With today’s sophisticated software, almost anyone can record music and cut their own CD, or create a digital file that can be downloaded by listeners. But let’s go back to 1952, when recording equipment was a lot more expensive. And much more scarce. A fellow could create a record label, then charge people to record their music.
In 1953, a truck driver came into the Memphis studio of Sun Records on his lunch hour and paid four whole dollars to record two songs. He later said it was a gift for his mother, but he probably wanted to be discovered. Sam Phillips, the legendary owner of Sun Records, wasn’t there at the time, so his secretary managed the recording. She was sufficiently impressed to tell Phillips about this
Elvis fellow, but it was still months later before Phillips got him back in the studio. This time, there was no missing his talent, and his first song (“That’s All Right, Mama”) came out in 1954. Elvis had only five singles on Sun Records before moving to RCA, but the partnership was the springboard to success for both artist and label.
Sun Records became the leading distributor of what came to be known as “rockabilly” records. Among the label’s stars were Jerry Lee Lewis (“Great Balls of Fire,” “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On”), Carl Perkins (“Blue Suede Shoes”), Johnny Cash (“I Walk the Line”), Charlie Rich (“Raunchy”), and Roy Orbison (“Ooby Dooby”). Unfortunately for Sun and Sam Phillips, his artists became so successful that he couldn’t afford to keep them. The Sun began to set after about a ten-year phenomenal run. But during that time, it had such a profound impact on both rock and country music that it holds a permanent place in American musical history.