Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Memphis Day 1: Sun Records

This week I'm in Memphis with my EO Forum Group to tour FED EX. It's a yearly adventure to visit new cities and tour the world's best companies.

Last year was Cisco Systems. See my  VIP Tour of Cisco Systems on October 13th, 2010.

Memphis Day 1 - was a private reception at Sun Records, the label where Elvis, Conway and Johnny Cash all got their start. It was beyond words to be in what many call the "Birth Place" of Rock and Roll.

For me it was extra special, I think, because it was an audio engineering degree that I was taking in college before I left to start my first company.
What amazed me most was that the studio actually sat empty for over 20 years before it was brought back to life as a museum and working studio. Imagine how this jewel of history could have easily been turned into a Subway sandwich shop, but some how was never rented out as retail space during those dark years.
Just over 20 years ago, U2 came to Sun Studio to record "Angel of Harlem", "When Love Comes To Town" and "Love Rescue Me" for their Rattle and Hum album. Bono says they came to Sun Studio to experience "the chill" you get from the room's history. To add some additional chill to the experience, the band enlisted "Cowboy" Jack Clement to co-produce the tracks. Clement had produced tracks by Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins in the early days at Sun Studio. The session allowed U2 to add their own magic to our history as Angel of Harlem became one of the biggest selling singles recorded here at Sun Studio.
At the studio they even had some of the original microphones used by such greats as Elvis and Jerry Lee.
The Sun Sound began when Sam Phillips launched his record company in February of 1952. He named it Sun Records as a sign of his perpetual optimism: a new day and a new beginning. Sam rented a small space at 706 Union Avenue for his own all-purpose studio. The label was launched amid a growing number of independent labels. In a short while Sun gained the reputation throughout Memphis as a label that treated local artists with respect and honesty. Sam provided a non-critical, spontaneous environment that invited creativity and vision.
Sam Phillips
As a businessman, Phillips was patient and willing to listen to almost anyone who came in off the street to record. Memphis was a happy home to a diverse musical scene: gospel, blues, hillbilly, country, boogie, and western swing. Taking advantage of this range of talent, there were no style limitations at the label. In one form or another Sun recorded them all.
Then in 1954 Sam found Elvis Presley, an artist who could perform with the excitement, unpredictability and energy of a blues artist but could reach across regional, musical and racial barriers.