Sun Studio: The Birth of Rock 'N' Roll

Since we're in the land of Elvis, we had to see where he got his big break- Sun Studio.

We headed to Sun Studio guided by The Rockwalk, the latest act of "tactical urbanism" in Memphis designed to steer tourists, walking from their Downtown hotels, through the Edge District. We found the signs super interesting, since we didn't know all the local history.
We knew about the Studio through several movies but we didn't know all the details. We came to learn more, to trace the roots of the songs we grew up with.
And boy did we. Sun Studio's owner, Sam Phillips, opened his studio in 1950 with the goal of capturing the pure, raw energy of Beale St. What happened was that he ended up playing an important role in the emergence of rock and roll as the major form of popular music in the 1950s. He is most notably attributed with the discovery of Elvis Presley, and is associated with several other noteworthy rhythm and blues and rock and roll stars of the period.
Phillips recorded what many consider the first rock and roll record: “Rocket 88” by Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats, a band led by 19-year-old Ike Turner, who also wrote the song.
The tour ended in the actual studio where all the music magic happened. We were allowed to step up to the big black X on the floor (right where Elvis stood), grabbed the Shure 55 microphone (the one Elvis used) and strike our best Elvis pose. I was in HEAVEN.

This photo documents the Million Dollar Quartet, the name given to recordings made on Tuesday December 4, 1956 in this studio. The recordings were of an impromptu jam session between Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash. Oh how cool that would have been to see.
After we learned all our tour allotted us at Sun Studio, we headed to the Sam C. Phillips Recording Studio, which opened in 1960. Internationally regarded at that time as a state-of-the-art facility, it was built to fill the needs of the Sun Records recording label that the older, smaller Sun Records Studio was no longer able to handle. It is still in business and is carrying on the tradition started so many decades ago.

Memphis has been a city rich in so many things- Incredible food, warm people, unbelievably interesting history, fabulous museums, and sights we had only hope to see. Any expectations were far exceeded. What a great stop on our path East!

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Cyndy Brown said...

I'm enjoying my "armchair" tour of the south.

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