November 21st, 2015

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I first heard Elvis Presley on those early Sun Records with songs like “That’s All Right (Mama)”. His group then consisted of him playing rhythm guitar and doing vocals with Scotty Moore on guitar and Bill Black on slap upright bass. This was early country/rockabilly. I had listened to Hank Williams and other country artists before that. I also learned how to play finger style guitar with a thumb pick like Chet Atkins. Scotty was a fan of Chet Atkins and played with a thumb pick too. Later I used a flat pick and played with my third and fourth fingers.

Guitarist Scotty

Scotty Moore and Elvis Presley







Later Elvis added drummer DJ Fontana. I had the chance to meet Scotty in Memphis when I performed at the Gibson Guitar Factory on a hurricane Katrina Benefit Show. I told Scotty how much I appreciated his guitar work. Scotty wasn’t playing that day because he was recovering from rotator cuff surgery. I also got to meet DJ Fontana on the bus from our hotel on the way to the show. Scotty played on “Heartbreak Hotel”, “Hound Dog”, “Mystery Train”, and “Blue Suede Shoes”. I liked Elvis but I really liked Scotty’s guitar playing and convinced my mom to take me to see Elvis live in Detroit when I was 13 years old. Elvis was great but the girls were screaming so loud I couldn’t hear the band at all. I was disappointed.

Sonny Burgess was one the original rockabilly singers on the Sun Record Label. I got the chance to hear Sonny and DJ Fontana with other surviving Sun musicians perform a great set of rockabilly tunes. I then understood what Sam Phillips heard when he started Sun Records which played a major part in the beginnings of Rock and Roll.
You can hear me playing two rockabilly guitar solos when I did my first recording session at the age of 15. Go to YouTube and look up “I’m Gone” by Vic Gallon.
I also saw another great guitarist who worked with Elvis, James Burton. I used James on a session in LA and have played with him since. James also recorded with Ricky Nelson and appeared regularly on his TV Show.
Gibson finally noticed me as a guitar player when they saw me on that show which led to me playing at The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Les Paul, Larry Carlton and other guitarists. Gibson also gave me a Gibson 355 guitar customized to my specs.

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Dennis Coffey