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Sam Phillips biography

Sam Phillips Born: January 1, 1923, Florence, Alabama

Died: July 31, 2003, Memphis, Tennessee

Sam Phillips has had an enormous impact on music, particularly blues, rock and roll and rockabilly. As an innovative producer and owner of Memphis’s legendary Sun Studios, Phillips made his mark on music history by discovering and recording such legends as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and others. Slightly earlier in his career, however, Phillips recorded many blues legends, including Howlin’ Wolf, B.B. King, Little Milton and Junior Parker. Sun Studios is often called “The Birthplace of Rock and Roll” — in 1951 Phillips recorded the legendary single “Rocket 88,” which is often referred to as the first rock and roll record. The song reached number one on R&B charts and helped put Memphis on the musical map. Phillip’s obvious gift for bringing out the best in his recording artists is evident on early Sun recordings, which are also known for their live, vital sound. Sun Studios still exists in its original Memphis location.

Essential listening: “B.B. Blues,” “My Baby Walked Off,” “I Found a New Love,” “Lookin’ for My Baby” (from Blue Flames: A Sun Blues Collection, Rhino-Sun)

Sam Phillips