That Big Ol’ Sun Just Keeps On Shining

By Buster Fayte, Featured Author, Sad Man’s Tongue

While there have been far bigger record companies, it’s safe to say that no  record company in history has ever had as formative an influence on the world of  rock and roll than the tiny Sun Records label out of Memphis, Tennessee. With  mega superstars like Elvis, Johnny Cash, Charlie Rich, Conway Twitty, Roy  Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and others all having had their real  start with Sun, it’s no wonder the label’s star still shines 60 years later!

After World War II, hundreds of small independent record labels began to  spring up all over America. For the most part, these labels began turning out  their versions of what the big labels were turning out: lots of country and  western music, gospel music, some blues, and so on. In that respect, Sun Records  wasn’t so different than the rest of them. Sun started out when its owner, Sam  Phillips, got tired of scouting artists for the big labels and rented a small  building on Union Avenue in Memphis and turned it into the Memphis Recording  Service studio. In early 1952, Sun Records was born.

Phillips started out recording blues artists. Of course, Memphis had a  thriving blues scene and Phillips wanted to record the music. He had no real  experience in the studio and so he made what must have been classified as  mistakes in the process. Those mistakes–“excessive” echo, distorted volume  levels, and so on–led to the classic Sun sound that rockabilly fans love so  much today and modern rockabilly musicians strive to emulate (yet never quite  capture!)

Phillips was also open-minded. He willingly worked with the many black blues  artists that came through his doors and treated them with respect and dignity  not normally shows black men in the 1950s southern United States. He paid a  social price from the narrow-minded white community in Memphis, but among  musicians he gained the reputation as someone who would shoot straight and treat  his artists fairly.

Whether it was this reputation, the fact that he offered to cut a recording  for anyone who walked through the door with the money, or plain and simply fate  that brought a completely unknown singer who called himself Elvis to the Memphis  Recording Service I guess no one really knows for sure. But Elvis did walk in  and it didn’t take long for Phillips to prove that his studio and record label  had something that few of those other independent labels–and certainly none of  the major labels–had: a man with true vision.

In 1954 Elvis came in to record country ballads, but between songs he began  goofing around with a crazy, energetic version of an old R&B tune called  “That’s All Right.” Phillips was astute enough to know he was hearing something  not only different, but big. He encouraged Presley to follow his urge to sing in  this style and Elvis went on to record some of the most amazing rockabilly  tracks ever recorded.

Once those early recordings rocketed Elvis into superstardom, he became too  big for Phillips to hold and went off to record for a major label. By that time,  everyone had figured out that this new music would sell and they all jumped on  the bandwagon. But losing Elvis didn’t stop Phillips. Over the next few years he  discovered and recorded more and more rockabilly and launched the careers of  several genuine superstars.

And these are the recordings that live on and have shaped the face of rock  and roll for the past 60 years. In just a few short years–a little over half a  decade–Sun Records turned out recordings that are honored and emulated by  musicians and fans the world over including several million-selling hits.  Phillips, who was never in a position to really cash in on all of this  superstardom, never got as rich as you might think from his amazing contribution  to the music word. He actually made more money from his early investment in a  small start-up motel chain known as Holiday Inn! But what he lacked in financial  reward from his vision, he made up in the respect, love, and gratitude of fans  from all over the world and every decade up to today who acknowledge and value  his contribution to the world of music.

And those old Sun recordings will keep the Sun star shining for many, many  years to come!

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:

About Sad Man's Tongue: Rockabilly Bar & Bistro - Prague

We are a Bar and Bistro where old school meets the new school, dedicated to preserving the roots of rock and roll and it's modern adaptations as well as preserving the cultural identity of our neighborhood through our food, the the principles of the slow food movement. A little bit of rockabilly and retro combine with the kustom kulture of today, in an atmosphere devoid of Pretension.
This entry was posted in Buddy Holly, Carl Perkins, Clothing, Eddie Cochran, Elvis, Elvis Presley, Fashion, Gene Vincent, History, Johnny Burnette, Johnny Cash, Music, Music History, Musicians, Record Labels, Rock Music, Rock n Roll, Rockabilly, Rockabilly Bands & Music, Rockabilly STyle, Sam Phillips, Style, Sun Records and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.