We only had time for one – Graceland or Sun Studio – both iconic destinations in Memphis. Fortunately, for both of us it was no contest.
MARK: Here we go again…what do Elvis, Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Mark and Saimi have in common? They all stood in the same tiny recording studio in Memphis, Tennessee.
Believe it or not, Elvis was so shy in his first group recording in Sun Studio that he turned around so he would not have to face the people in the control room. Luckily for the music world, he got over that. In the photo of me, the little “x” on the floor is the spot Elvis stood to make that first recording, “That’s All Right.”
Elvis gets a lot of attention at Sun Studio, but the list of famous artists and bands that have recorded there is long.(B.B. King, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis to name a few.)
I took particular interest in the recreated radio studio in the Sun Studio museum that DJ “Daddy-O” Dewey Phillips of WHBQ used. Phillips introduced Elvis’ first song on the radio. Some of the equipment was original and it reminded me of some of WRMU’s old equipment.
I also enjoyed listening to the first rock and roll record ever made, “Rocket 88” by Jackie Brenston and the Delta Cats. The song’s unique raspy rattle was from an amplifier that broke on the trip to Sun Studio. Anyone who took my intro classes knows about the quality sound of ribbon microphones. It looked a like a museum of microphones in the recording studio but recording sessions still take place two nights a week by amateurs and professionals such as Maroon 5 and U2.
SAIMI: Because I co-own a tour company (Foodie Field Trips) I am both appreciative and critical of tours and guides. The Sun Studio tour was brilliantly designed, with live narration, photos, displays, and well-timed audio and video clips. However, our guide had obviously done the tour hundreds of times, and did it a little too much by rote, and a little too rushed. A good reminder for me when my tour season starts again in May.
My favorite bit was listening to the demo tape that Elvis dropped off at Sun Studio in an attempt to break into the music world. He sounded like a 12 year old! Adorable.