Greetings From: Memphis, TN

A neon sign for the Memphis Recording Service at Sun Studio in Memphis, TN.

by Michael Boyink/mike@douglascountyherald.com

“I don’t sound like nobody.”

That’s what the 18 year old man standing in the lobby of the recording studio told the receptionist.

The sign on the door said “We Record Anything, Anywhere, Anytime.”

And the young man was there to record himself singing. 

A gift for his mother, he said. But that wasn’t the only reason.

He was also hoping to be “discovered”. 

After recording two songs, the receptionist noted his name and included the note “Good ballad singer. Hold.”

The studio owner heard something he liked. He had the young man record another couple songs.

Not much came of it.

The owner was undeterred. A couple of years earlier, he had recorded what many claim was the first rock and roll record. It had gone to number one on the charts. The owner had launched his own label based on the success of that song, but was finding it hard to keep profits up.

He needed a fresh new voice to keep the business afloat.

He found musicians to back the young man up. They launched into a jam session that lasted until late in the evening.

Again, nothing.

The band was ready to pack it in and call it a night.

In a last ditch effort, the young man grabbed his guitar and launched into a four year old blues number.

“I can’t dance,” he had told his prom date a few weeks earlier.

But he could.

And he was.

The classic guitar sign at Sun Studio in Memphis, TN.

Band members recall him “jumping around and acting the fool.”

The singing and dancing caught the attention of the studio owner.

He poked his head out of the control booth. “What are you doing?”

“We don’t know.”

“Well, back up, find a place to start, and do it again.”

The owner – one Sam Phillips of Sun Studio in Memphis, Tennessee – pressed “record.”

And the singer – one Elvis Aaron Presley – launched again into the first song most people would hear him sing.

That’s All Right.

People couldn’t get enough. The local radio station played the song repeatedly and interviewed Presley.

Phillips sold so many Presley records he ultimately realized Presley needed to be on a national record label. Phillips sold his Presley contract to Colonel Tom Parker for an unheard-of $35,000 ($337,936 in today’s dollars).

Presley went on to record for RCA Victor. 

And to international stardom.

Phillips stayed in the recording business for a while, then lost interest and got into radio station ownership instead.

And the building at 706 Union in Memphis? 

Sold to a plumbing company. Then an auto parts store.

In 1987 it was re-opened as a combination tourist attraction and functioning recording studio. Acts including U2 and John Mellencamp have recorded there.

Mic, mic, mic, mic, mic, mic and Mike.

The highlight of the tour?

A classic Shure 55 microphone, said to have been used by Elvis himself. 

Not secure behind glass.

Out on a microphone stand in the studio, available for anyone to ham it up with.

We may or may not have taken photos of ourselves channeling our inner Elvis.

But this is a family newspaper.

Sun Studio remains open for tours. Masks and temperature checks are required. Find more information online at sunstudio.com.