When we left a few weeks ago the owner of 706 Union Avenue, Sam Phillips, was seeing records he had pretty much created being hits across the country. He decided in 1952 that it was time to launch his own label. He saw this as a new dawn in his life and created the Sun Records Company. So let’s have a look and listen to some of the fine Blues and RnB the Sun Label gave us.
Sam carried on recording the fine blues artists around him and started looking for the hit that would propel the music he loved into the charts on his own label. After a few issues, he returned to the man he had recorded for his earlier attempt as a record mogul on The Phillips label.
This is pure Memphis rhythm and blues. The pounding rhythm swings along, a piano lightly bops around in the background and finally, his voice and harmonica fills the whole sound out. Now the topside We All Gotta Go Sometimes may sound like a depressing woe-is-me blues downer but this is a joyous, raunchy anthem to grabbing life and living it to the fullest whatever it throws at you. I love the lyric … “I can’t come in, I sit down in front of your door, leave so early in the morning you real man will never know.” A great song but it never tore up the charts.
A few releases later and Sam had Memphis legend, Rufus Thomas, in the studio. Rufus already had a career going back to the minstrel shows and Christian Revival Tent ministries. He was a singer, comedian, DJ and all-around showman. This Record, subtitled ‘Answer to Hound Dog’ was the hit Sam wanted. It is of course in the style of Hound Dog by Big Mama Thorton’s smash, in fact so much so that Big Mama’s label sued Sam and nearly killed the fledgling label. It is a reply to Hound Dog but Rufus brings his own flair to the tune making it much more than just a cash-in and our old friend Joe Hill provides a clear as a bell guitar lead.
Now it was not all blues from established artists at 706. Little Junior was just 21 when he and his Blue Flames laid down this anthem. All the brash enthusiasm and joy that is usually associated with Rock n Roll is right here on this 1953 stormer. Dammit sometimes writing is pointless just listen to the record.
Another gem that totally captures the feel of gang of youngsters on the loose. This is what makes Sun records so special, the ‘feel’ matches the sound. It sounds and feels as free and easy as a stroll down Beale Street looking at pretty girls and trying your luck.
The Doctor says he is going to get better but really it does not get better than this. This magnificent stomp was issued in 1954 in the midst of the biggest upheaval in the history of popular music as people all over the world caught a variant of the boogie disease call rock n roll. This superb number was lost in the mix but over the years has become regarded as a classic.
We are now all the way into 1955 and Sun records is still bringing real Red Hot Rhythm and Blues from Memphis to the world. This is the original version of a record that was covered by a slew of Rock n Rollers taking it in various directions but much as some other versions are great this is pretty untouchable.