Living as a Mod in the 21st Century

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The place that started it all: Sun Studio

Most people equate Sun Records with Elvis Presley. Since this a Modernist blog, we will leave the stories about the King to the Rockers. I can recognize Presley's contribution to the world of popular music but like most Mods, I am more interested in the real pioneers of a musical genre.

Sam Phillips, the mastermind behind this tiny studio located at the intersection of Union and Marshall in Memphis,  was a real trailblazer. The place first started as the Memphis Recording Service. Sam's slogan was: "We record anything, anywhere, anytime". He was interested in making recorded accounts of music that had never been laid down on vinyl, mainly the blues.

1951 would end up being a year that would change music history and this one song would start a revolution. And it all happened in this room. This is where Rock and Roll was born!

According to most musical historians, Rocket 88 is considered to be the first Rock and Roll song. Credited to Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats, it's actually Mod favorite Ike Turner who is responsible for all the arrangements. It's also the first ever-recorded example of the use of a fuzz guitar! Legend has it that on the way to the studio the guitar amplifier cone was damaged and in an attempt to repair the defective part, newspaper was stuffed in the amplifier. This caused a distortion and Phillips liked the sound and decided to keep it.

Other artists favored amongst Mods also made their debut at Sun Studio. B.B. King and Rufus Thomas are certainly the most notable. Rufus Thomas has been, for a lot of us, associated with Stax Records but he was actually the first artist responsible for giving Sun Records it's first hit single in 1953. Without giving any more info on the song, I invite you to listen to it and see if you recognize anything.

Just like when I visited Motown last summer, standing in such an historic place has left me speechless a few times.


  1. Rocket 88 is a great tune.
    There was an actual Olds Rocket 88 parked outside a restoration garage off the highway in Ottawa up until a few months ago. It has a great chrome logo on the trunk,

    Now that its gone missing, I hope its indoors being restored by the Garage.

  2. Ça a l'air magique! Il doit y avoir une aura qui plane sur Sun Studio. Chanceux.