The reception area after the tour groups leave
Sun Studios: The Birthplace of Rock ‘N Roll
No visit to Memphis, TN, is complete without a visit to the legendary Sun Studio. It was here that Elvis Presley recorded “That’s All Right Mamma” in July 1954, opening up a new genre of music called Rock ‘n Roll. It was an instant hit and Sun Studio became one of the most famous recording studios in the world. This year (2014) is the 60th anniversary of that momentous recording, and the city of Memphis is celebrating.
Elvis developed an innovative and different sound, combining Blues, Gospel and Country music. That quality made him a worldwide celebrity within two years and he went on to become one of the most famous and beloved entertainers in history. This studio didn’t only launch the career of Elvis, but also of Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, B.B. King, Roy Orbison, Charlie Rich and many others. Generations of musicians have been affected by all those who recorded here and, in fact, musicians still continue to record here at night.
Some of the vinyl records and old record covers on display
Upstairs, our guide explains something about the story of Sam Phillips
The studio building is not large, which makes its impact on the music world even more significant. We entered the studio building into a small café/bar/shop, with a great selection of music CDs and various shirts and T-shirts. It’s a small space and can get very crowded, especially if there are large tour groups waiting for the next tour. Buy a ticket here for the guided tour, which lasts about half an hour.
Taking the guided tour is fun, but tends to be rather crowded, especially on the top floor, where the large tour group blocks out seeing much of anything in the glass cases lining the walls. That’s a shame, as the information that our guide tells us is fascinating. She tells about early Blues musicians, and how Sam Phillips got into the recording business, and something about early radio DJs and how they picked up on this new music. We also learned about the studio secretary, Marion Keisker, who really believed in young Elvis Presley even when Sam Phillips at first thought he wasn’t that great. We wished that the tour group size could be a lot smaller.
The group then goes downstairs to the recording studio, where you can hold the actual microphone used by Elvis and many of
Vera G tests out the mic used by Elvis and those other famous musicians
the other great musicians, and where you can imagine those famous singers and players jamming and making music history.
A fun, but crowded tour. Our thanks to our guide that day, Nina, who did a lovely job and who is very enthusiastic about her subject.
It’s easy to get to Sun Studio: catch the free shuttle bus that runs between the Rock ‘n Soul Museum on 3rd Street (next to the Fedex Forum arena), Sun Studio and Heartbreak Hotel. The shuttle runs every hour from 10:30am.
This famous photo of The Million Dollar Quartet is displayed in many places (Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis)