How Elvis Presley Influenced Keith Richards To Be A Rockstar
via The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon / YouTube
Behind every great musician lies a catalyst, an artist who ignites their passion and sets them on the path to greatness. For legendary guitarist Keith Richards, that transformative figure was none other than Elvis Presley. While Richards had a deep appreciation for the blues, it was the emergence of rock and roll and the unforgettable sound of “Heartbreak Hotel” that propelled him toward his destiny as a rockstar. Let’s explore the profound impact of Elvis Presley on Keith Richards and how it shaped his musical journey.
From their earliest days, The Rolling Stones embraced the blues, becoming a vital force in the English blues scene. Influenced by American blues icons like Willie Dixon and Howlin’ Wolf, Richards held them in high regard. However, it was his exposure to rock and roll that truly ignited his desire to make music that would resonate with audiences.
The Berry Influence
Drawing inspiration from artists such as Chuck Berry, Keith Richards developed a distinct playing style characterized by his bending of notes and signature rhythm. Berry’s music provided the framework for Richards’ artistic expression, allowing him to paint vivid musical pictures with just a few chords. However, it was a particular encounter with a charismatic young artist that truly captured Richards’ attention.
The Elvis Revelation
While Richards already admired the sound of rock and roll, it was hearing Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel” on Radio Luxembourg that sparked a transformation within him. In his memoir, “Life,” Richards recalls being captivated by the song and describes the impact it had on him:
“That was the stunner. I’d never heard it before or anything like it. 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.”
Scotty Moore’s Influence
While Elvis was known for his charismatic stage presence and powerful vocals, it was Scotty Moore’s guitar playing on “Heartbreak Hotel” that left an indelible mark on Richards. He became enamored with Moore’s lead breaks and expressed his deep admiration, stating:
“All I wanted to do in the world was to be able to play and sound like the way Scotty Moore did. Everyone wanted to be Elvis, I wanted to be Scotty.”
Richards incorporated elements of Moore’s guitar style into his own playing, resulting in his signature lyrical approach. Like Moore, Richards focused on serving the song rather than overshadowing the main vocal melody. His guitar licks and riffs became concise and impactful statements, a testament to his appreciation for Moore’s musicality.
Elvis’s Impact on the English Music Scene
Keith Richards was not the only English musician influenced by the power of Elvis. George Harrison, reflecting on his musical roots, also cited “Heartbreak Hotel” as his earliest memory of music. Presley’s influence not only left an indelible mark on Richards but also played a pivotal role in reshaping the English music scene and the trajectory of rock and roll.