Monday, March 23, 2009

Record Labels: Sun Records

Elvis Presley: Blue Moon Of Kentucky (alternate take) [purchase]

Charlie Rich: Sittin' And Thinkin' [purchase]

Record companies and the people behind them have been hugely important in the development of popular music in the 20th century. While some important musical developments probably were inevitable (i.e., The Beatles), many others can be traced to as much to the people behind the records as to the people behind the microphones. Probably the best example of a man in the music business contributing to the sound of music is Sam Phillips, the founder of Sun Records of Memphis, Tennessee.

Popular legend has it that Sam Phillips was a man with a plan: Find a white singer with the "black" R&B sound to sell to the suburban kids. That's probably mostly true, but Phillips more modestly explains that he was only struggling to "tap resources that weren't being tapped." He found that resource in Elvis Presley. You know the rest of the story. Other notable Sun discoveries and recording artists included Howlin' Wolf, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, and Charlie Rich.

The first featured song is Elvis Presley's 1954 recording of Bill Monroe's 1945 bluegrass hit, Blue Moon Of Kentucky. After the song, Phillips can be heard in the background marvelling at the new sound they were creating: "Hell, that's different. That's a pop song now."

The second featured song (recorded by country crooner Charlie Rich long before Behind Closed Doors), isn't the most representative of the Sun Records sound, but it's a killer track (and you've all heard Folsom Prison Blues and Great Balls Of Fire enough times). So there you have it.

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