Photo Gallery | Sam Phillips remembered for cultural, musical influence
Many are preparing to remember "The King" this upcoming week on what would have been his 78th birthday, but others aren't forgetting who recorded Elvis Presley and the sound that made him so memorable.
One of the most important producers in rock history — and arguably one of most important figures in the 20th-century American culture — owner of Sun Studio, Sam Phillips, would have turned 90 Saturday.
Phillips opened up Memphis Recording Service on Union in 1950 and recorded many artists at that time including B.B. King.
Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats, also known as Ike Turner's Kings of Rhythm, recorded Rocket 88 under Memphis Recording Service.
Phillips' sold the song, like many others, to Chess Records.
Jackie Brenston's song became extremely popular, Chess Records gained from that hit whereas Phillips' was only given a one-time fee.
It was then Phillips began Sun Studio in 1952.
Phillips recording Studio opened down the street in 1960.
Many artists, including Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash, would read about Elvis' start before he was signed to RCA.
They would show up to Sun Studios and ask Phillips to give them a shot.
In addition, Phillips and Ike Turner would scout talent on Beale street and keep an ear open to WDIA.
Sun Studio engineer and recording producer Matt Ross-Spange works by Phillips' recording style and said he remains an influential figure in the music industry.
"Sam is a personal hero of mine, I pretty much follow in his footstepts and (record) generally the same way," said Ross-Spange.
"He did more than hit record, he knew how to pull something out of people. Here at Sun, it wasn't the studio, the studio was kind of funky - he built it himself - (artists) could go to Columbia and and use better gear, set," he said.
Recording musicians called Phillips, Mr. Phillips, although he wasn't much older than them. Phillips was a trendsetter in the music business, as far as the electric blues, rockabilly sound and the people he worked with.
"Black artists would go to record with him, for a white man to record black artists in 1950s - it was not a common thing. He also started an all women's radio station WHER," said Ross-Spange.
At WHER, all postions in the studios were ran by women — it was the first of its kind in the nation.
"He did so much for black and women artist, which was actually frowned upon. He was in the first group of people to be inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He did so much with so little money that he had," said Ross-Spange.
After recording an artist he put most songs on a 45 rpm vinyl.
Then he would drive to radio stations around the Mid-South, to Texas, the Carolinas, Kentucky and give the records away — because earlier in his career he didn't have anyone else to do it for him.
Sam Phillips died in 2003.
Phillips was vital to launching the careers of Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, B.B. King, Howlin' Wolf, Rufus Thomas and numerous other significant artists.
Ross-Spange said Saturday may be Phillips' birthday but at Sun Studio, but the legendary icon is remembered everyday at the studio through tours and music.