Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Birthplace of Rock 'n' Roll

After Graceland I was keen to complete my tour of music in Memphis, and drove around to find Sun Studio. Heralded as the birthplace of rock 'n' roll, after a very young Elvis Presley come to lay his first track down to vinyl here, with his unmistakable croon and rhythm.

When I arrived and had taken in the view of the outside, I was delighted at the refreshing air conditioned comfort of the cafe. But learning that the next tour was at least 40 minutes away had me wondering whether I should hang around, or just push on to something else. Luckily, a delicious milkshake was in store for me, as I sat at the stools where all sorts of music names must have sat, and waited it out - because the tour was really great!

Just a small group had gathered for the last tour of the day, and our cute guide with her Southern accent took us through the record store and up the stairs to the gallery of history.

The story goes that a very young Elvis came in one day, and asked to make a record as a present for his mother's birthday. But it is thought that he just wanted to met and impressed owner Sam Phillips, and be discovered. Apparently Sam didn't care much for this young rock singer's style, as the song My Happiness did not match with the style the studio was cutting at the time, nor the sound Sam was searching for to launch his little record label.

It's Alright was the song that got everything started, when a persistent Elvis was jamming after a recording session the next year, and Sam finally heard something he really liked.

Our guide played us the original cut of both of these tracks, and also part of a little song you may have heard of called Walk The Line - including a demonstration of that distinct sound Johnny Cash added with a piece of card under his strings. She was very cute - and it was spine-tingling to hear these tracks played out above the very rooms in which they were recorded. She brought these stories to life, with the grabs of recorded music.

Another highlight of the tour was playing us the footage of one of Elvis' first TV appearances, before they changed the angle to avoid broadcasting those hip movements...our guide said she had had someone on a tour earlier in the day who remembered seeing that on the day it was aired, and then having her parents ban her from watching television. So risque, apparently! Oh dear....if only they knew what we are subjected to now!

Taking us downstairs into the little block that is the actual Studio, which is still functional and in business today, our guide told us of the many artists who made this studio a worldwide name. The list included Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Roy Orbison, and then the story of the Million Dollar Quartet. We got to hear one of these tracks too - so amazing.

This is the microphone that Elvis used, at about this same spot for some of his recordings here in this little room. Getting this shot is a bit of fun right at the end of the tour.

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