What a thrill it was to visit Sun Studio at 706 Union Ave, Memphis, Tennessee! To step through the doors of this old building is to walk into Rock 'n Roll history. It was at Sun Studios that visionary producer, Sam Phillips, discovered and recorded some of the finest Rock n Roll, country, and blues talent ever. In 1952 Sam released Jackie Brenston’s “Rocket 88“, thought by many to be the first Rock in Roll record (Ike Turner played backup in that one). It was at the Sun studios that a teenage Elvis Presley paid $3 to record a gift vinyl for his mother. Sun secretary, Marion Keisker, recognized his talent as she was recording him and made a duplicate to play to Sam Phillips. Sam obviously liked what he heard and called Elvis back to burn his first five commercial records (each now a valuable piece of rock ‘n roll memorabilia), and the rest as they say is Rock ‘n Roll history.
As you enter the recording studio think of some of the other great talent that recorded here during its greatest years in the mid-1950s (besides Elvis) including Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Charlie Rich, Howlin’ Wolf, and B.B. King (to only name a few). These are some of my favorite artists and some of my favorite songs, all were recorded right here -- it sent chills down my spine. The studio is little changed from the 1950s, except that there is a small but interesting museum on the second floor outlining some of the history and artists of Sun Records. I held the microphone Elvis used when he recorded at Sun. The X's on the recording studio floor indicate where Elvis Presley, Bill Black and Scotty Moore stood when they recorded "That's All Right" in July of 1954. Wow, it was a thrill!
You can do a one hour tour of the old Sun Studio which includes the second floor museum and, of course, the recording studio. Be sure to look at the old jukebox in the gift shop which used to be an old diner. Remarkably it still has an original Elvis Sun label 45 in its stack (though it plays very poorly because of how often it’s been listened to)! It plays Elvis’ “Mystery Train”.
In 2003, Sun Studio was officially recognized as a National Historic Landmark, but it isn't just a tourist attraction, it's still being used to a limited extent for recording sessions. Some artists who have recorded there over the last few years include U2, Def Leppard, Ringo Starr, Bonnie Raitt, John Mellencamp, Chris Isaak, Carrie Underwood and Lisa Marie Presley.