Thursday, May 19, 2011

308. The Sun Records Collection- The building where it all began.

Album: The Sun Records Collection
Artist: Various
Genre: Various
Year: Released in 1994 but recorded over two decades


  1. Gotta Let You Go - Joe Hill Louis
  2. Rocket 88 - Jackie Brenston
  3. B.B. Blues - B. B. King
  4. Swamp Root - Harmonica Frank
  5. Moanin' at Midnight - Howlin' Wolf
  6. How Many More Years - Howlin' Wolf
  7. There's a Man in Jerusalem - Southern Jubilee Singers
  8. Rats in My Kitchen - Sleepy John Estes
  9. She May Be Yours (But She Comes to See Me Sometimes) - Joe Hill Louis
  10. Baker Shop Boogie - Willie Nix
  11. Easy - Big Walter Horton
  12. Bear Cat - Rufus Thomas
  13. Take a Little Chance - Jimmy DeBerry
  14. Just Walkin' in the Rain - The Prisonaires
  15. Make Room in the Lifeboat for Me - Howard Seratt
  16. Feelin' Good - Little Junior's Blue Flames
  17. Tiger Man (King of the Jungle) - Rufus Thomas
  18. Mystery Train - Little Junior's Blue Flames
  19. Come Back Baby - Doctor Ross
  20. Gospel Train - The Jones Brothers
  21. My Kind of Carryin' On - Doug Poindexter
  22. I'm Gonna Murder My Baby - Pat Hare
  23. Cotton Crop Blues - James Cotton
  24. That's All Right - Elvis Presley, Scotty and Bill
  25. Good Rockin' Tonight - Elvis Presley, Scotty and Bill
  26. Drinkin' Wine, Spo-Dee-O-Dee - Malcolm Yelvington
  27. Turn Around - Carl Perkins
  28. Baby Let's Play House - Elvis Presley, Scotty and Bill
  29. Someday You Will Pay - The Miller Sisters
  30. Red Hot - Billy "The Kid" Emerson
  31. Lookin' for My Baby - Little Milton
  32. Cry! Cry! Cry! - Johnny Cash
  33. Sitting by My Window - The Five Tinos
  34. Mystery Train - Elvis Presley, Scotty and Bill
  35. Let the Jukebox Keep on Playing - Carl Perkins
  36. Defrost Your Heart - Charlie Feathers
  37. Folsom Prison Blues - Johnny Cash
  38. Blue Suede Shoes - Carl Perkins
  39. Honey Don't - Carl Perkins
  40. Let's Get High - Rosco Gordon
  41. Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby - Carl Perkins
  42. Rock &Roll Ruby - Warren Smith
  43. I Walk the Line - Johnny Cash
  44. Get Rhythm - Johnny Cash
  45. Ooby Dooby - Roy Orbison
  46. Red Headed Woman - Sonny Burgess
  47. Dixie Fried - Carl Perkins
  48. Ubangi Stomp - Warren Smith
  49. Crazy Arms - Jerry Lee Lewis
  50. End of the Road - Jerry Lee Lewis
  51. Flyin' Saucers Rock & Roll - Billy Lee Riley
  52. Matchbox - Carl Perkins
  53. Down by the Riverside - Million Dollar Quartet
  54. Devil Doll - Roy Orbison
  55. Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On - Jerry Lee Lewis
  56. So Long, I'm Gone - Warren Smith
  57. Red Hot - Billy Lee Riley
  58. Red Cadillac and a Black Moustache - Warren Smith
  59. Raunchy - Bill Justis
  60. You Win Again - Jerry Lee Lewis
  61. Great Balls of Fire - Jerry Lee Lewis
  62. Claudette - Roy Orbison
  63. Breathless - Jerry Lee Lewis
  64. Guess Things Happen That Way - Johnny Cash
  65. High School Confidential - Jerry Lee Lewis
  66. Right Behind You Baby - Ray Smith
  67. Jump Right Out of This Jukebox - Onie Wheeler
  68. Lovin' Up a Storm - Jerry Lee Lewis
  69. Mona Lisa - Carl Mann
  70. Lonely Weekends - Charlie Rich
  71. Who Will the Next Fool Be? - Charlie Rich
  72. Jack's Jump - Frank Frost
  73. Don't Put No Headstone on My Grave - Charlie Rich
  74. Cadillac Man - The Jesters

You could easily argue that there is no more important building in the history of Rock and Roll that Sun Studios in Memphis Tennessee. Within those hallowed walls the pioneers of country, blues, rock and rockabilly were recorded by Sam Phillips and released on the unsuspecting world. British bands from the sixties like the Beatles, The Stones, Cream and the Kinks may have had the hits and the money but the music that came out of Sun studios was where they got their inspiration. The Sun Records Collection is a three CD set that contains the highlights of the singles recorded and released by the label in the 1950’s. The album’s 74 tracks sprawl across genres and scatter artists throughout but here’s an overview of some of the names...

The Blues.

BB King and Howlin Wolf are represented but not by their biggest hits. King only stopped by Sun briefly on his way to other places and Wolf signed with Chess records, the only other label that could rival sun for pioneering significance. But there are some great blues tracks here from more obscure names like Rufus Thomas and Jimmy Deberry.


There’s not a huge amount of Soul on the Sun Records but there is one notable track called Just Walkin in the Rain by The Prisonaires which is a sweet and soulful tale of romance. Some of the gloss is taken off by the knowledge that The Prisonaires were all inmates in prison when the song was recorded. The lead singer was serving time for six counts of rape. I would not go walking in the rain or even a more temperate climate with that guy. There’s also some traditional gospel although to the best of my knowledge none of it recorded by convicted sex offenders.


If Sam Phillips did nothing else in his life he deserves his place in the Rock and Roll hall of fame just for saying the words: “That Presley guy is worth recording”. Not only did he sign up Elvis he’s the guy who was clever enough to pair him with guitarist Scotty Moore who was the Royal Vizier to Presley’s King. The Sun Records collection might not feature Heartbreak Hotel or any of the huge sellers he late recorded but it does have That’s allright Mama, the first single he ever recorded and the one that made a lot of people sit up and take notice. There are some other Elvis hits here along with Carl Perkins' original recording of Blue Suede Shoes, some Roy Orbison and the greatest moments from Jerry Lee Lewis. There is also Rocket 88 which a lot of people contest is the rightful claimant to the title of First Ever Rock and Roll song (one of the other main contenders is That’s alright Mama so you’re fairly safe saying the first every rock song is on this release somewhere.  There are also a selection of tracks by the Million Dollar Quartet Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash.


Johnny Cash. The Man in black. And not some obscure hits either. Folsom Prison Blues, Get Rhythm and I walk the line. Worth the price of admission alone. There are lesser known country artists here like Charlie Feathers for example. Listen to Defrost your Heart and you’ll appreciate why he’s lesser known.

And the rest

There’s a lot of R&B here and songs that fall in that grey area between blues and rock. There’s the Miller sisters, who Phillips was convinced would be the next big thing until Elvis killed off girl groups. There’s some amazingly twangy rockabilly like Onie Wheeler’s Jump right out of this jukebox. And then there’s Harmonica Frank Floyd who’s comedy stylings (which included blowing repeated raspberrys and weird falsetto inflections) will irritate you in ways nobody has ever managed before or since. I did a bit of research on Harmonica Frank Floyd and discovered a track called Shampoo which is one of the most amazingly offensive tracks I’ve ever heard. He used to play it regularly in his live shows where the F-word strewn bawdy tale of injury-inducing underage sex was apparently a big hit. It’s not included on this collection probably because Phillips decided it wasn’t radio friendly. Wise choice.

The Sun Records Collection is a comprehensive but not over-indulgent catalogue of the songs that shaped modern music today. It’s not an essential part of any record collection but it’s the first place you should go if you want to hear what started it all.

Highlight: The Rock tracks. Elvis's original output really was genuinely exciting.
Lowlight: The girl groups. Not the genre's finest records

Influenced by: A desire to make "Colored" music accesible to the record buying public.
Influenced: Everyone recording popular music now.

Favoruite Amazon Customer Review Qoute: "The reviewer below pretty much says it all. This is an essential set for anyone wanting to understand how rock & roll evolved from blues, C&W, and pop music."

-This is probably a good time to point out that Amazon reviews move about the page as they're positively or negatively responded to. What's below you now could well be above you tomorrow.

So do you enjoy basking in the sun or would you rather the sun set on this entire era? Let me know below

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