81eBgpc-10L._UX522_.jpg
nuovo 2022_edited.png

                                                                        SUN HISTORY

Sam Phillips  was born on January 5, 1923 in the northwest corner of Alabama near Florence, about 150 miles east of  Memphis. He got his first radio job in 1940 at WLAY in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and later took correspondence  courses in radio engineering. He worked at WMSL in Decatur, Alabama, and at WLAC in Nashville before  moving to Memphis in 1945.  At WREC, Phillips was primarily a radio announcer (the term ''disc jockey'' was coined in the early 1950s), with  a daily show at 4 P.M. called ''Songs Of The West''. In those days, radio engineers had multiple duties.  Phillips  was also a recording engineer, in charge of the station's sound effects, and buyer for the station's record library.  In addition, he was part of the technical staff for WREC's nightly broadcast on the CBS network of touring big  bands at the Skyway, the Peabody Hotel's rooftop ballroom. Sam Phillips started a show on WREC in Memphis  in the late 1940s that was similar to Dewey Phillips' ''Red Hot And Blue''. He played blues, pop, and  jazz on the “Saturday Afternoon Tea Dance''. In January 1950, Phillips started his own recording business in addition to his regular jobs. The Memphis  Recording Service opened at 706 Union Avenue, about a mile east of the downtown area. The small one-story  brick building had a reception area/office at the front of the building, a recording studio in the middle section,  and a small control room in the rear. The entire building is only about 18 feet wide and 57 feet long. Then went Sam Phillips over to the Art Craft Printing Company on Union Avenue just a block from the Peabody Hotel and had cards made up, which constituted his only advertising. At the top of the card is the standard business information, at its center a stock image of a bow-tied, white-jacketed man who could very well be a radio announcer or a society bandleader at a stand-up mike, while below is emblazoned the slogan that Sam had come up with, set off with quotation marks, like a personal promise  read ''We Record Anything – Anywhere – Anytime''. Initially that included weddings, funerals, bar  mitzvahs, advertisements for radio, etc., in addition to musicians in his studio. In the beginning there was little opportunity to make good on that promise. For the few customers who wandered in to make a ''personal'' record, a song, a recitation, a special message to a loved one, it cost $2 to cut a one-sided disc, $3 for two sides, with Sam operating the Presto lathe and Marion Keisker sweeping up the acetate shavings afterward. Marion directed as much business as possible to the studio; she brought in as many of the commercial accounts that she had been recording at the station as she could, and she brought all of the prestige that she had built up over the years with her radio work to help set the Memphis Recording Service apart. Because Sam Phillips was tied up at the station every day until mid-afternoon, she spent much of her day riding the streetcar back and forth between the studio and the hotel, doing her banking first thing in the morning and making sure she was back at the station in time for her signature show, ''Meet Kitty Kelly'', but keeping the studio open for as many hours as she could, if only to give the new business a face. In the last two decades, music historians have sought out Sam Phillips to document his account of the first years  of rock and roll. He was out of the public eye for some time, but Phillips has been more available in recent years: ''I opened the Memphis Recording Service with the intention of recording singers and musicians from Memphis  and the locality who I felt had something that people should be able to hear. I'm talking about blues, both the  country style and the rhythm style, and also about gospel or spiritual music and about white country music. I  always felt that people who played this type of music had not been given the opportunity to reach an audience...  My aim was to try and record the blues and other music I liked and to prove whether I was right or wrong about  this music. I knew, or I felt I knew, that there was a bigger audience for blues than just the black man of the mid- South. There were city markets to b e reached, and I knew that whites listened to blues surreptitiously''. Phillips also functioned as a folklorist, documenting music that was fading into the past. ''With the jet age  coming on, with cotton-picking machines as big as a building going down the road, with society changing, I  knew that this music wasn’t going to be available in a pure sense forever''. Initially, Sam Phillips recorded artists and sold or leased his masters to various  record companies. His first deal, with 4 Star/Gilt Edge Records, was a song by a blind pianist from south  Memphis. Lost John Hunter's ''Cool Down Mama'' and Boogie For Me Baby'' was ''a crude boogie blues that  could pick up some southern juke coin'', according to the review in Billboard, a record business trade  publication. In late summer 1950, Phillips launched his own record company with partner Dewey Phillips (the  hot Memphis radio announcer, no relation) in order to issue and promote his own products. They called their  label Phillips, but it only lasted a few weeks, issuing three hundred copies of Joe Hill Louis' ''Boogie In The  Park'' in August 1950.  Phillips soon began working with Modern Records of Los Angeles, owned and operated by the Bihari brothers.  Their new subsidiary, RPM Records, was looking for ''new music with a downhome feel''. Jules Bihari sent a  guitar player from Indianola, Mississippi, to Sam Phillips to record. Riley King was already popular locally and  known as B.B. King (for Blues Boy, or more likely, Black Boy). Phillips recorded King, one of the first artists on  the new RPM label, from mid-1950 until mid-1951. Even at this early stage in his career, Sam Phillips used recording techniques that were soon recognized as  hallmarks of his records. He put up-tempo boogies on the front sides of records, slow numbers on back sides,  and overamplified on faster songs to get a primitive fuzzy sound. One of King’s songs had the guitar, piano, and  bass playing a boogie riff in unison, creating a bottom-heavy sound that challenged ''established precepts of how  recordings should be balanced''. These early recording sessions with King also document Phillips' skill as a  record producer. King’s version of a Tampa Red song had an explosiveness missing from the original record, and  ''it was that blistering energy and willingness to experiment that pointed unerringly into the future''. Sam Phillips  did not record King after June 1951 because of a dispute over a song that Phillips recorded and leased to Chess  Records in Chicago, rather than the Biharis' RPM label. ''Rocket 88'', a song about a hot Oldsmobile, is one of the contenders for the title ''first rock and roll record.” It  featured Jackie Brenston, the singer, and Ike Turner, the bandleader, on piano. ''Rocket 88'' was released in April  1951. It hit number 1 on Billboard’s rhythm and blues chart in June and eventually became the second biggest  rhythm and blues hit of the year. According to Sam Phillips, ''Rocket 88'' was the record that really kicked it off  for me as far as broadening the base of music and opening up wider markets for our local music''. Phillips  resigned from WREC in June 1951 after ''Rocket 88'' became a hit. The combination of his regular jobs and work  for the Memphis Recording Service had required 18-20 hour work days, and Phillips was exhausted. The following excerpt is from the Memphis Commercial Appeal, which ran its first story on Sam Phillips after  the success of ''Rocket 88''. ''He has agreements with two recording companies to locate and record hillbilly and race music. Race numbers  are those tailored for the Negro trade. Sam auditions musicians with original songs. When he finds something  he's sure will sell, he gets it on acetate and sends it to one of the companies. He doesn’t charge the musicians  anything... Sam may branch out one day, so he says if anyone wants to bring him a pop song, he'll be glad to  look it over''. Sam Phillips first recorded Chester Burnett (The Howlin’ Wolf) in the spring of 1951. Born near Aberdeen,  Mississippi, Howlin' Wolf was a singer who gave the traditional Delta blues another dimension. They recorded  ''Moanin' at Midnight'' and ''How Many More Years'' in August 1951, and Phillips leased these recordings to  Chess Records. ''Moanin'' went to number 10 on the national Rhythm & Blues chart and ''How Many More  Years'' reached number 4. ''The bizarre, haunting images that populated Wolf's songs, the quality of his voice,  and his frightening energy were marks of a true original. His music ran the gamut, from purest evil to  heartbreaking tenderness. There was an emotional greatness to Howlin' Wolf, a greatness that Phillips was the  first to capture''. Phillips did not record the Wolf after October 1952 because he left Memphis for  Chicago where he eventually became ''one of the seminal figures in postwar blues''. In Phillips' estimation, the  Wolf was his greatest discovery. Even though he preferred the creative side of the business, Phillips started his own record company early in 1952  because new record companies had come to town, and also because many local artists were leaving Memphis.  With his own label, Phillips could run the business like he wanted and release records that other labels rejected. ''When I was leasing to other labels, they wanted me to compromise. They wanted a fuller blues sound than I did.  They were selling excitement. I was recording the feel I found in the blues. I wanted to get that gut feel onto  record. I realized that it was going to be much more difficult to merchandise than what Atlantic or Specialty, for  example, were doing, but I was willing to go with it'', recalled Sam Phillips. He named his new company Sun Records and selected an eye-catching record label of primary yellow,  highlighted in brown. At the center of the label stood a crowing rooster in profile before a rising sun motif, with  stylized sun rays fanned from one horizon to the other. SUN was written in large block letters over the rooster,  and musical notes on a staff ringed the outside edge of the label. Phillips thoughtfully chose the name Sun and its  distinctive label design: ''The sun to me, even as a kid back on the farm, was a universal kind of thing. A new  day, a new opportunity''. The first record issued on the new Sun label (March 27, 1952), Sun number 175, was an original instrumental,  ''Drivin' Slow'', by alto saxophonist Johnny London. Even on this first release, all the hallmarks of a Sam Phillips Sun record were in place: the raw sound, the  experimental origin, the dark texture, even the trademark echo. Phillips and London created the illusion of a sax  heard down a long hallway on a humid night by rigging something like a telephone booth over London's head  while he played. The record’s appeal had more to do with feeling than virtuosity, in short, it offered everything  music buyers could expect from Sun for the remainder of the decade''. The first recording on the Sun label considered to be a classic was ''Easy'', an instrumental released in March  1953 by Walter Horton (Little Walter, and later, Big Walter). Horton played the same theme five times, with mounting intensity. By the fourth chorus, he was playing  with such intensity that his harmonica sounded like a tenor saxophone. Phillips' virtuosity with tape delay echo  was rarely used to better advantage: he made three instruments (harmonica, guitar, drums) sound as full as an  orchestra. Any other instrument would have been redundant. Sun Records had its first national hit in the spring of 1953 with ''Bear Cat'', which went to number 3 on the  national rhythm and blues chart. It was an ''answer song'' to ''Hound Dog'' by Big Mama Thornton (Willie Mae  Thornton), sung by local radio announcer Rufus Thomas. ''Bear Cat'' was the first record to make money for Sun  Records and it put the company on the map. ''Feelin' Good'', by Little Junior's Blue Flames (released in July  1953), was also commercially successful, reaching number 5 on the national rhythm and blues chart. Sun's next  hit was ''Just Walkin' In The Rain'' by The Prisonaires, a black vocal group of five inmates from the Tennessee  State Penitentiary in Nashville. They sang close-harmony gospel style and came under armed guard to record at  706 Union on June 1, 1953. As part of the warden’s rehabilitation program, they were allowed to perform on  radio, in concerts, and at the Governor’s mansion, but ''Just Walkin' In The Rain'' was their only hit. Phillips  recorded a number of important blues artists in the early 1950s, including Sleepy John Estes, Little Milton  Campbell, Rosco Gordon, Dr. Ross, Harmonica Frank Floyd, Willie Nix, Billy ''The Kid'' Emerson, and Bobby  ''Blue'' Bland. It’s safe to say that the blues ha s never sounded as mean, raw, or intense as it did on countless days and  nights at 706 Union Avenue. Amplifiers were cranked way past the point of distortion, guitars slashed like  straight razors, rickety drum kits were pounded with fury and abandon, and the stories both sung and shouted  spanned the gamut of the black Southern experience. Even if he'd never issued a record on the shining yellow  Sun label, even if Elvis Presley had never entered his small recording studio..., Phillips would rank as one of the  most visionary record producers of our time on the basis of his early fifties blues work. In February 1954, Phillips and his brother Jud started a music publishing company, Hi Lo Music, to avoid  placing their copyrights with other companies. In May 1954, Phillips recorded ''Cotton Crop Blues'' with James  Cotton on vocals and Auburn Pat Hare on guitar. This was ''one of the truly great blues recordings'', but  recording of traditional blues at 706 Union fell off in 1954 with the growing popularity of rhythm and blues  music. Sun Records soon became synonymous with rock and roll, overshadowing Phillips' role in blues  recording ''and the insight that (he) brought to recording the blues. He worked hard to get the best from his  artists. Phillips would sit behind his tape deck until sunup if he thought the musicians on the studio floor might  capture the sound that he heard in his head''. Phillips struggled to make money in the record business for almost six years. Eventually he saw that the market  at that time was too small for the kind of music he was recording. The base wasn’t broad enough because of racial prejudice. It wasn’t broad enough to get the amount of  commercial play and general acceptance overall, not just in the South. Now these were basically good people,  but conceptually they did not understand the kinship between black and white people in the South. So I knew  what I had to do to broaden the base of acceptance. Elvis Presley graduated from Humes High School in north Memphis on June 3, 1953 and  went to work at M.B. Parker Machinists on July 1. Later that summer, he recorded a personal record at the  Memphis Recording Service. Presley paid $3.98 for an acetate with two sides, both ballads. While he was there,  Presley talked with Marion Keisker, a long-time Memphis radio personality who helped Sam Phillips run his  businesses at 706 Union, and asked if she knew of a band that needed a singer. He made an impression on  Keisker which she later remembered well, especially his answer to her question about which hillbilly singer he  sounded like: ''I don’t sound like nobody''.  At that time, Presley had a child’s guitar that he played in the park, on  his porch steps, and in a band with his buddies around their housing project. He soon aspired to be a member of  the Songfellows, an amateur church quartet. Presley dropped by 706 Union a number of times after that initial meeting to see if Marion Keisker had any leads for him. In January 1954, Presley paid for a second personal record, and tried out for a professional band that spring. Eddie Bond, the band leader, told him to keep driving a truck because he would never make it as a singer. Presley later revealed that Bond’s rejection ''broke my heart''. There is little question that he stepped through the doorway at 706 Union with the idea, if not of stardom, at the  very least of being discovered. In later years he would always say that he wanted to make a personal record ''to  surprise my mother''. Or ''I just wanted to hear what I sounded like''. But, of course, if he had simply wanted to  record his voice, he could have paid twenty-five cents at W. T. Grant’s on Main Street. Instead, Elvis went to a  professional facility, where a man who had been written up in the papers would hear him sing.  Marion Keisker finally called Presley on Saturday, June 26 to set up an appointment, almost a year after he  recorded his first personal disc. On a recent trip to Nashville, Phillips had gotten an acetate of a song that  reminded him of Presley's voice. They worked on ''Without You'' for a long time that afternoon, and Phillips had  Presley sing a number of other songs after his unsuccessful attempts with ''Without You''. A week later, Phillips  set Presley up with two members of the Starlite Wranglers, Scotty Moore (guitar) and Bill Black (bass), and the  three of them went to the studio on Monday, July 5 so Phillips could hear them on tape. Nothing special  happened at the session until they took a break and Presley began fooling around and playing an old blues song  by Arthur Crudup, ''That’s All Right''. Sam recognized it right away. He was amazed that the boy even knew Arthur ''Big Boy'' Crudup, nothing in any  of the songs he had tried so far gave any indication that he was drawn to this kind of music at all. But this was  the sort of music that Sam had long ago wholeheartedly embraced... And the way the boy performed it, it came  across with a freshness and an exuberance, it came across with the kind of clear-eyed, unabashed originality that  Sam sought in all the music that he recorded, it was ''different'', it was itself. Phillips got his friend and kindred spirit, disc jockey Dewey Phillips, to play ''That’s All Right'' on his radio  show ''Red Hot And Blue'', then near the height of its popularity. The response was immediate, hundreds of  phone calls and telegrams. Dewey played the song a number of times that night and also interviewed Presley  during the show. By the time the record was pressed and ready for release, there were 6,000 orders for it locally.  Sun record number 209 was released on Monday, July 17, 1954. Phillips had been ''looking for something that  nobody could categorize'', and this song did not sound exclusively black or white or country or pop. Initially,  many people who heard the song thought that Presley was a black man. Elvis Presley's first big public appearance with Scotty and Bill, the Blue Moon Boys, was on Friday, July 30 at  Memphis’s outdoor amphitheater in Overton Park Shell. The show featured Slim Whitman, a star from the  Louisiana Hayride, which some called the Grand Ole Opry's ''farm club''. He drew a hillbilly crowd, but they  went wild when Elvis shook and wiggled his legs, his natural way of performing. The new record made  Billboard's regional charts by the end of August, but it was the B side that was more popular. Phillips backed  ''That’s All Right'' with an unorthodox version of ''Blue Moon Of Kentucky'', a waltz that was a hit in 1946 for  Bill Monroe, country music's elder statesman. By early September, ''Blue Moon'' was number 1 on the  Memphis Country & Western chart and ''That’s All Right'' was number 7. Sun released Presley's second record in late September. ''It was an even bolder declaration of intent than the first,  especially the strident blues number ''Good Rockin' Tonight'', which rocked more confidently than anything they  could have imagined in those first, uncertain days in the studio''. Presley’s growing popularity enabled Phillips to  arrange a guest appearance on the Grand Ole Opry for October 2, 1954, even though the Opry had never before  scheduled a performer at such an early stage in his career. The performance of ''Blue Moon Of Kentucky'' by  Elvis Presley, Scotty and Bill received a ''polite, but somewhat tepid, reception'', and the Opry's manager told  Phillips that Presley ''just did not fit the Opry mold''. It was a big disappointment for Elvis. But soon they were  off to Louisiana for Presley's first appearance on the Louisiana Hayride, ''the Opry's more innovative rival in  Shreveport'' that had a show every Saturday night. On the third Saturday of the month the show broadcast with a  50,000 watt signal that reached up to twenty-eight states. After only one guest appearance, Presley signed a  standard one year contract to be one of the Hayride's regular members, and he and his band quit their day jobs. For the next year, Elvis Presley and the Blue Moon Boys toured almost constantly. They started out at civic clubs  and school functions in Mississippi and Arkansas, in addition to their weekly performances on the Louisiana  Hayride. In November and December 1954, they also played in Houston, adding spots in West Texas, East  Texas, and Missouri in January. By the time Presley performed for the first time at Memphis' Ellis Auditorium on  February 6, 1955, he and the Blue Moon boys were working almost every night. In mid-February they were  booked as part of a Hank Snow/Jamboree Attractions package tour that began in Roswell, New Mexico. Presley  took his first airplane flight and first trip to New York City on March 23, 1955 to try out for Arthur Godfrey’s  Talent Scouts contest, but he did not pass the audition. Another tour with Hank Snow/Jamboree Attractions  began on May 1, 1955 in New Orleans, visiting twenty cities in three weeks, including a number of stops in  Florida. There was a ''riot'' backstage after the concert in Jacksonville, Florida. In July, 1955, Presley took a  vacation and was back on the road again for the rest of the summer and fall. The audiences had never heard music like Presley played before, and they had never seen anyone who performed  like Presley either. The shy, polite, mumbling boy gained self-confidence with every appearance, which soon led  to a transformation on stage. People watching the show were astounded and shocked, both by the ''ferocity of his  performance'', and the crowd's reaction to it. Even in the early days, Elvis almost always stole the show from the  headliners, and concert lineups had to be rearranged accordingly. Nobody followed Elvis. Roy Orbison saw  Presley for the first time in Odessa, Texas: ''His energy was incredible, his instinct was just amazing. I just didn’t  know what to make of it. There was just no reference point in the culture to compare it''. ''He’s the new rage'',  said a Louisiana radio executive. ''Sings hillbilly in rhythm and blues time. Can you figure that out? He wears  pink pants and a black coat''. Elvis caused a great commotion everywhere he went. Throughout the South,  Presley had girls screaming and fainting and chasing after him. Sam Phillips was also on the road constantly after the Overton Park Shell performance in July 1954, promoting  the new records to distributors, disc jockeys, record store owners, and jukebox operators. His experiences,  however, were entirely different. Time and again, disc jockeys who were old friends and/or long-standing  business associates told Phillips they could not play the Presley records. A country deejay said ''Sam, they’ll run  me out of town''. To an rhythm and blues deejay, ''That’s All Right'' was a country song. A major pop station disc  jockey told Phillips, ''your music is just so ragged. I just can’t handle it right now. Maybe later on''. WELO in  Tupelo, Mississippi, Presley's hometown, would not even play the record, in spite of many requests from  teenagers, because the deejay did not like the new music. Sam Phillips persevered in spite of all the rejection he  was getting, and kept trying to turn it around. ''I needed the attention that I got from the people that hated what I  was doing, that acted like: 'Here is somebody trying to thrust junk on us and classify it as our music'''. He was a man swept up by a belief, in a sound and in an idea. And as discouraged as he might sometimes get, as  harsh as the reality of selling this new music might be, he never strayed from his belief, he never allowed him  self to be distracted from his main goal. Which was to get them to listen. Phillips could feel a revolution was on the way. There were already lots of country boys coming to his studio to  play the new music, which initially got the name rockabilly. ''Sam knew that a day was coming... when the  music would prevail''. Presley was still a regional sensation and unknown to the national market when he got the record industry's  attention. By the summer of 1955, almost all the major and independent record labels were inquiring about him.  Sam Phillips had mixed feelings about selling Presley's contract, but his operations could not accommodate the  Presley phenomenon, his finances were very tight, and he had other artists who needed his attention. Presley'’s  parents signed a contract in August 1955 which soon forced the issue. Colonel Tom Parker became ''special  adviser to Elvis Presley''. He was the head of Jamboree Attractions, one of the major promoters and bookers of  country and western talent, and had booked Presley on the Hank Snow package tours earlier that year. At that  time, Parker was known as the best promoter in the business. In October Parker asked Phillips to name his price  for Presley's contract, and Parker made sure that it was met. The deal was signed at 706 Union Avenue on  November 21, 1955. RCA-Victor bought Elvis Presley's contract from Sun Records for $35,000, plus $5,000 in  back royalties owed to Presley. The story ran in the Memphis Press-Scimitar the next day: ''Elvis Presley, 20, Memphis recording star and entertainer who zoomed into big-time and the big money almost  overnight, has been released from his contract with Sun Record Co. of Memphis. Phillips and RCA officials did  not reveal terms but said the money involved is probably the highest ever paid for a contract release for a  country-western recording artist. ''I feel Elvis is one of the most talented youngsters today'', Phillips said, ''and by  releasing his contract to RCA-Victor we will give him the opportunity of entering the largest organization of its  kind in the world, so his talents can be given the fullest opportunity''. Sam Phillips never regretted his decision to sell Elvis Presley's contract. In many ways, Presley's departure was  like a new beginning for Sun Records. Many country musicians aspiring to play rockabilly began to make their  way to 706 Union Avenue. As Johnny Cash said many years later, ''Elvis was a beacon that brought us all there''. Sun released ''Cry, Cry, Cry'' by Johnny Cash (J. R. Cash, John Cash) on June 21, 1955. Cash  had a big voice but a limited vocal range, so Phillips made the most of the situation. With Cash, ''Phillips  challenged the conventions of recording balance, placing (his) vocals more assertively in the mix than had ever  been the case in country music.  Phillips fattened the sound of the vocals and the rhythm track with slapback  echo''. ''Cry, Cry, Cry'' hit number 1 on the local Memphis country chart in September, reached number 14 on the  national country and western chart in November, and Johnny Cash became 1955's “outstanding new act in  Memphis. After the release of ''Folsom Prison Blues'' in December 1955, which reached number 4 on the country and  western chart, Cash got a regular spot on the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport. Sun released ''I Walk The Line'' in  April 1956. Cash wrote the song as a slow, mournful ballad, but Phillips had the band record it at a faster tempo. Cash did not like the version Sun released and even asked Phillips to quit distributing it. ''I Walk The Line'',  however, reached number 1 on the country and western chart, crossed over to the national pop chart, and climbed  to number 17. It was one of Cash's biggest hits. In July, Cash got a regular spot on the Grand Ole Opry. By the  end of the year, he was the third best-selling country artist and one of the first young country artists on the  national pop chart after the “barriers that separated pop and country music began to crumble in the wake  of Elvis Presley. By 1957 Johnny Cash's stark originality was getting old. Phillips turned Cash's recording sessions over to Jack  Clement, a new producer at Sun, who gave Cash a more mainstream sound. In November 1957, Phillips released  Sun Records' and Johnny Cash's first album, which was followed by the single ''Ballad Of A Teenage Queen''. It  sold more than 460,000 copies, reached number 16 on the pop chart's new Hot 100, and number 1 on country  and western chart. The next single, ''Guess Things Happen That Way'', reached number 11 on the pop chart and  stayed at number 1 on the country and western chart for weeks. It was Johnny Cash's biggest hit on Sun Records.  When his contract with Sun expired in the summer of 1958, Cash signed with Columbia Records. Although Columbia recorded Cash with the same instrumentation that Phillips used at Sun, he never sounded  quite as good again... Phillips’ achievement was to keep C ash’s sound at its bare essentials, and then fatten it up  with the use of slapback echo. Subsequent producers and engineers could never quite recapture that formula.  Their echo lent distance rather than presence. Worse yet were the early stereo recordings at Columbia, whose  primitive separation heightened the unfocused sound. Johnny Cash’s three years of recording for Sun are a  wonderful demonstration of just how far a whole can outclass the sum of its parts. Cash's limited vocals,  Luther Perkins' woefully limited picking, and Marshall Grant's strictly functional bass playing jelled magically  through Sam Phillips' mixing board to produce perhaps the most original and innovative sound in country music  since Hank Williams died. A number of important rockabilly artists recorded for Sun in the mid-1950s, including Sonny  Burgess, Billy Lee Riley, Warren Smith, Charlie Feathers, Malcolm Yelvington, and Onie Wheeler. Bill Justis &  His Orchestra were the only ones in this group to have a hit record. ''Raunchy'', released in September 1957,  went to number 1 on the rhythm and blues chart, number 2 on the pop chart, and number 6 on country and  western. In 1956, Phillips hired Jack Clement (songwriter, musician, engineer, producer) and Bill Justis (musician, music  arranger, A and R (artist and repertoire director) to help run the studio.  They listened to audition tapes, recorded  potential new artists, and gradually assumed greater responsibilities for running the business. They were  experienced musicians who wanted a more elaborate, refined sound than the missed notes and rough quality that  Phillips overlooked to capture the feeling in an artist's music. As Clement stated, ''At Sun, I took it in a whole  new direction''. Clement and Justis were primarily responsible for Sun recordings in 1957 and 1958 as Phillips  got involved with other projects. By the late 1950s the music business was changing once again.  Rockabilly, the initial and purest form of rock and roll, exemplified by Elvis Presley's early music, Carl Perkins,  and Jerry Lee Lewis, was short-lived. Sun's minimal, revolutionary sound was superseded by a bigger pop  sound with more instruments, along with choruses and even strings. Every phase of the music business was  becoming more technical, complicated, and expensive. In the early days, Sam Phillips could single-handedly cut,  master, press, and promote a record, but those days were over. Major record companies began to record rock and  roll and lured artists away from the independent labels. Sun lost Elvis Presley to RCA in 1955, Perkins and Cash  to Columbia Records in 1958, and Jerry Lee Lewis to Mercury Records in 1963. Sun Records had outgrown 706 Union Avenue by the late 1950s also. The studio itself was not big enough to accommodate larger groups of musicians, the control room was too small for the new multitrack recording equipment, and Phillips needed more space so he could hire more employees. In the summer of 1958, Phillips bought a building nearby at 639 Madison Avenue for his new headquarters. They occasionally used the studio at the new building beginning in January 1960, but it was not officially opened until September 17, 1960. Around that time, Phillips was quoted as follows: ''Woodshed recordings have had it. You've got to have latitude today, all the electronic devices, built-in high and low frequency and attenuation, echoes, channel splitting and metering on everything. The new studio on Madison Avenue, one of the most modern in the United States at that time, was ''everything that 706 was not, spacious, state of-the-art, and soulless''. Phillips began to expand his business interests in the mid-1950s. He started a new label in 1957, Phillips  International, to record pop and jazz as well as rock and roll, and he began to let other people use his studio for  custom recording. In 1961 he opened a studio in Nashville at 317 7th Avenue North. Phillips started his first radio  station in 1955, something he had wanted to do for a long time. WHER, with ''1,000 beautiful watts'', was the  country’s first ''all-girl'' station at a time when women did not yet work in radio. Phillips' original idea for his  first station was a 24-hour ''all Negro'' station, but the FCC turned down that application. Phillips went on to  build a radio empire, including a number of stations around his hometown in Florence, Alabama. He was also an  original shareholder in Holiday Inns, Inc. which originated in Memphis in 1952. All of these ventures  contributed to Phillips' waning involvement in his record business. Phillips hired managers, producers, and engineers to run his studios during this period, and they recorded all  kinds of musical artists. Two songs recorded at 706 Union Avenue shortly before the move to the new studio on  Madison Avenue became hits, but they were released on the Phillips International label. ''Lonely Weekends'' was  Charlie Rich's first hit. He eventually became a big star in the early 1970s with the song ''Behind Closed Doors''.  Carl Mann's unusual version of ''Mona Lisa'' also became a hit in 1959, reaching number 24 on Billboard's  rhythm and blues chart and number 25 on the pop chart. In 1962, Frank Frost made ''some of the last truly great  blues recordings to emerge from Memphis, but the classic Sun sound had faded by then. The last time Phillips  recorded an artist as president of Sun Records was a session for Dane Stinit in November 1966. The last record  on the Sun label was released in January 1968. Phillips had received a number of offers for the Sun catalog over the years. In July 1969, he sold the entire  catalog, approximately 7,000 master recordings, for $1 million to Shelby S. Singleton, Jr., a former  Mercury Records executive who had launched his own company in 1966. Singleton reorganized the company as  the Sun International Corporation, which is now the Sun Entertainment Corporation. Phillips received an interest  in the new corporation, retained his music publishing rights, and kept the studio on Madison Avenue. Sun Records ended in 1969; to musical purists, it ended a decade before that, when the old studio was closed.  Some are of the opinion that Sam Phillips lost his vision for Sun Records in the later years. But Phillips' vision  was that music with southern roots had a special feeling and a universal appeal. Prejudice, both class and racial,  had generally kept that music confined to its places of origin for decades, until Phillips figured out a way to let  the people hear the music. Once they heard it, rock and roll flew around the world and took the blues along for  the ride. Sam Phillips did not lose his vision for Sun Records. By 1957, his vision was realized, it had changed  the whole world, and Sam Phillips moved on to other challenges.