Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock & Roll
It's not often that people in the business side of the music industry are so important and transformative that they break through to becoming household names. But Sam Phillips is one of those people. Not because he wanted to be, but because he brought something new to the world. At first it was called rockabilly. Later it became known as rock & roll.
What everyone knows is that he's the guy behind Sun Studios and Sun Records. He's most famous for launching Elvis Presley's career. But he's also the guy that brought us the earliest recordings of Howlin' Wolf, Johnny Cash, B.B. King, Jerry Lee Lewis, Charlie Rich, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, and many more.
But it's not so much who that he brought to the world, it's the what. Very early on he recognized that the enthusiasm, the passion, the guts coming through a musical performance were way more important that technique and music skill. True, you had to have some of those things, but he was the first to develop and encourage what he called "perfect imperfection."
Peter Guralnick has released a new biography of the man, Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock & Roll. Guralnick is pretty much the go to guy for chronicling popular music in the United States. His books on country music, soul music, and his bio of Elvis are quickly becoming the reference standard for music history. So the book is guaranteed to be an interesting read.
But what about the music? All that awesome music he writes about? Well, we are in luck because Yep Rock is releasing 2 CD companion album by the same name. Fifty five awesome tracks of songs from the earliest days of rock & roll. Some of them are world famous tunes everyone knows and loves. You can hear Johnny Cash's "Big River" or Elvis' "That's All Right." Some of them are obscure and bizarre. For example you can hear some very early Roy Orbison doing "Go Go Go," a rockabilly sound way before he developed his signature falsetto. You also get some of Howlin' Wolf's earliest work "Howlin' At Midnight". Then there's the more obscure stuff like a band called Little Junior's Blue Flames doing "Love My Baby." Peter Guralnick selected the tracks that were included in the collection and his liner notes do a great job of giving you a sense of the times and the vision that drove Sam Phillips to invent a new world of music.
I'm adding many many tracks to rotation!!