Sun Studio - birthplace of rock! [Archive] - Audio & Video Forums


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11-21-2005, 10:33 AM
Just returned from a whirlwind trip to Memphis, TN. Although I didn't have time to work in a trip to Graceland, I did go to Sun Studio. The vibe there is awesome. I had goosebumps the whole time.

The first rock'n roll record, "Rocket 88", was recorded there in 1951. Some say it was Rock Around the Clock, but if you listen to Rocket 88, I don't see how one can deny the rock elements.

The first distorted guitar sound was recorded there by Howlin' Wolf. It seems he was travelling from Mississippi to Memphis with his amp strapped to the top of his car and it fell off. He stuffed it with newspaper to try to fix it because he couldn't find or afford a replacement amp. Sam Phillips, always looking for a new sound, liked the busted amp sound and recorded Howlin' Wolf using it.

Elvis recorded his first song there at age 18. Phillips was out that day but his receptionist made a back-up copy of Elvis singing "My Happiness". Elvis said he wanted to make a record for his Mom for her birthday, but it turns out that his mom's birthday had passed 2 or 3 months before he came to Memphis. Elvis was very insistent, but didn't record That's Alright Mama until about a year later. I heard the FIRST radio broadcast of That's Alright...

That famous picture of The Million Dollar Quartet - Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, and Carl Perkins: Well, Sam Phillips was wise enough to turn on the tape and let it run. But not all of'em hung around for the recording session. In the picture, Cash has his jacket on and was about to leave. I've read a little about the debate over whether Cash was actually caught on tape. From what I can tell, without having listened to all the recording yet (I picked up the cd) is that Sun's official position is that Cash was getting ready to leave - that's it. It's not that Cash is or isn't on the recording. I'll listen for myself. Anyhow, many people still don't know who that guy with the guitar is in the picture (Carl Perkins) and many believe since Elvis was pictured at the piano that he actually played it on the recording. Of course it was "Killer" - a young studio musician making $15 a day when he worked named Jerry Lee Lewis.

If you like that old Johnny Cash and The Tennessee Two sound or Jerry Lee Lewis or are just interested in rock history, I highly recommend the Sun Studio tour. You can drop large wads of cash in the gift shop too.