The tiny Sun studio at 706 Union Avenue in Memphis, Tennessee may not have looked like much from the outside, but inside musical miracles were being performed daily by its enigmatic owner, Sam Phillips. Phillips began more or less as a talent scout for other record labels, such as the legendary Chess Records of Chicago. However, after discovering a wealth of talent in his own backyard in the Mid-South area, Phillips began his own record label – Sun – with an emblematic rising sun and rooster logo.
A white man who loved and understood African-American music, Phillips recorded soon-to-be blues icons such as Howlin’ Wolf, Rufus Thomas, and B.B. King. A seismic shift occurred during one session in 1951 when Phillips recorded “Rocket 88” with Jackie Brenston and Ike Turner. That shift was to become known as rock and roll.
A shy white boy named Elvis Presley came in the studio to record a song for his mother’s birthday. Phillips recognized something in the young man, and a moment of silliness in the studio ruptured into the first record of the future King of Rock & Roll, “That’s All Right.” Elvis shot to stardom; Sun Records didn’t stop there. Hot on his heels came Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash. However, there wasn’t a day that the studio wasn’t searching for other artists, other hits.
Sun Records: An Oral History (Second Edition) brings to readers the voices of the pillars of Sun Records, the artists, producers, and engineers who made the place tick. Rufus Thomas (the first hit-maker for Sun), Scotty Moore, Rosco Gordon, Little Milton Campbell, Billy Lee Riley, producer and musician Roland Janes, producer Cowboy Jack Clement, and others all tell their inimitable stories about the making of a music empire, the label that put rock and roll on the world map.
Music journalist and critic John Floyd has woven together dozens of priceless stories and anecdotes with his own insightful and artful narrative to make this book definitive for anyone interested in Sun Records or the birth and rise of rock and roll. For example, there are firsthand accounts of the early Elvis sessions by Scotty Moore, Billy Lee Riley’s own account of his legendary drunken rampage in the Sun studio, and a transcript of the back-and-forth hell and damnation conversation between a reluctant Jerry Lee Lewis and Sam Phillips just prior to the recording of “Great Balls of Fire.” This Second Edition updates the masterful original book which was critically acclaimed and considered one of the canon of must-have music books.