Studio Tour Archive page: published 2006

Sun Studios

Exclusive video tours

There are few studios that have had such an impact on the World as Sun Studios in Memphis. The studio played host to that famous first Elvis Presley recording but so many other major artists have started off their carrers at Sun. Some of the headline names that have recorded at the recording studio include Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and many, many more.

Sun Studios - NashvilleWe are delighted to present this very special behind the scenes look in to the studio as it currently enjoys a double role. By day the tourists can visit but at night it reverts back to being a recording studio and is available to hire. The two videos hopefully gives you a flavour of what Sun Studios is all about and we hope that you visit them, either as a tourist or as a musician!

In addition to the Sun Studios videos we have a number of related videos recorded in or around Nashville with key people who worked at Sun in the past or have been working closely with artsits that have historical associations with Sun. These include Jack Hale (Johnny Cash), John Carter Cash (Johnny Cash!) and Cowboy Jack Clement (engineered and produced at Sun).

Part one of the Sun Studios feature

Part two of the Sun Studios feature

Sun Studios

We would like to sincerely thank James Lott and all at Sun Studios for allowing us the time to shoot this feature. Thanks guys, we loved being there and this is one of our favourite video features!

Also, special thanks to Jack Hale for making this tour possible and to Johnny Jaskot of for all his hard work in shooting and editing!

A bit of history - but visit the official Sun Studios website to find out much more!

Sund studios - ampex tape recorder

Radio Engineer Sam Phillips opened Sun Studio as the Memphis Recording Service in January, 1950 to record the blues greats from the region who had no place else to record in the south.

Legendary bluesmen like B.B. King, Howlin Wolf, Bobby Blue Bland, Rufus Thomas and Junior Parker recorded their first records here.

In March, 1951 Jackie Brenston and the Delta Cats, with Ike Turner on piano recorded, ROCKET 88 at Sun Studio. ROCKET 88 is considered by most music historians and by Sam Phillips himself to be the first Rock 'N' Roll song.

The success of ROCKET 88 led Phillips to start his own record label in 1952; the Sun Label.

Sam shared the tiny office with Marion Keisker, who took care of most of the non-music end of the business. She also greeted the teenaged Elvis Presley when he came here in 1953 to make a personal recording, noting in the studio log that he was a "good ballad singer". In less than two years Sam Phillips took Elvis from a complete unknown who had never played in public to the most sought after singer in the country. The five records that Elvis recorded at Sun Studio fused country, blues and gospel music into a new sound that would literally change music forever.

Soon the studio would be filled with musicians hoping that Phillips could work the same magic for them. Carl Perkins' "Blue Suede Shoes" became Rock 'N' Roll's first major hit, topping the pop, country and blues charts. Johnny Cash became Sun's most consistent hitmaker. Roy Orbison, Warren Smith, Billy Lee Riley, Charlie rich and dozens more carried on the Rockabilly tradition Elvis had begun. And Jerry Lee Lewis and his pumpin' piano set the music world on fire, recording Sun's biggest hits; "Whole Lot of Shakin'" and "Great Balls of Fire."

In 1960, needing bigger quarters, Phillips closed the studio and for the next 25 years barbers and businessmen replaced the Rock 'N' Rollers. Then in 1985 Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis returned to the then empty studio to record the Class of '55 album and Sun Studio's second era of greatness began. The studio was restored with Sam Phillips' help and in 1987 opened its doors as both a tourist attraction and a working recording studio. Known for its relaxed and creative atmosphere, Sun Studio has also played host to the diverse talents of artists like Ringo Starr, Def Leppard, John Fogerty, Tom Petty, U2, The Spin Doctors, Def Leppard, The Tractors, Malcolm Yelvington, Michelle Shocked, Gatemouth Brown, The Indigo Girls, Keith Sykes, Dennis Quaid, Bonnie Raitt, Billy Swan, and The Gibson Brothers are only some of the music greats who have come to record at Sun Studio since it reopened.