I sometimes think I was born in the wrong era.
Even as a teenager, it was music from the 50s and 60s that dominated my collection. I’ve visited Graceland in Memphis. I’ve played guitar at Hank Williams’ grave in Alabama. I took a road trip to trace the life of Buddy Holly from Lubbock, TX to the plane crash site in Clear Lake, Iowa. But I would give anything to travel back in time to be there in the moment when Phil Ochs played his first coffee house in Greenwich Village, or the Beatles at Empire Stadium or to find myself walking down Union Avenue on December 4th, 1956.
Fortunately for me, there are records. And Sam Phillips made some of the best of them.
Sam seized his opportunity of being in the right place at the right time, recording the best of what Memphis’s diverse music scene had to offer: blues, country, gospel, boogie, western swing and everything in-between. Before long, Roy Orbison came a-knockin, then Charlie Rich, not to mention the four young men who became known as the “Million Dollar Quartet”. When Sam hit record he wasn’t just making hit records, he was documenting a special moment in history: the birth of Rock & Roll.
Sam named his company Sun as a sign of perpetual optimism: a new day and a new beginning. When we listen to these records, we ARE travelling back in time to that day. They haven’t been tracked, overdubbed, processed and auto-tuned. These are records of musicians in a room, playing together in all its raw, imperfect beauty. More than anything else, he captured the spirit of these pioneers and immortalized them on vinyl, “where the soul of a man never dies”.
Starting this month, the Arts Club Theatre takes audiences back to the greatest impromptu jam session in rock and roll history at 706 Union Ave in Memphis, Tennessee when Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley played together for the first and only time . I’ve had such a good time putting this show together as musical director and I couldn’t be more proud of the cast.