Whether they know it or not, virtually every fan of rock music from the 50s straight through to today has felt the influence of the tiny Memphis-based record company Sun Studios. Started in early 1952 by Sam Philips, the tiny record label has had a nearly immeasurable impact on the world of modern music.
Phillips opened a recording studio in a small rented building at 706 Union Avenue in Memphis Tennessee. The studio–which is often mistakenly called Sun Studios, a name that didn’t come into use until years later after Phillips no longer had anything to do with it–was called The Memphis Recording Service studios. This was at a time when there was a post-war boom in independent record labels and he also started his own label, Sun Records.
While Phillips set out with the intention to record a wide variety of music, most of the studio’s early work came from blues musicians. A number of great blues recordings were cut at the studio and released on Sun Records. Phillips gained the reputation for fairness and became recognized as a white man who would treat black musicians with respect and honesty. Many great black bluesmen came through the doors of the Memphis Recording Service at a time in the south of America when black men were treated far from fairly or respectfully by society.
Phillips has been quoted to say something to the effect of, “if I can find a white boy that sounds like a black boy, I could make a million dollars.” In 1954, though he didn’t realize it immediately, Phillips found what he was looking for when a young truck driver with the strange name of Elvis Presley walked through the doors and asked to make a record. At the time, one of the services that the studio provided was that anyone could walk in and cut a quick record. Elvis, who was trying his hand at country ballads in the studio, didn’t knock Phillips out immediately, but there was something about the kid that Sam liked. Eventually Phillips signed Presley and during a session with Bill Black on Bass and Scotty Moore on guitar, Elvis let loose with a rocking version of “That’s Alright Mama” that knocked Phillips out. He knew he was on to something and Sun’s rockabilly focus was born.
Sun didn’t stop releasing blues immediately, but it didn’t take long for the Elvis cash machine to start churning and Phillips began actively looking for artists who could provide similar music. Phillips then also signed Johnny Cash who had the first hits of his career on Sun Records, Carl Perkins who wrote “Blue Suede Shoes,” Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, Charlie Rich, Harold Jenkins (later known as Conway Twitty), and many other great rockabilly artists.
As these talented individuals became too big for Sun and Phillips to handle, they left the label for bigger fields. Besides, by the early 60s music was changing rapidly and the rockabilly that Sun has become so famous for was quickly giving way to other forms of rock and roll. Phillips held on to the label into the late 60s, but was never able to repeat the magic of those rockabilly years.
But for that brief manic moment in time during the later half of the 50s, it’s unbelievable how many artists walked into the Memphis Recording Service studio doors as unknown hopefuls and walked out as major rock or country stars! And you can see from just this list of names what an influence this tiny record company operating out of a small rented studio in Memphis has had on the world of rock and country music. It’s an influence that’s still felt today, not only in rockabilly revival artists, but in every modern artist who was influenced by the talent that recorded for Sun Records in the mid to late 50s!
Buster Fayte is an author and rockabilly musician. He Blogs at “Buster Fayte’s Rockabilly Romp” where he writes about the passion he shares with millions of musicians and fans for rockabilly and oldies music. Buster has written several books including the “Complete Home Music Recording Start Kit”. He writes original songs, sings, and plays both guitar and bass.
Article Source: EzineArticles.com