Joe Moretti: Session guitarist whose work graced a string of hits

 

From 1955 to 1962, it seemed only the Americans could create convincing rock'n'roll, and few British records could compete. One exception was the atmospheric "Shakin' All Over" from Johnny Kidd and the Pirates (1960): the tense stop/start song, Kidd's belligerent vocal and Joe Moretti's dramatic guitar breaks combined to make a remarkable record.

Joe Moretti was born in the Glasgow docklands in 1938, the son of a Scottish-Italian father and an Irish mother. He taught himself to play his grandfather's piano, although he had ambitions to be an artist. With the advent of rock'n'roll and skiffle, Moretti acquired a cheap guitar and then a Hofner Senator. In 1957, he entered a newspaper competition for Glasgow's Tommy Steele. At the audition, he met the eventual winner, Alex Harvey. Harvey offered Moretti a place in his group, the seven-piece Kansas City Band (all from Glasgow).

In 1958, Moretti made his TV début on Six-Five Special with the Rikki Barnes All Stars. After marrying a young trainee nurse, Pina, they moved to London with £11. He went straight to the Two I's coffee bar in Soho, where he jammed with Tony Sheridan and Brian Bennett. He was offered a job with Tommy Steele's brother, Colin Hicks, and then he joined Vince Eager for a pantomime, Mother Goose, in Southport. "There was just me, Joe and Tex Makins so I don't know what we sounded like without a drummer," says Eager, "but Joe was a very good guitarist and ahead of his time. He left me and joined Vince Taylor and the Playboys, but I never got on well with Vince. My real name is Roy Taylor so I accused him of taking my name."

Vince Taylor, an American from Hounslow, had determination, if not talent, and he looked the part, with long sideburns and a black leather suit. Moretti played electrifyingly on "Brand New Cadillac", but it was banned by the BBC because of advertising, even though Cadillacs were not available in the UK. Taylor was later rediscovered and influenced David Bowie's creation, Ziggy Stardust. After the Playboys, Moretti moved to Johnny Duncan and his Bluegrass Boys then to the middle-of-the-road trumpeter, Eddie Calvert.

In 1960 he joined Johnny Kidd and the Pirates (Brian Gregg, Alan Caddy and Clem Cattini) for a session as Caddy felt nervous about playing the solo on "Shakin' All Over". Moretti told Dave Burke of Pipeline Instrumental Review in 2002: "I created the introduction, the backing figures, the solo, and slid a cigarette lighter across the strings to get that shakin' guitar sound. We had it down in a couple of takes." The single went to No 1 and he also played on the follow-up, "Restless".

Moretti did not tour with the Pirates as he was working in the Beat Boys with Gene Vincent. Vincent's agent, Larry Parnes gave Moretti £7 to go to Italy for a TV date, not appreciating that he needed the same amount to return. Moretti had to sell his guitar to get home. He borrowed a Fender Telecaster for a UK tour with Vincent, but almost immediately Vincent crashed into him on stage and broke the guitar. He said of his time with Vincent, "He didn't have a set list. Every song began with the word 'Well-ll-ll-ll" and we had to guess what it was going to be."

Another musician, Mike O'Neill, had acquired some plastic Roman gladiator costumes no longer required at Elstree film studios, and he formed a band, Nero and the Gladiators, with himself in a toga and a laurel wreath. Moretti became a Gladiator and played on "In the Hall of the Mountain King", again banned by the BBC, this time because it insulted Grieg.

The former Shadows Jet Harris and Tony Meehan had a UK No 1 with "Diamonds" in 1963, and Moretti joined their stage band with a schoolboy, John Paul Jones, later of Led Zeppelin, on bass. Because Harris was drinking heavily, Moretti often played his solos. He also played on their hits "Scarlett O'Hara" and "Applejack", and when Harris left, he played the lead on Meehan's "Song of Mexico".

Moretti had a residency at London's Flamingo club with Herbie Goins and the Nightimers, so could take daytime session work for Decca, Pye and EMI. He might play three sessions a day, five days a week. He is on Tom Jones's "It's Not Unusual" (1965) and Chris Farlowe's "Out of Time" (1966), both No 1s, as well as Donovan's "Mellow Yellow" (1967) and the original album for Evita (1976). He appeared, dressed as a Spanish guitarist, on a TV special with Barbra Streisand and wrote an instrumental tribute, "Little Evvy", for Kenny Everett and "Disco Kid" as the Sound of Pop.

"I find it sad that people like Joe Moretti don't get the credit for what they've done," said Clem Cattini, "Everyone thinks it was Mick Green playing guitar on 'Shakin' All Over' but he didn't join the band til later. Then the Bay City Rollers and Kenny take the credit for playing on their hits when it was us."

In the late 1970s, Moretti toured Africa with Madeline Bell and, knowing he owed tax in the UK, settled in South Africa. He formed a band for a casino in Sun City and settled in Johannesburg in 1981. His wife made costumes for dramas while their son, "Little Joe", became a gifted musician and music teacher. Asked if he regretted anything, Joe Snr said, "A course in business management would have helped."

Spencer Leigh

Joseph Edward Moretti, guitarist: born Glasgow 10 May 1938; married (one son); died Johannesburg 9 February 2012.

Life and Style
health

Do you qualify – and how do you get it?

News
Food blogger and Guardian writer Jack Monroe with her young son
people
News
Privately schooled, Oxford educated and a former editor of arguably the world's poshest magazine 'The Lady', it's perhaps unsurprising that Rachel Johnson rarely mixes with ordinary Proles.
people

The Mayor of London's sister, Rachel Johnson, apologises for shocking tweet about the PM

News
people

Actress isn't a fan of Ed Miliband

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Life and Style
Fraud contributes 11p to a £2.00 box of half a dozen eggs
Sport
Dejected England players applaud the fans following their team's 3-0 defeat
football

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the Jurassic World trailer
film

Video: The official full-length trailer for the Jurassic Park sequel has dropped – two days early

Environment
The plant ‘Nepenthes zygon’ was donated to Kew in 2004
environmentNepenthes zygon had been growing for almost a decade and helping to keep down cockroaches
News
This artist impression shows a modern-day Atlantis
news
Arts and Entertainment
booksPhotographer snapped celebrities for 40 years - but it wasn’t all fun and games
News
i100
Sport
Aguero - who single-handedly has kept City's Champions League dreams alive - celebrates his dramatic late winner
footballManchester City 3 Bayern Munich 2: Argentine's late hat-rick sees home side snatch vital victory
News
peopleSinger tells The Independent what life is like in rehab in an exclusive video interview
News
Muhammad Ali pictured in better health in 2006
peopleBut he has enjoyed publicity from his alleged near-death experience
Arts and Entertainment
Tony breaks into Ian Garrett's yacht and makes a shocking discovery
TVReview: Revelations continue to make this drama a tough watch
News
news
News
The assumption that women are not as competent in leadership positions as men are leads to increased stress in the workplace
science... and it's down to gender stereotypes
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Search Account Manager

£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive

£25000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is an acknowledged...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Central London, Bank

£26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A truly exciting opportunity has ari...

Ampersand Consulting LLP: Systems Developer (C/C++, Ruby/ Perl) - £40k

£40000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Systems Developer (C/C+...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital