© February 15, 2013 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 17311 (1-6) mono digital

Sun Records was rock and roll and blues... and country music. When Sam Phillips opened is studio in 1950, he began with country music, and continued recording country music until the end. In the years between, he discovered one of the greatest country stars of all time, Johnny Cash.

These recordings, made at the original Sun studio between 1950 and 1959, capture the changing complexion of country music. Many of those changes were ushered in by Sun Records itself. Elvis Presley began on Sun as a country artist, working with Scotty Moore and Bill Black, recruited from another Sun country band. Carl Perkins came to Sun as a country artist, as did Jerry Lee Lewis.

This set includes 6 CDs and a total of 208 songs. Elvis Presley, Johnny cash, and Carl Perkins are here... and so much more. There's Harmonica Frank – a country musician playing blues and medicine show tunes, Charlie Feathers making his greatest ever records, Malcolm Yelvington blending western swing and rockabilly, The Miller Sisters whose pure country harmony never found the audience it deserved, Cast King, whose stellar recordings weren't even issued in the 1950s, Warren Smith – one of the greatest-ever country voices from Sun Records, Ernie Chaffin singing the great Pee Wee Maddux's songs, Nashville's resident genius Jack Clement, and many more.

First released on LP in 1986, The Sun Country Box, includes all the original recordings and more. It also features new essays and newly-discovered photos in a 148-page, LP-sized hardcover book authored by Hank Davis, Colin Escott, and Martin Hawkins.

Sam C. Phillips, Jack Clement, Stan Kesler, Quinton Claunch, Bill Cantrell,
Pee Wee Maddux, Sidney Gunter, Buddy Durham
Re-Issued Producers:
Hank Davis, Colin Escott and Martin Hawkins
Tape and Record Research:
Colin Escott and Richard Weize

Dubs and Tape for missing Masters provided by:
Dave Howe, Raymond Kerby, Bob Lewis, Robert Loers, Dave Perry,
Ian Saddler, Phil Tricker, Big Al Turner and Don Warwick 

Bob Jones and Jurgen Crasser
Liner notes and Discography:
Hank Davis, Colin Escott and Martin Hawkins
Evelyne Gerstenberger 

Photos and Illustrations:
R.A. Andreas, James Ausborn, Wanda Ballman, Dan Bass, Johnny Bernero,
J.G. Buchaman, Ernie Chaffin, Hank Davis, Colin Escott, Martin Hawkins,
Bob Lewis, Larry Manuel. A.J. Newton, Scott Parker, Dean and Jud Phillips,
Knox Phillips, Sue Richard, Showtime Archive, Louis Steele,
Bob Taylor, Charles Wolfe, Hans-Peter Zdrenka 

Photo Scans:
Andreas Merck
Photo Restoration:
Sam Malbuch
Mychael Gerstenberger 

Thanks to:
James Ausborn, Wanda Ballman, Dan Bass, Johnny Bernero, Dave Booth, Mildred and Jim Bowerman,
J.G. Buchanan, Bill Cantrell, Ernie Chaffin, Quinton Claunch, Bill Diehl, Thurman Enlow,
Red Hadley, Jimmy Haggett, David Hill, Al Hopson, Dave Howe, Bob Jones, Raymond and
Fredonia Kerby, Stan Kesler, Cast King, Clyde Leoppard, Bob Lewis, Robert Loers,
Larry Manuel, Elsie Jo Miller, A.J. Nelson, Scott Parker, Dave Perry, Knox Phillips,
Doug Poindexter, Don Powell, Dusty Brooks, Sue Richards, Tony Russell,
Ian Saddler, Dave Samuelson, Billy Self, Mack Self, Howard Seratt,
Louise Steele, Brad Suggs, Bill Taylor, Bob Taylor, Charlie Terrell,
Phil Tricker, Big Al Turner, Mildred Wages, Don Warwick,
Sally Wilburn, Charles Wolfe, Malcolm Yelvington,
and Hans-Peter Zdrenka 

Special thanks to the late Sam Phillips, the late Shelby Singleton and John Singleton 

For Biographies of Artists see: > The Sun Biographies <
Sun recordings can be heard on the playlists from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube <

Disc 1 Contains ''Memphis Bounce''
*1 - The Slim Rhodes Show (WMC Radio Extracts (Slim Rhodes)
2 - Skunk Hollow Boogie (Slim Rhodes) > Gilt-Edge 5015-B <
3 - Save A Little Love For Me (Slim Rhodes) > Gilt-Edge 5015-A <
4 - Memphis Bounce (Slim Rhodes) > Gilt-Edge 5026-B <
5 - Sixty Days (Slim Rhodes) > Gilt-Edge 5026-A < 
6 - Hotfoot Rag (Slim Rhodes) > Gilt-Edge 5034-B <
7 - Time Marches On (Slim Rhodes) > Gilt-Edge 5034-A <
8 - Ozark Boogie (Slim Rhodes) > Gilt-Edge 5044-B < 
9 - Red, White And Blue (Slim Rhodes) > Gilt-Edge 5044-A <
10 - Don't Believe (Slim Rhodes)  > Sun 216-A <
11 - Uncertain Love (Slim Rhodes) > Sun 216-B < 
12 - House Of Sin (Slim Rhodes) > Sun 225-A < 
13 - Are You Ashamed Of Me (Slim Rhodes) > Sun 225-B <
14 - Bad Girl (Slim Rhodes) > Sun 238-B < 
15 - Gonna Romp And Stomp (Slim Rhodes) > Sun 238-A < 
16 - Take And Give (Slim Rhodes) > Sun 256-A <
17 - Do What I Do (Slim Rhodes) > Sun 256-B <
*18 - I've Never Been So Blue (Slim Rhodes)
19 - Swamp Root (Harmonica Frank) > Chess 1475-B < 
20 - Goin' Away Walkin' (Harmonica Frank Floyd) > Chess 1475-Alternate B <
21 - Step It Up And Go (Harmonica Frank Floyd) > Chess 1475-A < 
22 - Howlin' Tomcat (1) (Harmonica Frank Floyd) > Chess 1494-A > 
23 - She Done Moved (Harmonica Frank Floyd) > Chess 1494-B < 
*24 - Howlin' Tomcat (2) (Harmonica Frank Floyd) (Alternate Take)
25 - The Great Medical Menagerist (Harmonica Frank Floyd) > Sun 205-A <
26 - Rockin' Chair Daddy (Harmonica Frank Floyd) > Sun 205-B < 
27 - How Can It Be (Bob Price) > Chess 1495-A < 
28 - Sticks And Stones (Bob Price) > Chess 1495-B < 
*29 - Tennessee Drag (Red Hadley)
*30 - If I Had As Much Money (As I Had Time) (Red Hadley)
*31 - Boogie Ramble (Red Hadley)
32 - Blues Waltz (Ripley Cotton Choppers) > Sun 190-A <
33 - Silver Bell (Ripley Cotton Choppers) > Sun 190-B <
*34 - Roses And Sunshine (Ripley Cotton Choppers)
Original Sun Recordings

CD 2 Contains ''Boogie Blues''
1 - In The Dark (Earl Peterson) > SUN 197-B <
2 - Boogie Blues (Earl Peterson) > SUN 197-A <
*3 - Nothing To Lose But My Heart (Earl Peterson)
*4 - I'm Leaving My Heart Up To You (Earl Peterson)
5 - Make Room In The Lifeboat For Me (Howard Seratt) > St. Francis 100-A <
6 - Jesus Means All To Me (Howard Seratt) > St. Francis 100-B <
7 - Troublesome Waters (Howard Seratt) > Sun 198-A <
8 - I Must Be Saved (Howard Seratt)  > Sun 198-B < 
9 - Now She Cares No More For Me (Doug Poindexter) > Sun 202-A <
10 - My Kind Of Carryin' On (Doug Poindexter) > Sun 202-B <
*11 - How Do You Think I Feel (Scotty Moore & Elvis Presley)
*12 - Instrumental Medley (Carl Perkins)
*13 - Honky Tonk Babe (Carl Perkins)
*14 - Gone Gone Gone (Carl Perkins) (Alternate Take)
*15 - Dixie Bop (Carl Perkins)
*16 - Sure To Fall (Carl Perkins) (Alternate Take)
*17 - Tennessee (Carl Perkins) (Alternate Take)
*18 - Everybody's Tryin' To Be My Baby (Carl Perkins) (Alternate Take 3)
*19 - Forever Yours (Carl Perkins) (Alternate Take 2)
*20 - The Way You're Living (Is Breakin' My Heart) (Carl Perkins)
*21 - Try My Heart Out (Carl Perkins)
22 - Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee (Malcolm Yelvington) > Sun 211-A <
23 - Just Rollin' Along (Malcolm Yelvington) > Sun 211-B < 
24 - Lonely Sweetheart (Bill Taylor) > Flip 502-A <
25 - Split Personality (Bill Taylor & Smokey Joe Baugh) > Flip 502-B < 
*26 - Hula Bop (Smokey Joe Baugh) (Alternate Take 2)
*27 - She's A Woman (Smokey Joe Baugh) (Alternate Take 2)
*28 - The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere (Smokey Joe Baugh)
29 - Listen To Me (Smokey Joe Baugh) > Sun 228-B < /  Flip 228-B <  
30 - The Signifying Monkey (Smokey Joe Baugh) > Sun 228-A < /  > Flip 228-A < 
*31 - We're Getting Closer To Being Apart (Stan Kesler)
Original Sun Recordings

CD 3 Contains ''Defrost Your Heart''
*1 - Red Hair And Green Eyes (Johnny Bernero)
*2 - Yakety Yak (Malcolm Yelvington)
*3 - Way Down Blues (Malcolm Yelvington)
4 - Rockin' With My Baby (Malcolm Yelvington) > Sun 246-A < 
*5 - It's Me Baby (Malcolm Yelvington) (Alternate Take)
*6 - Goodbye Marie (Malcolm Yelvington)
*7 - Mr. Blues (Malcolm Yelvington)
*8 - First And Last Love (Malcolm Yelvington)
*9 - Did I Ask You To Stay Malcolm Yelvington)
*10 - Trumpet (Malcolm Yelvington)
*11 - Ocean (Going To The Sea) (Malcolm Yelvington)
*12 - Runnin' Around (Charlie Feathers)
*13 - I've Been Deceived (1) (Charlie Feathers)
14 - Peepin' Eyes (Charlie Feathers) > Flip 503-B < / > Sun 503-B <
15 - I've Been Deceived (2) (Charlie Feathers) > Flip 503-A < / > Sun 503-A < 
*16 - We're Getting Closer To Being Apart (Charlie Feathers)
17 - Defrost Your Heart (Charlie Feathers) > Sun 231-A < 
18 - Wedding Gown Of White (Charlie Feathers) > Sun 231-B < 
*19 - Bottle To The Baby (Charlie Feathers)
*20 - Man In Love (Charlie Feathers)
21 - How Long (Maggie Sue Wimberly) > Sun 229-B < 
22 - Daydreams Come True (Maggie Sue Wimberly) > Sun 229-A <
23 - No More (Jimmy Haggett) > Sun 236-A <
24 - They Call Our Love A Sin (Jimmy Haggett) > Sun 236-B < 
*25 - They Who Condemn (Maggie Sue Wimberly)
*26 - Call Me Anything (Maggie Sue Wimberly) (Alternate Take 2)
*27 - Rock And Roll 'Simmon Tree (Maggie Sue Wimberly) (Alternate Take 2)
*28 - How Come You Do Me (Jimmy Haggett) (Alternate Take 2)
*29 - Rhythm Called Rock And Roll (Jimmy Haggett)
*30 - Rock Me Baby (Jimmy Haggett)
*31 - Rabbit Action (Jimmy Haggett)
32 - Someday You Will Pay (Miller Sisters) > Flip 504-A < 
33 - You Didn't Think I Would (Miller Sisters) > Flip 504-B <
*34 - Look What You've Done (Miller Sisters)
*35 - I Know I Can't Forget You (Miller Sisters)
36 - There's No Right Way To Do Me Wrong (Miller Sisters) > Sun 230-A <
Original Sun Recordings

CD 4 Contains ''So Long I'm Gone''
1 - You Can Tell Me (Miller Sisters) > Sun 230-B <
*2 - Woody (Miller Sisters)
3 - Finders Keepers (Miller Sisters) > Sun 255-B < 
*4 - My Isle Of Golden Dreams (Miller Sisters)
*5 - Ten Cats Down (Miller Sisters) (Alternate Take)
*6 - It Only Hurts For A Little While (Miller Sisters)
*7 - Got You On My Mind (Miller Sisters)
*8 - Chains Of Love (Miller Sisters)
*9 - I Can't Find Time To Pray (Miller Sisters & Cast King)
*10 - When You Stop Loving Me (Cast King)
*11 - Like Aweed In A Garden (Cast King)
*12 - Satisfied With Me (Cast King)
*13 - Please Believe Me (Cast King)
*14 - Round And Round (Cast King)
*15 - Destiny (Cast King)
*16 - Baby Doll (Cast King)
17 - Rock 'N' Roll Ruby (Warren Smith) > Sun 239-A <
18 - I'd Rather Be Safe Than Sorry (Warren Smith) > Sun 239-B <
19 - Black Jack David (Warren Smith) > Sun 250-A < 
20 - Ubangi Stomp (Warren Smith) > Sun 250-B < 
*21 - Tonight Will Be The Last Night (Warren Smith)
*22 - Tell Me Who (Warren Smith)
*23 - I Couldn't Take The Chance (Warren Smith)
*24 - I Had A Dream (Warren Smith)
*25 - So Long I'm Gone (1) (Warren Smith)
*26 - So Long I'm Gone (2) (Warren Smith) (Alternate Take)
27 - So Long I'm Gone (3) (Warren Smith) > Sun 268-A <
*28 - Who Took My Baby (Warren Smith)
29 - Miss Froggie (Warren Smith) > Sun 268-B <
*30 - Stop The World (Warren Smith)
*31 - Red Cadillac And S Black Moustache (Warren Smith) (Alternate Take 1)
32 - Got Love If You Want It (Warren Smith) > Sun 286-A <
33 - I Fell In Love (Warren Smith) > Sun 286-B <
*34 - Hank Snow Medley (Warren Smith) (Alternate Take 3)
*35 - Do I Love You (Warren Smith)
*36 - I Like Your Kinda Love (Warren Smith)
Original Sun Recordings

CD 5 Contains ''Jump Right Out Of This Jukebox''
*1 - Uranium Rock (Warren Smith)
*2 - Goodbye Mr. Love (1) (Warren Smith)
*3 - Sweet Sweet Girl (Warren Smith) (Alternate Take 1)
*4 - Dear John (Warren Smith)
5 - Goodbye Mr. Love (2) (Warren Smith) > SUN 314-A <
6 - Feelin' Low (Ernie Chaffin) > Sun 262-A < 
7 - Lonesome For My Baby (Ernie Chaffin) > Sun 262-B < 
8 - I'm Lonesome (Ernie Chaffin) > Sun 275-A <
9 - Laughin' And Jokin' (Ernie Chaffin) > Sun 275-B < 
*10 - Linda (Ernie Chaffin)
*11 - Heart Of Me (Ernie Chaffin)
*12 - I'll Walk Alone (Ernie Chaffin)
*13 - Be Faithful To Me (Ernie Chaffin)
*14 - Got You On My Mind (Ernie Chaffin)
15 - Born To Lose (Ernie Chaffin) > Sun 307-B < 
16 - (Nothing Can Change) My Love For You (Ernie Chaffin) > Sun 307-A < 
*17 - Miracle Of You (Ernie Chaffin)
18 - Please Don't Ever Leave Me (Ernie Chaffin) > Sun 320-A <
19 - Easy To Love (Mack Self) > Sun 273-B <
*20 - Goin' Crazy (Mack Self) (Alternate Take 2)
21 - Everyday (Mack Self) > Sun 273-A < 
*22 - Easy To Love (2) (Mack Self) 
23 - Mad At You (Mack Self) > PI 3548-B < 
*24 - Vibrate (Mack Self)
*25 - Little One (Mack Self)
*26 - Lovin' Memories (2) (Mack Self)
27 - Willie Brown (Mack Self) > PI 3548-A < 
*28 - I'm Feelin' Sorry (1) (Jerry Lee Lewis) (Alternate Take 2)
*29 - I'm Feelin' Sorry (2) (Jerry Lee Lewis) (Alternate Take 3)
*30 - I'm The Guilty One (Jerry Lee Lewis)
*31 - Jump Right Out Of This Jukebox (1) (Onie Wheeler)
*32 - Walkin' Shoes (Onie Wheeler)
*33 - That's All (Onie Wheeler)
34 - Tell 'Em Off (Onie Wheeler) > Sun 315-B < 
35 - Jump Right Out Of This Jukebox (2) (Onie Wheeler) > Sun 315-A <
*36 - Bonaparte's Retreat (Onie Wheeler)
Original Sun Recordings

CD 6 Contains ''I Was there When It Happened''
*1 - Train of Love O Home of the Blues (Johnny Cash) (Alternate Take 1)
*2 - Home Of The Blues (Johnny Cash) (Alternate Take)
*3 - Ballad Of A Broken Heart (Tommy Blake)
*4 - Story Of A Broken Heart (Johnny Cash) (Alternate Take)
*5 - Ballad Of A Teenage Queen (Jack Clement)
*6 - Ballad Of A Teenage Queen (Johnny Cash) (Alternate Take)
*7 - Quench My Thirst (Jack Clement)
8 - Ten Years (Jack Clement) > Sun 291-A <
*9 - Your Lover Boy (Jack Clement)
10 - The Black Haired Man (Jack Clement) > Sun 311-A < 
11 - Wrong (Jack Clement) > Sun 311-B < 
*12 - Alimony Blues (Joe Manuel)
*13 - Daisy Bread Boogies (Joe Manuel)
*14 - Try Doin' Right (Mississippi Slim)
15 - Fallen Angel (Hardrock Gunter) > Sun 201-B < 
16 - Gonna Dance All Night (Hardrock Gunter) > Sun 201-A <
17 - Jukebox Help Me Find My Baby (Rhythm Rockers) > Sun 248-B <
18 - Fiddle Bop (Rhythm Rockers) > Sun 248-A <
*19 - Honky Tonk Girl (Wanda Ballman)
*20 - I'm Gonna Find Her (Dixieland Drifters)
*21 - Maybe Tomorrow (Dixieland Drifters)
*22 - Honky Tonk Gals (Carl Perkins)
*23 - Perkins Wiggle (Carl Perkins)
*24 - Y.O.U (Carl Perkins) (Alternate Take 3)
*25 - Folsom Prison Blues (Johnny Cash) (Alternate Take 2)
*26 - If The Good Lord's Willing (Johnny Cash) (Alternate Take)
*27 - I Was There When It Happened (Johnny Cash) (Alternate Take)
*28 - Goodnight Irene (Jerry Lee Lewis) (Alternate Take 2)
*29 - Ole Pal Of Yesterday (Jerry Lee Lewis) (Alternate Take 2)
*30 - Fools Like Me (Jerry Lee Lewis) (Alternate Take 1)
*31 - I'll Sail My Ship Alone (Jerry Lee Lewis) (Alternaye Take 3)
*32 - Settin' The Woods On Fire (Jerry Lee Lewis) (Alternate Take)
*33 - So Ashamed (Charlie Feathers)
*34 - Honky Tonk Kind (Charlie Feathers)
*35 - Frankie And Johnny (Charlie Feathers)
Original Sun Recordings

© Original Sun Recordings, licensed from Sun Entertainment, Inc.
*- BFX 15211 (LP) Box Set

For Biographies of Artists see: > The Sun Biographies <
Sun recordings can be heard on the playlists from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube <

> Page Up <


COUNTRY MUSIC IN MEMPHIS BEFORE SUN RECORDS - When Sam Phillips opened his Memphis Recording Service in 1950, he was literally taking a chance on a new area of business in Memphis. There just had not been any successful attempts to set up a commercial recording venture. There were no record labels currently operating in Memphis. Even a company called Royal Recording, set up in 1948 to record private function and the like, had folded during 1949. ''It was because of the closure of the Royal Studio downtown that my bosses at WREC warned me against trying to start my own recording business'', recalled Sam Phillips.

Despite the legendary reputation the city now has for its recorded music, Sam Phillips could have stood in his new studio and looked back over the short history of recorded sound seeing no local expertise upon which to draw other than radio. Thee local radio engineers sometimes recorded music or advertising material onto did for subsequent radio broadcast. Occasionally radio studio would be used by an out of town recording company. Other than this, and the booth in a local store where you could record a message for your own private use, there were no recording facilities in Memphis.

Major national recording companies had occasionally made recordings in Memphis 'on location' as part of a field trip to find regional music forms, but there had been no concerted effort to document or market Memphis music, be it popular, jazz, blues, gospel or hillbilly. In other regional centres, it sometimes occurred to local furniture stores to make recordings to sell in their shop along with the phonographs. Bullet Records of Nashville and Trumpet of Jackson, Mississippi starts in this way, but there appears not to have been a Memphis equivalent of these ventures. Similarly, there had been little interest shown by local radio engineer or record distributors as sometimes occurred elsewhere. There were large record pressing and distribution organizations in Memphis from the late 1940 - Plastic Products, and Music Sales - but they were geared to the major labels and to west coast and north easter independents.

Sam Phillips was a radio man. At heart, he still is. It was through his friends and contacts at WREC in Memphis that he acquired sufficient equipment to set up his studio in the first place. He bought his first recording machines from WREC'S country disc jockey Buck Turner. Sam had come to Memphis in 1945, from Florence, Alabama by way of Nashville, to work as a radio announcer and assistant to the transcriptions manager, and subsequently as a dance-band promoter. As a further sideline, Sam did disc jockey work on WREC'S country music show ''Songs of the West''. His association with country music in Memphis therefore predated his better-known interest in blues and roll and roll by five and ten years respectively.

When he moved to Memphis, Sam Phillips would have been aware that in those immediate post-war years there had been a sudden upsurge of 'independent' recording companies, largely in California and the northeast but also in some regional cities. He was also aware that the Memphis area harboured a lot of untapped talent in roots music; jazz, blues, gospel and hillbilly.

Back in 1903 another man from Florence, Alabama had come to a similar realization. He was W.C. Handy, the black musician who composes and popularize the first copyrighted blues music. Handy put Memphis on the map as far as the outside music world was concerned when he came out with his ''Memphis Blues'' in 1912. As Handy was laying the seeds of the jazz and blues legend in Memphis, a young pianist named Bob Miller was gaining his first jobs on Mississippi River steamboats. Working on the 'Idlewild' and taking in the sounds and sights of river city life - a fusion of danceband jazz, folk and hillbilly tunes - Bob Miller was inspired to develop a successful pop-country songwriting career. He had his songs published in Memphis as early as 1923. Moving from Memphis to New York in 1928, Miller become known for tunes like ''Eleven Cent Cotton'' and ''Forty Cent Meat'' and the wartime hillbilly favorite recorded by Elton Britt and others, ''There's A Star Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere''. Along the way, he became a song publisher and an A&R man. Miller's nephew, Hal Miller, became a Memphis television personality and recorded some unissued titles for Sun. Miller's story would be an interesting one, but, immediately upon his death in 1955, his wife pitched everything related to his career into the garbage.

All this, of course, told the world nothing about the real blues and hillbilly music of the mid-south. This only came to light, gradually, during to late 1920s when the large northern recording companies recognized a possible market for down to earth rural blues and folk music. The man who first 'discovered' local Memphis music was Victor's Ralph Peer who brought portable recording equipment to the city between February 24 and March 1, 1927. Using the McCall Building downtown as a studio, he reorder 34 tunes, mostly blues, and came back during the three succeeding years building up a strong roster of blues which include the Memphis Jug Band, Cannon's Jug Stampers and Tommy Johnson. On the first trip in 1927 Peer recorded 26 titles by black blues or gospel artists, 4 by a jazz band, and 4 by a white gospel septet. There was no white country music as such.

Victor's Ralph Peer and representatives from Hoke and Vocalion made repeated trips to Memphis in the years before the Depression. In general, they recorded black music although country styles were increasingly represented. Few of the artists saw their careers resurrected after the Depression but one of the survivors was Rice Fleming. He recorded for Victor, ARC and Decca as part of a duet with Vespers Townsend. In the post war years he reappeared at Sun Records in the company of Malcolm Wellington.

As the Depression hit the recording industry. there were to be no more field trips to Memphis until 1939 when Art Fatherly brought a Vocalion team to the city. In June and July that year Fatherly recorded 22 songs by the Swift Jewel Cowboys and six by Gene Steele. Born Lloyd Bob in 1908, he had acquired the name Gene Steele by the time he flit appeared on radio WMC in Memphis in 1937. Steele remained a WMC regular until 1959. Known as the Singing Salesman on WMC, Steele recorded in a bluesy semi-western swing style for Vocalion on songs like ''Ride 'Em Cowboy'' and ''Just A Little Of The Blues''. Later, in the early 1950s, Steele appears to have also recorded for Sam billies on unissued titles which included ''Alimony Blues'' and ''Daisy Bread Boogie''. When he retired from music Steele turned to dog racing in West Memphis and apparently did very well in his new line of business until his death in 1984.

The Swift Jewel Cowboys had originated in Texas, working on radio for the Swift Company, manufacturers of Jewel Salad Oil. Their manager, Frank Collins, moved them to Memphis in 1934 where, led by guitarist Slim Hall, they played over WREC until 1936 and then over WREC until 1952. One member of the group, cornettist Pee We Wamble, is still resident in Memphis. The Cowboys were a jazzy western swing outfit, whose best tunes included ''Chuck Wagon Swing'' and ''Memphis Oomph''. After the band left Memphis, Pee Wee Wamble continued to play in Memphis and he recorded in the 1941 as a member of Freddie Burns' Ranch Boys.

During the pre-War era, a few Memphis country artists who had been missed by the field trips nevertheless appeared on records. One was Ramblin' Red Lowery who arrived in Memphis in 1933 from Kentucky. Able to perform well in the then-popular style of Jimmie Rodgers, Lowery recorded several titles for Vocalion in New York in January 1934, including ''Ramblin' Red's Memphis Yodel'', numbers 1. 2. 3 and 4.

Apart from the few recording sessions mentioned above, the main reflection of commercial country music in Memphis in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s came via the local radio stations.

Just as recording companies realize during the 1920s that there was a market for real blues as hillbilly music rather than the popularised versions first heard on cylinder and records, so the fledging radio industry soon turned to folk artists to sell certain products over the air. Country musicians, and bluesmen, were particularly in demand for shows sponsored by agricultural product companies and the like.

In the early days of radio, the 1920s, airtime was much more limited to country musicians than became the case later on, particularly during to 1940s and early 1950s. Back in the 1920s, hillbilly music was likely to be heard mainly in a barn-dance format pioneered by stations such as WLS in Chicago and WSM in Nashville. Ironically, the founder of WSM'S hugely influential Grand OIe Opry programs: which started in Nashville in 1925, George D. Hay, had gains his first radio experience in Memphis. George Hay was columnist with the Memphis Commercial Appeal newspaper when the company branched out into radio as owned WMC as Memphis first radio station in 1923. Hay was drafted in as one of the first announcers on the station. He left for Chicago the following year. Had he not, it is just conceivable that the Opry might eventually have been spawned in Memphis rather than Nashville.

The second station appear in Memphis, in March 1925 was WHBQ. This was followed by WGBC in 1925 and WNBR in 1927, the latter owned by another newspaper, the Memphis Press-Scimitar. These stations combined to become WMPS in 1937 and developed into the largest station in town when taken over in 1947 by Plough Incorporated. The top news and information station in town was WREC which moved to Memphis in 1929 from earlier locations in Goldwater, Mississippi and Whitehaven. Tennessee. Other stations followed these into a regional market which, by the 1940s, was the eleventh largest in the USA. The other stations included KWEM in West Memphis and WHHM.

During the 1940s, WMPS developed into the top country music programmer in Memphis. The station had move heavily into a country format in 1939 but the tenure of Smiling ''Eddie'' Hill at the station between 1947 and 1950 pave new impetus to the station. Hill's show quickly became the leading country program in the region. Hill and his band were supported by other top acts: including the Louvin Brothers, the Carlisles. Dan Snyder and the Loden Family. Disc jockey Bob Neal became the top country disc jockey in the area.

WMC developed into the second most important country station. Its stars included Gene Steele, Bob McKnight and his Ranch Boys with vocalist Freddie Burns, Curley Williams' Georgia Peachpickers, Curley Fox, Harmonica Frank and, in 1945 and 1946, the Delmore ' Brothers with Wayne Raney and Lonnie Glosson. Alton Delmore has recalled Memphis as, ''the best place we ever worked''. The Brothers had an early morning show on WMC during the heyday of their King Records career in the wake of hits like ''Hillbilly Boogie''. The longest running country program in Memphis was also on WMC. This was the Slim Rhodes show, which ran from 1944 into the early 1961 and later expanded into TV.

Slim Rhodes' competitor on WREC was Buck Turner with his Buckaroos. Turner, from French Camp, Mississippi was probably not the same Buck Turner who recorded out of Dallas in the 1930s and had a manor success with ''Sing Sing Blues'', although Turner's story has never been properly investigated.

He died sometime in the early 1970s without having been interviewed. Details of his Buckaroos are also scant, but the croup included Curt Gilmer on guitar whose cousin Will Gilmer recorded before the war with the Leake County Revelers. Before Buck Turner's days at WREC, during the 1930 and 1940s, Ramblin' Red Lowery and the Swift Jewel Cowboys had appeared regularly on the station. Sam Phillips himself as a country disc jockey when he came to WREC in June 1945. He was the host of the ''Songs of the West'' program, where he was known as ''Pardner''. Sam's brother Jud was also on WREC as a member of the Jollyboys vocal quartet.

Across the river in Arkansas, KWEM was developing a restated for country music. In the 1950s, their to disc jockeys were Bill Strength and Dick Stuart, supported by live acts including Clyde Leopard's band, Charlie Feather and Jack Earls.

The competition for Bob Neal in the country disc jockey stakes came from Dick Stuart on KWEM and Sleepy Eye John Lepley on WHHM. Other forms of specialized music programming included some blues and gospel on stations, particulars KWEM and, of course, the black station WDIA.

Unlike WSM, Nashville, which obtained a nationally-networked slot for its country program, the Memphis country shows remained localised products for a mainly rural regional audience in west Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, Missouri and Alabama. There were networked shows out of Memphis, though, particularly on WMC, affiliated to CBS, and on WREC which broadcast live dance bands from the Skyway Restaurant in the Peabody Hotel. These shows indeed to Ted Weems Band with Perry Como, and the Ozzie Nelson show. One of the producers of the Skyway shows from 1946 to 1951 was Sam Phillips.

Just as a few Memphis-based artists were able to record in the 1930s by trammelling to major label studios, so in the 1940s some of Memphis' top radio acts appeared on record. Again, though, they had to sign with labels from outside the immediate area to achieve this.

The Delmore Brothers were contracted to King Record of Cincinnati at the time when they were appearing on Memphis radio in the late 1940s. Similarly, Freddie Burns, based in Memphis, appeared on Start Talent out of Dallas. Curley Williams, who wrote ''Half As Much'' and other songs for Hank Williams (no relation) used Memphis as a radio and touring base but was recording for Columbia out of Nashville. Eddie Hill was the leading light on Memphis country radio, but his records appeared in the 1940s on Apollo Records of New York and on Decca and then in the 1950s Mercury out of their Nashville office. The Eddie Hill Decca session in August 1949 was held at the same time as the session on Bob Price. Decca had a distribution office in Memphis (from 1938 to 1952). Other labels with offices in Memphis included Capitol (from 1946 to 1955) and King (from 1952 to 1956). Mostly these offices were for distribution and promotional staff and had no connection with the recording side of the business, but it could be that there was some scouting of Memphis talent through these offices.

As to recordings actually made in Memphis in the immediate post-War years, very little activity has been uncovered before the establishment of Sun, Duke and Meteor in 1952 and Starmaker in 1953. Ike Turner recorded some blues in makeshift studios for Modern Records of Hollywood in 1951 and 1952, and Rufus Thomas and others recorded for Star Talent at Johnny Curry’s Club in Memphis. There were some very short-lived labels operating in 1953, including one-issue blues labels like Wasco (Professor Longhair) and Back Alley (Tippo Lite). The only vaguely substantial recording enterprise to predate Sun appears to have been the Buster label formed in the late 1940s by Buster Williams as an offshoot of the Plastic Products record manufacturing set-up which Williams started in 1949. However, the evidence suggest that the Buster releases were in fact reissues of material from west coast record labels and that Buster was primarily a manufacturing and sales exercise rather than a recording enterprise related to local musicians.

All the labels so far mentioned concentrated on blues. There were also some gospel recordings. The Spirit of Memphis Quartet recorded for King on location at the Masonic Temple in Memphis in 1952. Earlier the Reverent W.H. Brewster had recorded in 1950 for Gotham on titles which may have been made at WDIA radio or another Memphis location. WDIA would have been to most likely place for the recording of black music in 1949, and in fact the first two records made by B.B. King were recorded at WDIA for Nashville's Bullet label.

Further research may reveal other Memphis recordings and labels. There are still some puzzles to be solved. Someone called dreamy Joe recorded ''Hardin's Bread Boogie'' on a promotional 78rpm for Action Promotions. There will have been other promotional discs made, and possibly some of these saw limited commercial release. Then again, it is clear that Sam Phillips' first professional job when he opened his Memphis Recording Service in January 1950 was to make acetates of WREC country singer Buck Turner for radio broadcast. Sam has long since forgotten whether there were other similar deals, or whether any of these recordings also saw commercial release. For instance, it is not clear whether the several vocal performances by a Buck Turner issued on Nashville's Bulleit label between 1950 and 1952, issued under the name of Tani Allen and his Tennessee Pals, were in fact recorded by Sam Phillips.

The four Slim Rhodes singles included here on this website therefore remain the earliest country recordings known to have been made in Memphis since Gene Steele and the Swift Jewel Cowboys recorded for Vocalion in 1939. Sun 190, ''Blues Waltz'' by the Ripley Cotton Choppers, remains the first country record known to have been issued on a Memphis-based record label.

By Martin Hawkins (with grateful acknowledgment to Tony Russell and Colin Escott)

THE SUN COUNTRY YEARS - Of all the musical styles associated with Sun Records, country music is the least well recognised and the least well documented. This is surprising because country music appeared on the magic yellow label from the first full year of operation until the last. Moreover, most of the artists primarily associated with Sun Records began their careers in country music or went on to carve out a career in country music. However, when we came to compile the Sun Country Years we encountered some special problems. Sam Phillips and his producers recorded a lot of country music.

Even before the birth of Sun Records, Phillips was recording country music for Chess and 4-Star Records. If we included every country performance from those seventeen years the list of recordings would be an unmanageable size. As Sun's fame grew, hundreds of artists made the trek to Union and Marshall, hoping that they would be discovered in the same way as Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash. Hundreds more mailed in demo tapes, many of which remain unheard to this day. Some of those tapes were shipped to Nashville with the Sun tape inventory and we have included a few examples of them.

Perhaps a couple were not recorded at 706 Union but we judged them to be of sufficient interest that they warranted inclusion. We started listening to this music many years ago and it seems as though each major project, in particular the Sun Boxes series, deepens out appreciation of the music, the environment which gave birth to it and the actual recording industry during those far off years. Despite the plethora of Sun reissues it is really hard to believe that you are scratching the bottom of the barrel when you uncover previously unknown Charlie Feathers recordings or bring some of the previously unknown or little known artists into the spotlight.

The music scene has changed out of all recognition in the years since the first of these performances was recorded. In technical terms alone, the changes have been dramatic. The acetates that Sam Phillips used in 1950 were supplanted by tape which has now been supplanted by computer scans of the audio signal. The 78rpm disc, the primary medium for sound recordings in 1950, was supplanted by microgroove which is, in turn, being supplanted by compact disc. It is now commonplace to fit one hour's worth of music onto a disc that is several inches smaller and several ounces lighter than the old 78s that held the fruits of Phillips' first efforts.

Yet, somehow, the music that Sam Phillips recorded in his tiny studio in an era so different from the present has survived to sound better with each passing year. As country music surrenders its soul in the quest for the Holy Grail of crossover, it becomes necessary to look back over your shoulder. It will be a sad day when there is no place for Charlie Feathers or Doug Poindexter singing their hearts out with a painfully simple, pure hillbilly backing. This country music is very special and we're betting that much of it will be around long after most of today's country music is forgotten.

It is probably fair to say that there was a classic period for country music on Sun Records. It fell between 1954 and 1956 when most of the country music that emanated from Sam Phillips' little studio was achingly pure and almost totally untouched by rhythm and blues. Success, of course, came with the rockabilly boom that dawned in 1956 and most of the classic country music recorded on Sun sold abysmally. When Sam Phillips calculated Earl Peterson's royalty statement in May 1955, SUN 197 had sold five copies in the preceding six months, bringing the total sales to 2868, but 196 copies had been returned. Total royalties amounted to $94.17 but Peterson had already purchased $60 worth of records, reducing the total amount owed to $34.17 peanuts - even in 1955.

It is hard to pinpoint the reasons for the dismal sales. Some artists such as Slim Rhodes had strictly local appeal. Slim's radio and, later, television, appearances ensured that his product would sell well in Memphis and the surrounding area. The Ripley Cotton Choppers, only seemed to sell well in Ripley (population 450). Charlie Feathers briefly cracked the Memphis charts with "Peepin' Eyes" thereby ensuring that he would at least see a follow-up but, in general, it seems as though Phillips had a hard time selling his country titles.

Perhaps one reason lay in the nature of the country music industry. It was dominated by the major labels. In April 1955, for example, Decca held five of the fifteen slots in the country charts. The only smaller labels to get a look-in were Dot, Imperial and Fabor. Initially, Phillips had geared his operation to the rhythm and blues market which was dominated by independent labels with strong distribution channels to support them. By the time Phillips cracked the country charts with Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash in the late months of 1955, the entire picture was starting to chance; the boundaries were starting to blur. Moreover, it is possible that Sam Phillips, with his limited resources, spent too much time getting Elvis Presley and later Johnny Cash off the ground, and that Earl Peterson, Doug Poindexter, Hardrock Gunter, Charlie Feathers, Jimmy Haggett and the Miller Sisters suffered as a result.

Sam Phillips was also afflicted by a desperate lack of Cash flow in 1954-1955. Sun had seen their main blues hits in 1953 and by 1955 distributors were still playing for new Presley product with returned blues titles. Sam Phillips was also trying to buy back his brother Jud's share of Sun (which Jud had probably bought from Jim Bulleit) and repay an unrecouped advance from Chess Records. Little wonder therefore that he found neither the time nor the money to promote his unknown country acts into a fiercely competitive marketplace that was dominated by Decca, Columbia and RCA. He could not neglect Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash but the inevitable result was that other artists suffered. Jud Phillips was back in Alabama and Sun was reduced to a two-person operation during this critical period.

However, sales are not the only criteria by which music is measured. If that were the case we'd be preparing the Four Lads or Hugo Winterhalter boxed sets. The country music that Phillips produced was difficult music. It is not easy on the ears, nor does it have the immediately appealing frenetic drive of rockabilly. It can take repeated exposure to see the tormented and primitive beauty in Charlie Feathers "I've Been Deceived". However, it is the same rawness that has enabled the music to survive these many years. When Charlie Feathers was settling down to record "I've Been Deceived", the pop and country markets were gripped by Davy Crockett mania. "The Ballad Of Davy Crockett" sold seven million copies on 20 labels. Feathers' single barely crept into four figures. However, 30 years later, Davy Crockett is a long forgotten crazy, and "I've Been Deceived" survives to sound better than ever. Pure country soul counts for something after all.

The first country record on Sun was out-of-date before the cutting stylus left the lathe. The Ripley Cotton Choppers represented a throwback to the pre War era. Their sound owed more to the Carter Family than to prevailing trends in country music. The same could be said of Howard Seratt. But then Phillips could never be accused of being mainstream. But the left-field approach brought its rewards when Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash cracked the country charts with smartingly original music.

Much of the music that Sam Phillips recorded, especially between 1954 and 1956, betrayed some of the influence of country music's lately departed king, Hank Williams. Unlike many labels, Phillips was not slavishly Williams' style. Artists such as Doug Poindexter, Carl Perkins and Charlie Feathers used Williams' style as the basis of their own but it was still very much the artist's personality that shone through.

Sam Phillips was also fortunate to have a country house band of stellar quality. Perhaps if they had played together as long as their Nashville counterparts their music would have become formula-ridden and humdrum. As it was, every performance seemed to be minted afresh. The intensity of Stanley Kesler's steel guitar matched with Bill Cantrell's fiddle and the deadened bass string sound of Quinton Claunch adds so much to these sessions.

In fact, Claunch and Cantrell offered Sam Phillips the major country hit to emerge from Memphis before Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley. The song was "Daydreamin'" by Bud Deckelman. It was finally released on Meteor after it had been mastered in Sam Phillips' studio which must have it doubly galling. Meteor's triumph was short-lived, however, because Deckelman departed almost immediately for MGM, leaving both Sun and Meteor with "Daydreamin'" sequels by other artists. Deckelman was closer to Hank Williams than any of Phillips' artists which is probably the reason why MGM were so pleased to secure him. Unfortunately, no-one had told MGM that there was only one Hank Williams.

Within a few months, the limited success of "Daydreamin'" was swept aside in the rockabilly revolution. However, Sun never forsook country music even after the success of "Blue Suede Shoes". Ernie Chaffin, Mack Self and others produced delightful country music that was almost an anachronism as the trend towards crossover product gathered momentum. Even beyond the scope of the recordings, Sun recorded country artists but none could even come close outselling the long departed Johnny Cash. Finally, when it seemed as though the bottom of the barrel has been reached for Cash repackages, Sun signed Dane Stinit, an artist who modeled his style on Cash. Unfortunately, just as no-one seemed to have told MGM that there was only Hank Williams, so it seemed that no-one told Sun that there was only one Johnny Cash. Stinit reportedly lured Sam Phillips back into the control room, but to no avail.

Sam Phillips recorded some truly excellent country music. It was original, it was profoundly soulful and some of it crossed the fine line between uptempo hillbilly music and rockabilly. Perhaps more than anything else, this highlights the fact that virtually all of the rockabillies would have been singing hillbilly music if they had auditioned a few months or a few years earlier. They all left something behind in little 7" tape boxes that resembled country music. Only Sonny Burgess and Billy Riley veered towards rhythm and blues and, of course, Roy Orbison always had his sights set filmly on the pop charts. Harold Jenkins (Also known as Conway Twitty) left behind a pure and gentle country ballad. Warren Smith left a large and hauntingly beautiful legacy of country music that presaged his move to country with Liberty Records. Jack Clement, whose mind moved concurrently in half a dozen directions, never forsook his country roots. Even Charlie Rich, the most urbane and musically eclectic of them all, left some title in the can (as well as on record) that predated his own monumental success with country music. Country music was the common wellspring. When Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins gathered together in Phillips' studio at the end of 1956 they came together musically on common ground: country gospel and good old country music. It might not have paid for the Cadillacs and the diamond rings but it was never too far beneath the surface.

By Colin Escott 

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