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Sun Records is an American independent record label founded by Sam Phillips in Memphis, Tennessee in 1950.[1][2] Sun was the first label to record Elvis Presley, Charlie Rich, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash.

Sun Records
Parent companySun Entertainment Corp.
Founded1950; 69 years ago (1950)
FounderSam Phillips
GenreRock and roll, country, blues, rockabilly
Country of originUS
LocationMemphis, Tennessee



Sam Phillips opened his Sun recording studio in 1950 at 706 Union Avenue in Memphis.[2] There, he discovered and first recorded such influential musicians as Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkin, Roy Orbison and Jerry Lee Lewis. Presley's recording contract was eventually sold to RCA Victor Records for $35,000 in 1955 to relieve Sun's financial difficulties. Before those records, Sun had concentrated mainly on African-American musicians because Phillips loved rhythm and blues and wanted to bring it to a white audience. Sun record producer and engineer Jack Clement discovered and recorded Jerry Lee Lewis while Phillips was away on a trip to Florida. The original Sun Records logo was designed by John Gale Parker, Jr., a resident of Memphis and high school classmate of Phillips.

Sun was founded with the financial aid of Jim Bulliet, one of many record executives for whom Phillips had scouted artists before 1952.[3]

In 1951, Phillips produced "Rocket 88" by Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats, who were actually Ike Turner and his Kings of Rhythm. Because of Turner's Delta blues connections, he was contracted by Phillips as a talent scout and he was effectively an in-house producer.[4][5] Turner brought fellow musicians Howlin' Wolf, Bobby "Blue" Band, Little Milton, Billy "The Kid" Emerson and Roscoe Gordon to record at Sun.[6][7]

Some of the other artists who recorded for Sun were Rufus Thomas (who recorded solo and with his daughter Carla Thomas), Tex Weiss, Charlie Rich, Bill Justis, and Conway Twitty (who at that time recorded under his real name, Harold Jenkins). In the Lovin' Spoonful song "Nashville Cats", John Sebastian used poetic license when he referred to Sun as the "Yellow Sun Records from Nashville".

"Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" by Jerry Lee Lewis

There were also sixteen female recording artists whose records were released on the Sun and Phillips international label. These include Barbara Pittman and the Miller Sisters.[8]

In 1969, Mercury Records label producer Shelby Singleton purchased the Sun label from Phillips. Singleton merged his operations into Sun International Corporation, which re-released and re-packaged compilations of Sun's early artists in the early 1970s. It later introduced rockabilly tribute singer Jimmy "Orion" Ellis in 1979, with Orion taking on the persona of Elvis Presley.

The company remains in business as Sun Entertainment Corporation, and currently licenses its brand and classic hit recordings (many of which have appeared in CD boxed sets and other compilations) to independent reissue labels. Sun Entertainment also includes SSS International Records, Plantation Records, Amazon Records, Red Bird Records, Blue Cat Records among other labels the company acquired over the years.[9] Its website sells collectible items and compact discs bearing the original 1950s Sun logo.

Sun Records is located in Nashville, Tennessee. It has been mainly a reissue label since the 1970s but signed country musician Julie Roberts to a recording contract in 2013.[10]

The music of many Sun Records musicians helped lay part of the foundation of late 20th-century rock and roll and influenced many younger musicians, including the Beatles. In 2001, Paul McCartney appeared on a tribute compilation album titled Good Rockin' Tonight: The Legacy of Sun Records. The 2008 tribute Million Dollar Quartet is based on the famous photograph of Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis grouped round Elvis Presley at the piano, the night when the four joined in an impromptu jam at Sun Records' one-room sound studio, the "Million Dollar Quartet" of 4 December 1956.

A TV series about the label ran for eight episodes on CMT from February to April, 2017.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Unterberger, Richie. "The Sun Records Collection [Rhino] - Various Artists : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2013-07-13.
  2. ^ a b "Muscle Shoals, RCA, Sun: The Revival of 3 Legendary Studios". Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  3. ^ Ward, Ed. Rolling Stone History of Rock Music
  4. ^ Danchin, Sebastian (2001). Earl Hooker, Blues Master. University Press of Mississipp. ISBN 978-1578063079.
  5. ^ Pareles, Jon (December 13, 2007). "Ike Turner, Musician and Songwriter in Duo With Tina Turner, Dies at 76". The New York Times.
  6. ^ Turner, Ike; Cawthorne, Nigel (1999). Takin' Back My Name: The Confessions of Ike Turner. London: Virgin. ISBN 9781852278502. OCLC 43321298.
  7. ^ Collis, John (2003). Ike Turner: King of Rhythm. Do-Not Press. ISBN 978-1-904316-24-4.
  8. ^ Davis, Hank. "Overlooked Sun Records Female Artists Finally Get their Day in the Sun." Goldmine Nov 01 2002: 69. ProQuest. Web. 17 Feb. 2015.
  9. ^ "Sun Records Licensing | Sun Record Company". 1956-12-04. Retrieved 2013-07-13.
  10. ^ "Julie Roberts First Artist To Sign With Sun Records in 40 years | New Country Music, Listen to Songs & Video". 2013-06-19. Archived from the original on 2014-04-29. Retrieved 2013-07-13.

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