On our second day of our Graceland Tour, we visited Elvis' personal jets, his Automobile Museum, his movie career museum, the 68 Comback Special, and his fashion/jewelry exhibit before moving on to Sun Studio where he recorded his version of Arthur Crudup's "That's All Right",which became "That's Alright(Mama)". Located just 15 minutes from Graceland on Union Avenue, Sun Studio is known as the birthplace of rock & roll where the first rock & roll single "Rocket 88" was recorded in 1951 by Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats with a youn Ike Turner on keyboards. Sam Phillips opened Sun Studios on January 3, 1950 first as Memphis Recording Service. In 1952 Sun Records was launched. Amatures could perform here and Sam would sell their performances to large record labels. many now famous singers passed through those doors and recorded in that small studio with the likes of B.B. King, Junior Parker, Howlin' Wolf, Roy Orbison, and many more. One night on December 4, 1956, Jerry Lee Lewis was playing piano for Carl Perkins when Elvis walked in unexpectedly, Johnny Cash was called in by Sam leading to an impromptu session giving them the nick name of the Million Dollar Quartet. As many of you all may know Sam Phillips sold Elvis' contract to RCA in November of 1955 for $35,000 but what you may not know was that Sam's studio experienced financial difficulties and had to make a business decision. had he not done so, he would have lost his business and Sun Studio would just be a memory today. Sam may have had regrets, but he went on to invest in a hotel chain that went national called the Holiday Inn shortly after selling Elvis' contract andmultiplied the amount of Elvis' $35,000 many times over. Sam built a bigger studio in 1959. In 1969 Sam sold the label to Shelby Singleton and there was no recording-related activity again in the old building until 1985. In 1987, the original building was reopened by Gary hardy as "Sun Studio", a recording label and tourist attraction that has attraced many notable artists, such as U2, Def Leppard, Bonnie Raitt, and Ringo Starr. The studio is still used for recording after the tours have stopped for the day and music once again fills the building. The mike that Elvis used is the only original piece of equipment not in a muesum and visitor's are encouraged to handle it all they want and pose with it for pictures. Sam Phillips died just one day before the original Sun Studio was designated a National Historic Landmark on July 31, 2003. As you tour the birthplace of Rock & Roll, you can almost visualize the excitement of an all night recording session with the"Million Dollar Quartet". Jason, our tour guide made the tour a memorable one with his enthusiasm, passion, and knowledge. Kudos to Jason.
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