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1951 SESSIONS (3)
March 1, 1951 to March 31, 1951

Studio Session forJackie Brenston, March 5, 1951 / Chess Reords

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

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

MARCH 1951

"Memphis Bounce" b/w ''Sixty Days'' (Gilt-Edge 5026) by Slim Rhodes is released and reviewed in Billboard. It is the second of four discs to be culled from the two Sam Phillips' sessions.

Over the course of the next month Sam Phillips worked out a deal with the Bihari brothers for both of his new artists, and on March 1 he sent sides by both Rosco Gordon and Walter Horton with some assurance, he felt, that the Biharis would pick out at least one single by each for release. In the fall of 1950 they had finally put out the first Joe Hill Louis single, ''I Feel Like A Million'' backed with ''Heartache Baby'' (Modern 795), but from Sam's point of view it hardly made up for the way they had treated him previously. From his perspective, one release over a period of six months did not exactly constitute a binding marriage. The Bihari brothers might think they were the only game in town, but he'd be damned if he'd be yoked to those pissants for life. So when he met Leonard Chess, who just happened to show up in town on a Southern promotion swing the very day that Sam sent off his new sides to the Biharis, Sam listened carefully to what Chess had to say.

Leonard Chess was a tough-talking hustler from Chicago with a record company that he ran with his younger brother, Phil. Not quite thirty-four-years old but looking older, with thinning hair and a gaunt, wiry body, he and his brother had arrived from Poland at eleven and seven, five years after their father had established a junk business in Bronzeville, on Chicago's teeming South Side. He had gotten into the record business in 1947 after running a tavern on the 3900 block of Cotton Grove Avenue and realizing that the live entertainment that he was presenting was in any cases as good as the records that he had on the jukebox. After buying out his original partners, at Buster Williams' suggestion he changed the name of the company from Aristocrat to Chess in June of 1950 (Buster said the new name, an Ellis Island simplification of the real family name, was short, sharp, and direct, and everyone knew the game of chess), and his first two releases were modest hits. The first, by jazz saxophonist Gene Ammons, was by far the bigger seller, but the second set the trend. ''Rolling Stone'' by Mississippi-born blues singer Muddy waters, was very much in the vanguard of the new down-home blues market, a trend that had in effect begun with the astounding success of John Lee Hooker's ''Boogie Chillen'' on the Modern label just one year earlier. When his tavern burned down in the fall of 1950, Leonard received a much-needed infusion of capital from the insurance, and the new label was enjoying its first big blues hit with Muddy waters' ''Louisiana Blues'', which in contrast to Hooker's improbable million-seller, was unlikely to sell more than twenty-five or thirty thousand copies. Leonard, in fact, was in town to promote that record and Muddy's upcoming release, ''Long Distance Call'', when Sam Phillips met him for the first time over at Dewey Phillips' show called ''Red Hot and Blue'' on WHBQ.

Sam Phillips could sense from the start that Leonard was different from the Bihari brothers. For one thing, with a new company just struggling to get under way, he was hungrier. For another, he was less smooth, less sure of himself. But like them, he was a smart street hustler, driven, intense, and like Dewey Phillips he spoke the language of his artists informally and without affectation (''Hey motherfucker'' could be the easygoing greeting of either one, but then Leonard might lapse into Yiddish if he was in the company of a landsman).

According to Sam Phillips, ''I kind of liked Leonard, he didn't really have very much money at the time, but he'd heard about my studio, and he came by, and we talked, and he said, 'Man, I'd give anything to work with you'''. And then, right on the spot, he proposed a deal, they'd split the profits 50-50 on any recording of Sam's that he released, so long as he had the rights of first refusal. ''And the first thing I gave him was ''Rocket 88''.

''Rocket 88'', an original number by a young group out of Clarksdale, Mississippi called the Kings of Rhythm, was a song that came to Sam Phillips indirectly through his association with B.B. King. King had met the kid who led the group, nineteen-year-old Ike Turner, a few years earlier, when B.B. Was still Riley King, still living in Indianola, Mississippi, with his wife, Martha. He was playing a little theater in Clarksdale, and this kid had a full-scale band, the Top hatters, and asked if he could sit in on piano. As young as he was, he had obviously gone to school on boogie-woogie, he had both energy and imagination to burn, and at his invitation Riley stayed with him for a night or two at his mother's house. Just two years later, unbeknownst to Turner, Riley was making records, and the Top Hatters had split unto two groups, the uptown Dukes of Swing, who could all read music and played the kind of swing that Sam broadcast from the Skyway at the Peabody, and the Kings of Rhythm, a small Louis Jordan-type of jump combo, tenor and baritone sax, plus a three-man rhythm section, that specialized in just wrecking the point. They were coming back from a gig in Greenville when Ike saw all these cars parked by the side of the road at a big roadhouse outside Chambers, Mississippi, with a sign that announced that B.B. King was playing there tonight.

Ike Turner had seen the posters on telegraph poles all over Mississippi, he said, with that same''peculiar name'' on it, but for some reason he had never attached it to the man he knew as Riley King. When he walked into the roadhouse, ''it was B.B., man, and we asked him, could we play a song? Hey said, Yeah, and, boy, we tore the house down. So he said, 'Man, you guys need to be recording'. And we said, 'Well, what do you do to record? How do you do it? Hey said, 'Well, man, this guy in Memphis has a studio, that's where I record'. He said, ''His name is Sam Phillips, and what I'm gonna do, I'm gonna tell him to give you a call, man, on Monday for you guys to come up and record'. I said, 'Just like that'? He said, 'Yeah. And sure enough, Monday Sam Phillips called. He wanted to know how soon could we come up. I told him, 'Right now'. And we had no idea, none, what we were gonna do when we got there'' .

Ike Turner arrives in Memphis with The Kings Of Rhythm, including Jackie Brenston. Sam Phillips signs them to Chess contracts. Brenston is under age and his mother signs as his guardian. "Rocket 88" and three other titles are shipped to Chess Records in Chicago.

As the bands and singers on Beale Street began making records, it was natural for everyone to get the idea that they ought to record their own music. The growth of small local record labels provided the opportunity for many of the performers. Memphis musicians all wanted the same thing - a hit record.

When there was a success, as occurred in 1951 when Ike Turner and his Kings of Rhythm hit the charts with Jackie Brenston singing lead on "Rocket 88", everyone's enthusiasm was renewed. This song, with the musical revolution on Beale Street as a backdrop, helped bring rock and roll to life. Memphis was not only the cradle of this new black music, it was the central focus of an emerging white style.

MARCH 1, 1951 THURSDAY

''Silver City Bonanza'' opens in Theaters. The movie's cast includes Rex Allen, Buddy Ebsen and The Sons Of The Pioneers.

MARCH 3, 1951 SATURDAY

Songwriter Bob DiPiero is born in Youngstown, Ohio. His hits include Tim McGraw's ''Southern Voice'', Montgomery Gentry's ''Gone'', George Strait's ''Blue Clear Sky'' and The Oak Ridge Boys' ''American Made''. He marries, and later divorces, Pam Tillis.

MARCH 4, 1951 SUNDAY

Pee Wee King recorded ''Slow Poke'' during the afternoon at RCA Studio A in Chicago.

MARCH 5, 1951 MONDAY

A little known band drove to Memphis from Clarksdale, Mississippi to audition for Sam Phillips in the studio. The band was ‘Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats’, (who were actually Ike Turner's Kings of Rhythm) which included Willie Kizart on guitar, Raymond Hill on Saxophone, and Ike Turner on piano.

During the drive to Memphis, Tennessee, was not without incident. Everyone was in great good humor when they first set out in the pouring rain, all five crowded into a little sedan with their saxes, guitar, and drum set, and the trunk secured with a rope to accommodate the guitar amp and bass drum. Neither the weather nor the close quarters could dampen their enthusiasm, and they couldn't stop talking about what they were going to do when they got to Memphis.

They were relatively unfazed when they got stopped by the highway patrol and hauled into some little country court. It was just another case of ''too many little niggers in the car'' they joked after they paid the fine, they were more frustrated when they subsequently had a flat tire and then went and dropped the guitar amp on the pavement in their hurry to dig out the spare. But they quickly returned to their rapid-fire banter, a combination of nervousness, anticipation, boastfulness, and verbal competition entered into freely on all sides, except when their twenty-year-old leader Ike's glowering stare stopped one of them in their tracks.

When they got to Memphis, naturally they drove down Beale Street, past all the clubs and pawnshops and the New Palace and the Hippodrome skating rink, which had just started to bring in all the big-name rhythm and blues acts. Then, going out Union, they couldn't find the studio, they must have driven by it three or four times at least, because they were looking for something. Well, they didn't know what they were looking for. None of them had ever seen a recording studio before, but they thought it had to be something to match their dreams. Instead it turned out to be this sorry-ass storefront that looked more like a barbershop than anything else, with one of those neon signs in the window, but when they went in to ask the lady at the desk if she knew where the studio was, she told them this was it.

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

STUDIO SESSION FOR JACKIE BRENSTON AND IKE TURNER
AT THE MEMPHIS RECORDING SERVICE FOR CHESS RECORDS 1951

MEMPHIS RECORDING SERVICE
706 UNION AVENUE, MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE
STUDIO SESSION: MONDAY MARCH 5, 1951
SESSION HOURS: UNKNOWN
PRODUCER AND RECORDING ENGINEER - SAM C. PHILLIPS
AND/OR MARION KEISKER

While this record was being produced, Sam Phillips had realized that Ike Turner was ruining the song. He made "Rocket 88" a success by placing Turner, the would-be-producer, in the background, and by controlling the raw, rough edge of Turner's band. Not only did Sam cut the tune, but he leased it to Chess Records. It had taken all of Sam Phillips' persuasive powers to convince Ike Turner to allow Jackie Brenston to sing the lead.

01 - "ROCKET 88*" – B.M.I. - 2:47
Composer: - Jackie Brenston
Publisher:- N.M.P.C. - Arc Music Corp
Matrix number: - U-7316 - Acetate
The first rock and roll tune on the Memphis Recording Service
Recorded: - March 5, 1951
Released: - April 1, 1951
First appearance: - Chess Records (S) 78rpm standard single > Chess 1458-A < mono
ROCKET 88 / COME BACK WHERE YOU BELONG
Reached at number 1 at the Billboard's Rhythm and Blues charts
Reissued: - 1996 Charly Records (CD) 500/200rpm CDSUNBOX 7-1-7 mono
SUN RECORDS - THE BLUES YEARS 1950 - 1958

Rightly hailed as a classic, this was one of the finest jump blues to emerge from the early 1950s. Several things combine to make this record unique. The first is the sound emanating from Willie Kizart's guitar: he'd inadvertently created the first fuzz tone in the history of recorded sound when his amplifier fell off the top of the car on the way to Memphis, busting the speaker cone. Sam Phillips later recalled: "...we had no way of getting it fixed so we started playing around with the damn thing... stuffed a little paper in there and it sounded good. It sounded like a saxophone". Only Phillips would have had the courage to pair it with Ike Turner's powerful piano to lay down a rhythm track that could kill at 50 paces. Brenston's vocal drips a confidence which belies his tender years, and Raymond Hill's sax solo builds in monumentum to a screaming climax.

Sam Phillips later recalled to Hot Press' Joe Jackson: "You're damn right it was the first rock and roll record, but don't ask me what was going on there, even though I created the thing! ...it was just a magic elixir that worked''. ''But I had to tell Ike Turner 'As great as you are on piano, you can't sing'. That wasn't easy! ...but you can't be timid about telling the truth, or else you're a damn hypocrite. I had to say 'Do you have anybody, before we close down this session, that can sing?'. He said 'Jackie Brenston' ...Jackie sings, and that's how Rocket 88 came about".

The song itself is clearly highly derivative of Jimmy Liggins' 1947 hit "Cadillac Boogie" (which in turn had its roots deeply embedded in Robert Johnson's "Terraplane Blues") - only instead of a caddy, Brenston's song was a paean to the new 1950 Hydra-matic Drive V-8 Oldsmobile Rocket 88. In fact, as Brenston cheerfully told Jim O'Neal in Living Blues Magazine many years later: "if you listen to the two, you'll find that they're both basically the same. The words are just changed".

In a curious coda to this historic recording, when Sam Phillips saw to the paperwork after the session he realized that vocalist Jackie Brenston was still underage, and so the contract had to be signed by his mother - which seems wildly at variance with Brenston's later hard-drinkin'/good-timin' image.

02 - "COME BACK WHERE YOU BELONG*" – B.M.I. - 2:44
Composer: - Jackie Brenston
Publisher: - N.M.P.C.
Matrix number: - U-7317 - Acetate
Recorded: - March 5, 1951
Released: - April 1, 1951
First appearance: - Chess Records (S) 78rpm standard single > Chess 1458-B <  mono
COME BACK WHERE YOU BELONG / ROCKET 88
Reissued: - 2010 Secret Records (CD) 500/200rpm SECBX025-1-2 mono
THAT KAT SURE COULD PLAY! - THE SINGLES 1951 - 1957

During there drive from Clarksdale to Memphis, guitarist Willie Kizart's amp fell off the top of the car, breaking the speaker cone. "We had no way of getting it fixed, so we started playing around with the damn thing, stuffed a little paper in there and it sounded good. It sounded like a saxophone", Phillips told Robert Palmer. Rather than submerge the distorted sound of Kizart's guitar, Sam Phillips took a change and overamplified it, making it the centerpiece of the rhythm track. Kizart played a simple boogie riff in unison with Ike Turner's piano. Raymond Hill contributed two screeching tenor sax solos, and Brenston rode over the top with a hugely confident vocal that belied his tender years. Sam Phillips later characterized "Rocket 88" as the first rock and roll record in the world.

After the session, Sam Phillips ran off dubs and sent them to the Chess brothers in Chicago the same night. Chess snapped up "Rocket 88" together with an undistinguished blues single from Ike Turner. They were released in April 1951. "Rocket 88" reached the charts in May, hit number 1 in June, and eventually became the second-biggest rhythm and blues record of the year, after "Sixty Minute Man" from the Dominoes.

The record's success also caused dissent in the ranks of the band, Sam Phillips explains: "Ike Turner wanted a record out real badly. I said, 'Ike, man, you're a hell of a piano player, you play guitar real good, but you just can't sing. Now Jackie here has this vocal that we can really go somewhere with'. Well, this did not please Ike, and it created a little problem. I tried to handle it right and explain the way it was, but I guess I can understand how Ike felt - that Jackie's success was really his success. Anyway, Ike took Jackie's band away from us and we had a problem. At that time, Chess was screaming for more top-notch product, so I recorded Billy Love singing "Juiced". We used that as the follow-up and issued it under Jackie's name. I bought it off Billy for Jackie". Love was a local singer and pianist who sounded convincing in a number of styles; little is known of him except that he had a proclivity for the bottle. Phillips later leased several recordings by Love to Chess, one of which ''Drop Top'' was modeled closely after ''Rocket 88''.

If you buy into the myth, then is ''Heartbroken And Worried'' is what it sounded like thirty minutes before rock and roll was invented. Even with Willie Kizart's distorted guitar, ''Heartbroken And Worried'' was still a mundane cocktail blues, and it's pretty evident why Sam Phillips wanted to get Ike Turner away from the mic. Ike was a middling vocalist, and his best Charles Brown impersonation simply isn't good enough. Kizart's funky tone is by far the best thing about a record that's only interesting these days because we hear what the ''Rocket 88'' session sounded like before ''Rocket 88''.

03 - "HEARTBROKEN AND WORRIED**" – B.M.I. - 3:07
Composer: - Ike Turner
Publisher: - N.M.P.C.
Matrix number: - U-7324 - Acetate - > Chess 1458-1485 Series <
Recorded: - March 5, 1951 - Vocal Ike Turner
Released: - April 1951
First appearance: - Chess Records (S) 78rpm standard single > Chess 1459-A < mono
HEARTBROKEN AND WORRIED / I'M LONESOME BABY
Reissued: - March 8, 2013 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 17310-3-3 mono
THE SUN BLUES BOX 1950 - 1958

Everyone's far more comfortable on a tune that may well have had its origins in New Orleans and the rhumba rhythms of Professor Longhair. Bandleader/disc jockey/talent scout Ike Turner was an eager 19-year-old when these tracks were recorded. He was a reluctant vocalist even then, but Johnny O'Neal's defection from the Kings Of Rhythm to pursue a solo recording career with King meant that he had to taken his share. Not only that, the ambitious young music man needed product with his name on it to help him achieve his ambitions. Hill and Brenston's saxes chatter throughout the piece, except when Hill takes his solo Brenston picks up a pair of claves. Willie Kizart's blown cones deliver another distorted guitar solo which ends the song.

On the next track from this session, leader Ike Turner working in the then-popular mambo groove with faint intimations of ''Rocket 88''. Phillips should have cranked up Ike's voice in the mix. Willie Kizart's fuzztone guitar at the end adds an interesting touch. The lyrics were quite mundane, and the rolling rhythm (could Ike have heard Professor Longhair?) is the best thing about the performance.

04 - "I'M LONESOME BABY**" – B.M.I. - 3:00
Composer: - Ike Turner
Publisher: - N.M.P.C.
Matrix number: - U-7325 - Acetate - > Chess 1458-1485 Series <
Recorded: - March 5, 1951 - Vocal Ike Turner
Released: - April 1951
First appearance: - Chess Records (S) 78rpm standard single > Chess 1459-B < mono
I'M LONESOME BABY / HEARTBROKEN AND WORRIED
Reissued: - 1996 Charly Records (CD) 500/200rpm CDSUNBOX 7-1-9 mono
SUN RECORDS - THE BLUES YEARS 1950 - 1958

Name (Or. No. Of Instruments)
Jackie Brenston - Vocal* and Baritone Saxophone
Raymond Hill - Tenor Saxophone
Eugene Fox - Tenor Saxophone
Ike Turner - Vocal** & Piano
Willie Kizart - Guitar
Jesse Knight - Bass
Willie Sims - Drums

Members of the band of Ike Turner, there was drummer Willie ''Bad Boy'' Sims and guitarist Willie Kizart, from Tutwiler, whose father, Lee, was a well-known local guitarist and piano player. Baritone player Jackie Brenston was a big talker in the group. He had run into Ike Turner on the street just after getting out of the army, when Ike was putting the band together. He barely knew how play the sax then, but Ike patiently schooled him, and he had very recently taken over most of the vocals, after Johnny O'Neil, known as ''Scarface Brother'' for the lived scar across his chin, left just a few weeks earlier to make records on his own. Sixteen-year-old Raymond ''Bear'' Hill (for both his physique and his boxing ability), the lead tenor player, was probably the best-educated musician in the group, and certainly the most affluent, his father owned several clubs and roadhouses in the area, a cafe, and a service station, and his grandfather, who was Chinese (Ike Tuner alternately called Raymond ''Chink'' and ''Hockway'', which he insisted was ''nigger'' in Chinese), had started the Wong Grocery Store, which his mother now ran.

For Biographies of Jackie Brenston and Ike Turner see: > The Sun Biographies <
Jackie Brenston and Ike Turner's Chess recordings can be heard on the playlists from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube <

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

MARCH 5, 1951 MONDAY

Decca Released Ernest Tubb's ''Don't Stay Too Long''.

MARCH 7, 1951 WEDNESDAY

Webb Pierce conducts his first recording session for Decca Records, at the Castle Studio in Nashville. The session includes ''Drifting Texas Sand'', which he re-recorded nine years later.

MARCH 9, 1951 FRIDAY

Ernest Tubb and Red Foley recorded ''The Strange Little Girl'' at Nashville's Castle Studio.

MARCH 11, 1951 SATURDAY

''As per our telephone conversation'', Sam Phillips wrote to Jimmy Connelly, just four days after making the recording, ''I am enclosing herewith a copy of the letter to 'Atomic Boogie' DJ Bob Umbach about the sensational new record, ''Rocket 88'' which is going to make my first million for me. Seriously, Jimmy, this is one of the best race records I have ever heard, and I think you'll agree with me when you hear it''.

MARCH 12, 1951 MONDAY

Columbia released Carl Smith's ''Let's Live A Little''.

MARCH 13, 1951 TUESDAY

Johnny Bond recorded ''Sick, Sober And Sorry'' at Hollywood's Radio Recorders.

The Southern Baptist Convention buys Ward Belmont College in Nashville. The school opens a music business program in the 1970s, providing a link to the business for students Trisha Yearwood, Lee Ann Womack, Josh Turner, Brad Paisley and others.

MARCH 14, 1951 WEDNESDAY

Zella Lehr is born in Burbank, California. After starting her career on ''Hee Haw'' she gains a Top 10 hit with a version of Dolly Parton's ''Two Doors Down'' that is recorded three months before Parton's version.

MARCH 15, 1951 THURSDAY

Ray Price his first recording session for Columbia Records at the Jim Beck Studio in Dallas, Texas, leading with what becomes his debut single, the Lefty Frizzell-penned ''If You're Ever Lonely Darling''.

Gene Autry plays a lawman disrupting a bogus Mexican lottery in the debut of the movie ''Texans Never Cry'', featuring his sidekick Pat Buttram.

MARCH 16, 1951 FRIDAY

Ray Benson is born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He forms Asleep At The Wheel, which emerges as the strongest modern advocate for western swing. The group wins multiple Grammys but earns just one hit, ''The Letter That Johnny Walker Read''.

Hank Williams recorded ''Hey, Good Lookin''', ''I Can't Help It (If I'm Still In Love With You)'', ''Howlin' At The Moon'' and ''My Heart Would Know'' in an afternoon session at Nashville's Castle Recording Studio.

MARCH 17, 1951 SATURDAY

Hawkshaw Hawkins recorded ''I'm Waiting Just For You'' in Cincinnati.

MARCH 19, 1951 MONDAY

Columbia released Left Frizzell's ''I Want To Be With You Always''.

MARCH 21, 1951 WEDNESDAY

Bass player Conrad Lozano is born in Los Angeles. He joins Los Lobos, a Tex-Mex band whose 1985 record ''Will The Wolf Survive'' ranks among country's all-time greatest singles in the Country Music Foundation's ''Heartaches By The Number''.

MARCH 22, 1951 THURSDAY

Jimmy Wakely and Margaret Whiting recorded ''When You And I Were Young Maggie Blues'' at the Capitol Studios on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles.

Ernest Tubb and his second wife, Olene, have their first daughter, Erlene Dale Tubb.

MARCH 27, 1951 TUESDAY

Red Foley recorded ''(There'll Be) Peace In The Valley (For Me)'' in Nashville.

Songwriter Kent Blazy is born in Lexington, Kentucky. He authors Garth Brooks'''If Tomorrow Never Comes'', Gary Morris' ''Headed For A Heartache'' and Chris Young's ''Gettin' You Home (The Black Dress Song)'', among others.

MARCH 28, 1951 WEDNESDAY

Sam Phillips was in the process of formalizing an ''iron-clad'' agreement with Leonard Chess and getting a letter of ''consent and confirmation'' from Jackie Brenston's mother on behalf of her not-yet-twenty-one-year-old son, he was determined this time not to be taken advance of. When the record came out, though, it caused considerable consternation among the musicians once they saw the label credit.

They had all assumed it would say something like The Kings of Rhythm, Vocal by Jackie Brenston, Ike had never doubted it would say Ike Turner and His Kings of Rhythm, just like it should have, but instead, the label copy read ''Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats'', a name nobody had ever heard before. ''I was kinda teed about it'', said Ike, who saw it as a clear betrayal, but when he raised the point with Sam, the skinny, strangely intense little white guy wouldn't back down, he insisted it was because they were going to put out a release on Ike, too, and it wouldn't look right to put out two releases under the same name.

In any case, by the end of the month the record had taken off beyond anyone's expectations. ''Rocket Becomes Flying Disc, Spins Toward Record Glory'' was the headline in the front-page story in the Commercial Appeal on march 28, 1951, which not only celebrated the record's sales but trumpeted the accomplishments of the hitherto unknown and unsung Sam C. Phillips, the young ''recorded behind the Rocket'', a recording engineer and talent scout who had ''agreements with two record companies to locate and record hillbilly and race music''. Sam, wrote reporter Lydel Syms, ''is convinced the Rocket will move out of the race field into general popularity. He says Jackie will get 31/2 percent of the retail record sales, plus whatever his contract calls for on the sheet music. Jackie, when I talked to him about it, said that if he makes enough out of it he's going to buy one of those cars''.

Sam Phillips sent a copy of the story to Gene Nobles the day it came out, along with his sincere thanks to ''fellows like you'' and Bob Umbach and Dewey Phillips and pioneering black disc jockey Al Benson in Chicago, not just for playing the record but for believing in it. Sam also enclosed a new release ''by another artist that I have scouted for Leonard''. This was the single featuring Ike's two vocals 0credited, as promised, to ''Ike Turner and His Kings of Rhythm''). It had, in fact, been released virtually simultaneously but, despite Sam's claim to Gene that it was ''going good in this territory'', with far less fanfare than ''Rocket 88''.

Assignment: Memphis -
Article by Lydel Syms, March 28, 1951, Memphis Commercial Appeal

ROCKET BECOMES FLYING DISC, SPINS TOWARD RECORD GLORY – If you have a song you can't get published, you might ask Sam Phillips for help. Look what he did for ''Rocket 88''! You may not have heard this musical explosion yet, but I expect you will. I'm afraid you are utterly doomed to hear it, sooner or later. Brace yourself now and check your shock absorbers.

Sam, the recorder behind the Rocket, is the closest thing I've found to a Memphis contact-man for song-writers. Even he is not in the sheet music business, but he does know people who are. What he does, as operator of Memphis Recording Service at 706 Union, is to locate and record songs for record companies. He makes the acetate masters from which the retail platters spring.

ALSO A TALENT SCOUT – That means he is a recording engineer, but he's also a talent scout. He has agreements with two recording companies to locate and record hillbilly and ''race'' music. Race numbers are those tailored for the Negro trade. Sam auditions musicians with original songs, when he finds something he's sure will sell, he gets it on the acetate and sends it to one of the companies. He doesn't charge the musicians anything; like them, he gets his from the company, unproductive auditions are just part of the days work. Let's use ''Rocket 88'' as a thumping, throbbing case history. B.B. King of Memphis, one of the race artists Sam has been recording, passed the word along to Ike Turner, a Negro band leader of Clarksdale, Mississippi, that the market was open. Ike brought his band up for an audition.

OOZIN' AND CRUISIN' ALONG – His vocalist, Jackie Brenston, had composed ''Rocket 88'', a red-hot daydream of high life in a convertible. The car in the lyrics goes ''oozin' an' cruisin' along'', but the song could hardly be said to ooze. It erupts. Sam was sure it would hit. He got the acetate on a plane to Chicago that night. Chess Records took it, sent Jackie a contract, arranged for sheet music to be published and went into production. Just to complete the local picture on it, copies of the record for distribution in this are being pressed at Plastic Products, Inc. Sam is convinced the Rocket will move out of the race field into general p opularity. He says Jackie will gets 3 ½ per cent of the retail record sales, plus whatever his contract calls for on the sheet music. Jackie, when I talked to him about it, said that if he makes enough out of it he's going to buy one of those cars.

GLAD TO LOOK IT OVER – But to go back to the songwriter's angle, which started all this. Sam's direct search is for musician-composers in the hillbilly or race field who can record their own songs. But he may branch out some day, and he figures its to his interest to know what's being done around here in the whole field of popular music. So he says if anybody wants to bring him a song, he'll be glad to look it over. If he thinks it has merit, he'll send it to one of the publishing firms he's become acquainted with through his recording work. Whether they take it or not, he says, they'll at least give it serious consideration. He says he'll be glad to do this, but please don't fight with him if he doesn't think your song has merit. And there will be no charge.

Let me make that no-charge business clear, some song-writers are bound and determined to have a recording of their song made, they think that will help sell it to a publisher. From what I can learn, this is probably a waste of money. Sam agrees, and he's in the recording business. So if you insist on making a recording against advice, that's another matter. That costs money. And if you're stubborn enough to do it, don't say I got you into it''.

This article it appeared in the March 28th, 1951 edition of the Memphis Commercial Appeal for posterity.

MARCH 29, 1951 THURSDAY

The USS Valley Forge returns from the Korean War for repairs in San Diego. Crewman Scotty Moore is reassigned to the USS Boxer, then to the naval base. Moore is bound to become the first guitarist for Elvis Presley.

MARCH 30, 1951 FRIDAY

Roy Rogers is framed in a cattle-theft scheme as ''Heart Of The Rockies'' debuts in theaters. Foy Willing and The Riders Of The Purple Sage provide their usual support.

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

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©