The Source: Did This Man Invent Rock And Roll?

Dec 22, 2015

Sam Phillips (Left) started Sun Records of Memphis to push a new sound.
Credit wikicommons / cc

Rather than Elvis Presley, it was his first producer Sam Phillips of Sun Records of Memphis who has been credited with creating Rock & Roll.

While that may be an exaggeration, it would only be a slight one. Phillip's role in the discovery and development of the founding artists of that and other genre's is incalculable. In addition to Elvis Presley, there was Jerry Lee Lewis, Howlin' Wolf, Ike Turner, Roy Orbison and Johnny Cash.

As we learn from Peter Guralnick, author of "Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock 'n' Roll," Sam had no business plan when he started Sun Records. He just knew he wanted to create a place for the great black artists of the south to make music.

Guralnick says he did this because of his admiration for John Lee Hooker and Lightning Hopkins, because of the sounds he heard on his fathers rented farm from the fields. He believed that this music could change the world.

"He [Sam] believed to the core of his soul that once a mainstream audience heard the music" says Guralnick, "that mainstream audience would find it impossible to resist the power of the music, the beauty of the music - and at that point the music would break down the walls of segregation at the very least within  the musical world."

He had no idea how he would make money doing this, but knew he would do anything to keep his studio open.

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Below are just a few songs that were first recorded at Sun Records of Memphis:

Elvis Presley - "Blue Moon of Kentucky"

This was the side of Elvis' first single. It revamped Bill Monroe's future classic and Bluegrass staple.

Ike Turner "Rocket 88"

Originally credited to Jackie Brentson and his Delta Cats, it was actually the 19-year old Ike Turner and his  Kings of Rythm that recorded this important song.

Roy Orbison - "This Kind Of Love"

Howlin' Wolf - "Goin Down Slow"

According to Peter Guralnick, if there was one artist that Sam Phillips would choose to work with for the rest of his life, it would have been Chester Arthur Bennett aka "Howlin' Wolf"