From the author of the critically acclaimed Elvis Presley biography: Last Train to Memphis brings us the life of Sam Phillips, the visionary genius who singlehandedly steered the revolutionary path of Sun Records.
The music that he shaped in his tiny Memphis studio with artists as diverse as Elvis Presley, Ike Turner, Howlin' Wolf, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Johnny Cash, introduced a sound that had never been heard before. He brought forth a singular mix of black and white voices passionately proclaiming the vitality of the American vernacular tradition while at the same time declaring, once and for all, a new, integrated musical day.
With extensive interviews and firsthand personal observations extending over a 25-year period with Phillips, along with wide-ranging interviews with nearly all the legendary Sun Records artists, Guralnick gives us an ardent, unrestrained portrait of an American original as compelling in his own right as Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, or Thomas Edison.
Acclaimed music historian Guralnick has written landmark accounts of Elvis (Last Train to Memphis), Sam Cooke (Dream Boogie), and the history of American roots music (Lost Highway), and he now turns his considerable skills to the life of Sun Records producer Sam Phillips in this delightful and comprehensive volume. While he builds the story on the skeleton of the facts of Phillips's life his birth outside of Florence, Ala.; his production of the jam session with Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, and Elvis Presley, later released as the Million Dollar Quartet tapes; and his tireless work ethic Guralnick portrays a man deeply passionate about giving black musicians opportunities to share their music and voices in a South that seldom allowed them to do so. Drawing on extensive interviews from his 25-year friendship with Phillips, as well as on interviews with many of the musicians Phillips produced (Howlin' Wolf and Ike Turner among others), Guralnick energetically tells the must-read tale of a Southern boy intent on enacting his vision of freedom and justice through music. Phillips's message from the start was "the inherent nobility not so much of man as of freedom, and the implied responsibility... for each of us to be as different as our individuated natures allowed us to be"; as Guralnick points out, Phillips succeeded in giving each of his musicians the freedom to express themselves fully on records that changed the musical landscape forever.