Memphis disc jockey Sam Phillips wanted his own studio, a place where Southern rhythm and blues artists could record their music, the kind, as Phillips said, “where the soul of man never dies.”
In 1949, Phillips bought a radiator shop at 706 Union Avenue and converted it into the place that would become rock and roll’s Plymouth Rock. With the motto “We record anything–anywhere–anytime,” the Memphis Recording Service and its label, Sun Records, were open for business.
In 1953, on his day off from M. B. Parker Machinists’ Shop, Elvis Presley goes to Sun’s Memphis Recording Service, Where anyone willing to spend $3.98 could get an acetate disc and record the Ink Spot’s “My Happiness” as a present for his mother. On July 5, 1954, with Scotty Moore playing guitar and Bill Black slapping bass, Presley records “That’s All Right, (Mama).” Two days later the songs debuts on Memphis radio and Sun’s rise began.
Yet there was more to Sun Records than Elvis. Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins, Charlie Rich, Carl Mann, Bill Justis and Jerry Lee Lewis all shared the label during the Fifties. Ike Turner, a deejay from Clarksville, Mississippi, arranged a session with teenaged Jackie Brenston. Their version of “Rocket 88,’ recorded by Sam Phillips in 1951, is considered by many to be the first rock record. Carl Perkins sold two million copies of “Blue Suede Shoes,” making it the first rockabilly song to reach number one on the pop, country, and rhythm and blues charts.
Jerry Lee Lewis recorded Sun’s most successful hits with “Great Balls Of Fire” and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” while Johnny Cash became the label’s most consistent act, with twenty releases on the original Sun label, selling over 10 million records.
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