound that would define the early days of rock ‘n’ roll. Although Elvis’s guitar-playing abilities were limited, his strong sense of rhythm inspired Scotty and Bill to join in, resulting in the iconic sound that propelled Elvis to stardom.
A Prop or a Tool?
While Elvis’s guitar skills may not have been on par with his vocal prowess, he cherished his instrument and often used it as a prop during his electrifying performances. Some critics even noted that he occasionally struggled to keep up with his own singing, but Elvis’s charm and stage presence eclipsed any technical limitations he might have had.
The Changing Landscape: RCA and Beyond
As Elvis transitioned to recording with RCA in the 1950s, professional session guitar players joined the mix, adding a polished sound to his recordings. Elvis’s guitar work took a backseat to his vocal performances, but he remained credited as a guitarist throughout many of his sessions. However, as the 1960s rolled in, Elvis’s guitar-playing faded away, making sporadic appearances in his recordings.
An Instrumental Moment in History
One standout moment in Elvis’s guitar journey occurred during his 1968 NBC-TV special when he opted to play Scotty Moore’s guitar instead of his own. Despite some initial reluctance from Scotty, Elvis’s desire for a flashier instrument took center stage. It was a memorable moment that showcased his connection to the instrument, even if it wasn’t his primary focus.
The Verdict: Perception and Reality
So, was Elvis a guitar player or merely a pretender? The answer lies in the perception of his fans and the reality that Elvis himself acknowledged. While he may not have possessed exceptional guitar skills, his instrument allowed him to express himself and grab the audience’s attention. In the end, it was the power of his voice, his charisma, and his larger-than-life persona that defined Elvis Presley.
To explore more about Elvis’s music and legacy, visit All about Elvis. Let the timeless melodies and captivating stories transport you to the golden era of rock ‘n’ roll.
Alan Hanson | © November 2015