It is well worth your time to drop by Sun Studio (706 Union Ave., 901/521-0664, www.sunstudio.com, daily 10 a.m.–6 p.m., $10), where Elvis Presley recorded his first hit, “That’s All Right,” and where dozens of blues, rock, and country musicians were recorded during the 1950s.
Founded by radio man and audio engineer Sam Phillips and his wife, Becky, the studio recorded weddings, funerals, events, and, of course, music. Phillips was interested in the blues, and his first recordings were of yet-unknown artists such as Rufus Thomas and Howlin’ Wolf.
In 1953, Elvis Presley came into the studio on his lunch break to record a $3 record of himself singing “My Happiness” for his mother. Phillips was not impressed with the performance, and it was not for another year—and thanks to the prodding of Phillips’s assistant, Marion Keisker—that Phillips called Presley in to record some more.
When Phillips heard Elvis’s version of the blues tune “That’s All Right,” he knew he had a hit. And he did. But the story of Elvis’s discovery is just one of many that took place in the modest homemade Sun Studio, and this attraction is not just for Elvis fans.
The one-hour tour of the studio leaves every hour on the half hour, and while you are waiting you can order a real fountain drink from the snack bar or browse the shop’s collection of recordings and paraphernalia. The studio is still in business; you can record here for $75 an hour at night, and dozens of top-notch performers have, including U2, Beck, and Matchbox 20.
© Susanna Henighan Potter from Moon Tennessee, 5th Edition