This is the Fourth article in a series that highlights places to visit while in Memphis for the IBC. Jimmi Langemo of Jimmi and the Band of Souls used to spend 12 to 15 weeks of the year in Memphis doing diversity and leadership development work.
Visiting Sun Records might seem an easy one to list, but given a choice, most people I have talked to have opted for Graceland instead of going to Sun. For me though, Sun is the easy choice.
Because this is the place where modern rock and roll music started. Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats, and featuring a 19-year old Ike Turner, recorded “Rocket 88” in this studio in the spring of 1951. This song is credited as the first rock and roll song. Just three years later, Elvis laid down his first tracks and by 1955 rock and roll was in full swing.
This is also the place where some of the most influential blues artists of the century got their start. One of my favorite blues singers, Howlin’ Wolf, started here before moving to Chess Records. B.B. King, Little Milton, Rufus Thomas and Carla Thomas also started here. All four went on to be very influential and popular blues or R&B artists.
Early rockabilly also was recorded here. Elvis, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash all recorded seminal rockabilly songs in this studio.
Yeah, this is the Mount Ararat of rock-n-roll, blues and R&B.
Don’t take my word for it. You can feel it when you first walk in the door. In spite of the thousands of tourists who have gone before you, in spite of all the noise and chatter, you can still hear the echoes of the singers and players as they worked into the early morning hours in the studio.
It’s not often a place can inspire such reverence in me while also making me smile and tap my feet. It’s a singular experience.
So go to Sun Studios. Order a milk shake, pick up some of the music they sell, and tour one of the most fantastic 475 square feet on the planet.
It takes about an hour to tour the studio. Tours are scheduled so it doesn’t hurt to call. Add a milkshake and digging through the CDs and vinyl and the trip takes about 90 minutes.
For more information, go to http://www.sunstudio.com/