Keith Richards is perhaps most famous for being an acolyte of American blues artists like Muddy Waters and Howlin Wolf or the classic rock and roll of Chuck Berry, but Richards also lists another important early rock figure as a key influence: Elvis Presley.
“Elvis dominated the landscape at this point,” Richards explains in his autobiography Life. “He has a section in the notebook all to himself. The very first album I bought.” More specifically, Richards picked up a number of licks from Presley’s right hand man, guitarist Scotty Moore. “As impressed as I was with Elvis, I was even more impressed by Scotty Moore and the band.”
Of the vast collection of Elvis’ albums, Richards always held on to that first album he bought, 1959’s A Date with Elvis, a compilation of Presley’s Sun Records output released while Elvis was serving in the Army. “It’s minimalism, I suppose,” Richards reflected. “How to get the most out of something with the smallest amount of ingredients, and out comes the best meal you ever had.”
Most of the material features Elvis with his classic band of Scotty Moore on guitar, Bill Black on bass, and D.J. Fontana on drums. Richards would later collaborate with Moore and Fontana on the song ‘Deuce and a Quarter’ for the film Return of the Blue Moon Boys.
Richards still credits the Sun Records recordings for influencing his desire to become a musician and professional noisemaker. “When I first heard ‘Heartbreak Hotel’, it wasn’t that I suddenly wanted to be Elvis Presley,” he said. “I had no idea who he was at the time. It was just the sound, the use of a different way of recording… The use of echo. No extraneous additions.”
Check out Richards recording with Moore, Fontana, and The Band down below.