“I don’t know how music works, I’m just glad that it does”*…
Long time readers will know of your correspondent’s fascination with Sun Records, it’s presiding spirit, Sam Phillips (c.f., “So you wanna be a rock and roll star…“), and the acts–a pantheon of early rockers– that Sun birthed (c.f., “Collecting is my passion“). Turns out, there was a very particular method to the madness…
If rock and roll is a religion, then Sun Studio is one of its holiest temples. The walls of this garage-turned-recording-studio in Memphis reverberate with the echoes of the past. This is where Elvis became king, Cash walked the line, and Perkins put on his blue suede shoes. This is where Roy Orbison, B.B. King, Ike Turner, and Jerry Lee Lewis all got their start. This is where rock and roll was born.
Behind every guitar riff, drum beat, and lyrical innuendo, there was the man in the control room who engineered it all. Sam Phillips helped turn poor boys, sharecroppers’ sons, and ex-servicemen into legends, icons, and superstars. “He was always trying to invent sound,” says Sam’s son, Jerry Phillips, “He felt the studio was his laboratory.”
The inside story: “How Sam Phillips Invented the Sound of Rock and Roll.”
As we swivel our hips, we might sing a doleful birthday ditty to Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup; he was born on this date in 1905 (though some sources give the date as August 24). A Delta blues singer, songwriter and guitarist, Crudup is probably best known today as the writer of “That’s All Right (Mama),” the A side of Elvis Presley’s first single (recorded, of course, by Sam Phillips at Sun), and for “My Baby Left Me” and “So Glad You’re Mine,” also covered by Elvis (and many others).
Southeastern Louisiana University rock historian Joseph Burns suggests that “That’s All Right (Mama)” is the world’s oldest rock and roll song, and notes that it contains (what is probably) the first ever guitar solo break.