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1950 SESSIONS (1-6)
January 1, 1950 to June 30, 1950

- Where The Story Begins - That Muddy Old River -
- The Talking Machine Comes To Memphis -
- On The Air -
-The Age Of The Indie -
- The Memphis Scene -

Studio Session for Rufus Thomas, 1949/1950 / Talent Records
Studio Session for Lost John Hunter, May 1950 / 4-Star Records
Studio Session for Charlie Burse, May 1950
Advertising Studio Session for Sam Phillips, Probably June 1950
Studio Session for Buck Turner, June 1950 / 4-Star Records
Studio Session for The Five Voice Singers of Memphis, Probably June 1950
Studio Session for The Gospel Travelers, 1950 / Modern Records
Studio Session for Rufus Thomas, June 9-11, 1950 / Bullet Records
Studio Session for Phineas Newborn Jr., June 24, 1950 / Modern Records

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



Was the start of the fast changes that would be seen in the next 2 decades, the great depression was becoming a faint memory and families were moving out to the suburbs, kids watched howdy doody on 12 inch black and white TV sets and spent Saturday afternoons watching cartoons at Cinema matinees , times were gentler with little violence and the consumer revolution was about to start in a big way, and the man of the household became the sole breadwinner. The median family income was $3,300 a year and milk was still delivered to the doorstep.

WHERE THE STORY BEGINS - THAT MUDDY OLD RIVER - ''It was back in 1939, I was 16 years old, and I went to Memphis with some friends in a big old Dodge. We drove down Beale Street in the middle of the night and it was rockin'! The street was busy. It was so active, musically, socially God, I loved it!''. That was Samuel Cornelius Phillips' first experience of Memphis. He was a country boy from the northwest corner of Alabama, where the state borders Mississippi and Tennessee.

A half-century later, Sam Phillips is an uncontested legend in his adopted hometown. He came to the all where there was, as he put it, ''a meeting of musics'', and in a tiny storefront studio he recorded music that would change the face of popular culture. He also ensured that not even the most cursory history of American popular music could be written without reference to Memphis or Sam C. Phillips.

Sam Phillips is responsible for two of the most enduring images in American iconography: Elvis Presley, barely twenty-one- years old, shaking his butt and singing the blues on network television, and Jerry Lee Lewis staring at those same cameras with wild-eyed fury, kicking his piano stool back behind him same across the soundstage Together those images defined a revolution.

It wasn't just that these were white kids singing black music, after all, that had been done before. The white folk group the Weavers, for example, had sung the black folk song ''Goodnight Irene'' on television a few years before. But when Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis performed on the same shows, they did more than borrow the form of black music: they borrowed its fervor. What they were offering was not a blatant copy, something new had been forged, and Sam Phillips was responsible.

Sam Phillips was not the first person to open a studio In Memphis. He was not the first to start a record label there, nor the first to experiment with white kids singing what was essentially the blues. In fact, much of what Phillips did others had done before, but he did it with a consistent artistic conception of the way music should sound. He recognized the primacy of the blues and looked for the raw blues feel in virtually all of the artists he recorded. Phillips also sensed that he was In the right place at the right time, and he had the tenacity to hold fast through six largely desolate years to see his vision pay off.

The notion that a record label of national importance could emerge from Memphis would have been in fact, was laughed at in 1950. Even Nashville was seen only as a convenient recording outpost for the major labels, which were located in either New York or Los Angeles. Memphis may have been associated with the blues in much the same romantic way that New Orleans was associated with jazz, but it was tantamount to lunacy to suggest that a record label with national aspirations should base itself there. It was even more unlikely that such a company could hope to achieve national success by recording a strange hybrid music that flouted all conventional barriers.

In beginning the story of Sun Records, it is worth looking at the musical and cultural scene in Memphis when Sam Phillips hung his neon ''Memphis Recording Service'' sign in the window and announced to the few who cared that he was open for business.

THE TALKING MACHINE COMES TO MEMPHIS - There is an old adage that Nashville is the capital of Tennessee and Memphis is the capital of Mississippi. Geographically isolated from most of the state, Memphis has always looked south toward the Delta, rather than east toward Nashville, for the commerce that sustained it. As in life, so in music.

By the mid-1920s record companies had started to bring portable recording equipment into the South, usually setting up shop in a hotel, staying for a few days, then moving on. When Ralph Peer, representing the Victor Talking Machine Company, set up makeshift studios in Tennessee in 1927, he captured entirely different musical traditions at the two extremes of the state.

In the far northwest corner, the city of Bristol yielded Appalachian folk ballads grounded in the Anglo-Celtic traditions. In Memphis, Peer recorded mostly jug band music, jazz, and blues, music with African-American roots.

Using a room in the McCall Building as a temporary studio, Peer recorded thirty-four tunes between February 24 and March 1 of that year. He returned during the three succeeding years to build up a strong roster of bluesmen and jug bands, laying he groundwork for the city's first recording boom, which, in common with similar groundswells in most other regional centers, simply evaporated during the Great Depression.

Some of Sam Phillips' earliest recordings, which featured jug band veteran Charlie Burse and other artists who had recorded before the war, such as Jack Kelly and Sleepy John Estes, harked back to the traditions Peer had drawn upon. Otherwise, the scene had changed completely by the time Phillips picked up the threads.

This 1928 letter (above) from the Victor Talking Machine Company (featuring the famous "Nipper" logo) refers to royalty checks for 8 selections Irene Beasley recorded when she was starting her radio career in Memphis, Tennessee. Beasley wrote the song "If I Could Only Stop Dreaming'', and persuaded her father to publish it while she was still working as a teacher of math, music, and business management at a Memphis Jr. high school. The success of this tune helped launch her local radio career, which ultimately led her to Chicago, New York, and a career with CBS.

Irene Beasley (1904-1980), known as "the long, tall gal from Dixie'', was a composer, singer, and radio personality. She is best remembered for her long-running musical quiz show, "Grand Slam'', a program which she wrote, produced and hosted. It aired from 1943 to 1953.

ON THE AIR - Record sales may have slumped during the Depression, but radio began to thrive. The first station to open in Memphis was WMC, launched by a news- paper, the Memphis Commercial Appeal, in 1932.

As an aside, it's worth noting that a columnist for that paper, George Hay, once covered a rural funeral in Mammoth Spring, Arkansas, and, that evening, a country hoedown not far away. Guessing that the barn dance format could adapt well to the new medium of radio, he took his concept to Chicago, where it spawned the National Barn Dance on WLS and, a little later, the WSM Barn Dance in Nashville.

The WSM show would eventually, as the Grand Ole spry, become a symbol of country music. The history of American music might just have taken a different course if Hay had taken his brainchild to Memphis's WMC, where he worked a short stint as an announcer.

An early Memphis radio pioneer who would later have an influence on Sam Phillips was Hoyt B. Wooten. Born in Coldwater, Mississippi, Wooden founded one of the first radio stations in the South there in 1920. He moved to Memphis in 1929, changing his station's call letters to WREC (Woolen Radio Electric Company). He had a fascination for uncharted territory, applying for a television broadcasting license as nearly as 1928, and hand-building much of his audio technology. His unfettered thinking and flair for audio experimentation would be an inspiration to Phillips, who joined WREC as a young engineer in 1945.

Pop music and radio drama dominated the airwaves in the years before 1950. Most of the music was broadcast live from the studio, or relayed from live ''feeds'' off the networks. Most Memphis stations programmed a little country music, primarily from local artists. WMPS launched its country programming in 1939 and swung into high gear with the acquisition of Smilin' Eddie Hill, whose Noontime Roundup show between 1947 and 1952 featured the cream of the local musicians together with some imported from out of state. It was Hill's show that reached Johnny Cash and tens of thousands of others taking a lunchtime break out in the fields.

The research of country music scholar Bill C. Malone has revealed that for many years southerners lagged behind the remainder of the country in ownership of radios. Malone suggests that the large black population in the South did not own radios because there was so little programming of black music Radio station owners generally assumed that the black marketplace would not attract advertising dollars, but that belief began to collapse in the years of prosperity following the Second World War.

Suddenly in the mid to late 1940s, stations began springing up that were targeted primarily at the black audience. In Birmingham, there was WEDR; In Nashville, WSOK; In Atlanta, WERD; and in Memphis, WDIA. The reasons were many, but the principal ones were the growing affluence of the black consumer and the formation of Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI), in 1939.

BMI and its rival, the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP), licensed music for broadcast. ASCAP, which had previously enjoyed a virtual monopoly, had admitted only a few members who specialized in ethnic music, black or white. BMI wasn't founded expressly to propagate minority-interest music, but it was interested in generating repertoire to license.

Hillbilly and black music were two vast, untapped sources of material, and BMI cultivated their writers and publishers as founts of revenue. And because, as the Russian proverb goes, a black cow may give white milk, the effect of BMI was to make available a much wider variety of music.

WDIA started as a pop and country station in 1947 and changed to a black music format the following year. Even though it remained under white management, WDIA, and to a lesser extent KWEM in West Memphis, Arkansas, and WLOK, also in Memphis, gave daily exposure to the artists Phillips and his competitors would record. Their principal medium was the fifteen-minute sponsored live show, a format that spawned B. B. King, Howlin' Wolf, and many more.

The year 1948 also marked the radio debut of Dewey Phillips, whose radio style virtually defied categorization. He was a white disc jockey from rural Tennessee who hosted a show called ''Red Hot and Blue'' on WHBQ. Randy Haspel, who would later record for Sun as part of Randy and the Radiants, has written a luminous description of Dewey hosting his show: ''His style was pure country. He was an irreverent squawker with a stream of consciousness speed rap that never quit, even while the record was playing. From the midst of trained, deep and resonant voices that filled the airwaves, came this countrified raped fire drawl with an indefinable vocabulary''.

During its first year on the air, the show was expanded from fifteen minutes to three hours dally. Dewey programmed an eclectic mix of blues, hillbilly, and pop that would become an institution in Memphis, and his importance to the cross-cultural miscegenation that became rock and roll is incalculable. Among the few who followed in his immediate wake was Sam Phillips, who soon began programming a comparably freewheeling show on WREC on Saturday
afternoons. Sam and Dewey Phillips weren't related by blood ties, but it's not going too far to say they shared a relationship that ran much deeper.

Just as the formation of BMI had increased the number of stations programming black music, those stations, and the disc jockeys like Dewey Phillips who manned them, were vital to the exposure and promotion of new records. In fact, the proliferation of black radio was a major factor in the astonishing growth of the number of independent record companies aiming their product at the rhythm and blues market in the postwar years.

THE AGE OF THE INDIE - A shortage of shellac, a key component in the manufacture of 78-rpm records, contributed to the slumping fortunes of the record business through the war years. The problems were exacerbated by a recording ban called by the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) in 1942.

After the war, however, with the shellac shortage easing, the economy booming, and the music industry's grudging acceptance of the AFM's new recording rates, the record business grew in quantum leaps.

The major record labels (Decca, Capitol, Victor, and Columbia) concentrated on the most lucrative sector of the market: pop music. Pop accounted for over 50 percent of the market and was firmly controlled by the majors. The small independent labels, known as ''indies'' sensibly decided to look elsewhere. ''Some indies'', reported Billboard in April 1946, ''frankly admit they are going to stay out of fields in which the majors push heavily and concentrate on items where the majors do more or less of a token job''.

It was in the held of black music, then dubbed ''sepia'' or ''race'' music, that the majors fell conspicuously short. Their A&R (artists and repertoire) men didn't understand the music, and their salesmen didn't know how to promote or sell it. The result was a market share reported to be less than 5 percent of the total pie. It was hardly surprising that the indies would gravitate toward such an open market. The prospect of recording the music was made even more attractive because the sessions were cheap to produce. The groups were comparatively small, and the AFM's presence was marginal at best. ''The major labels used to laugh at (the indies)'', recalled Sam Phillips in 1981. ''Atlantic, Aladdin, Sun, Dot. They figured these damn people would go away, and what percentage of the market are they gonna get anyway? One or two percent? So I while their eyes were closed to us who were hungry and knew what we were doing, and weren't shackled by corporate routine, we grew beyond what they expected''.

Although most county music and blues emanated from the South, very few labels of appreciable size were headquartered there. Nashville spawned the Bullet label In 1945, which had one of the biggest hits of 1947 with Francis Craig's ''Near You'', but that was the only hit the label ever saw. Virtually every southern city had a small record company, but none made a steady national impact until Randy Wood founded Dot in Gallatin, Tennessee, in 1950. Like Wood, Phillips never envisioned his label servicing just the local market. He was convinced that he could buck the odds and launch a national label from a storefront in Memphis.

THE MEMPHIS SCENE - The Memphis music scene, such as it was, was a mixed bag of different, sometimes opposing, forces. The successful country artists based in Memphis, such as Eddie Hill, the Delmore Brothers, and the Louvin Brothers, were snapped up by out-of-town record companies. Those artists and countless others worked daily on radio and nightly at the honky-tonk, most of which were outside the city limits. News of their activities rarely if ever reached the newspapers.

The focus of activity for elite society was the Skyway ballroom at the Peabody Hotel. The cream of the touring big bands played at the Skyway, and their music was fed nightly into the CBS network via WREC.

Sam Phillips was one of the technical staff working the Skyway. His first job was as a ''spotter'', staying on the phone, relaying information to the engineer at WREC's control room, telling him which musician was about to take a solo and into which microphone he was going to play.

The opulence of the Skyway and the accommodations provided for band members at the Peabody contrasted starkly with the touring conditions for black bands. Under the alliterative headline ''Bible Belt Heads Back to Banjo Bands and Blackfaces: Beat Bandsmen with Bats'', Billboard in November 1946 described the facilities for black bands in the midsouth: ''As a rule, Southern club operators are hostile toward labor and are kept in their best cooperative spirits when the word ''Union'' is not spoken aloud in their presence. They regard the AFM as a force of banditry. Negro bands often to choose between vermin-infested hotels or the band bus. All of this in addition to filthy cafes, poor or no valet service, long jumps on tar-graveled roads, crippled pianos and buzzing PA systems make the South the least attractive hinterland to musicians''.

''Downbeat magazine conducted a random survey in May 1947 and found that most renowned black bands chose to ignore the South. With hipper-than-thou obliqueness, Nat ''King'' Cole told the magazine, ''I try my best to keep my kicks along Route 66, and there's no place I know of where that route dips down south''.

Conditions in Memphis were a little better than in the Deep South, and the city drew some top black bands to play the regular Midnight Rambles at the black night spots, accommodating them in comparative luxury at the Mitchell Hotel. Local black artists had steady work as supporting act in the clubs, at black baseball parks, on the radio, and at juke joints, but the dearth of local recording companies ensured that few got onto disc. The truth was that the South, which had given birth to rhythm and blues, was regarded as a pest hole by those who played it for a living.

It is also true that the cultural cross-pollination Sam Phillips has often pointed out undoubtedly took place. White kids listened to rhythm and blues and blacks listened to counts music long before rock and roll; but the mixing of the musics took place in a social climate that was rigidly segregated. Record producer Jim Dickinson (who later worked at Sun as part of the Jesters) is one of many who believes that segregation was one of the factors that gave a distinct edge to Memphis music. ''I started noticing as a producer'', he asserts, ''that Spooner Oldham, the keyboard player, played drastically differently in different places. His best playing was done in Memphis. I wondered if the same was true of me, so I got out my own tapes, and by God it's true. I may not play better in Memphis, but I certainly play differently, and if I stay away too long I start to play funny. Memphis music is about racial collision in both directions. The rednecks who are playing blues still feel funny about it because they're playing black music''.

Later, after rock and roll exploded, black and white kids from coast to coast and overseas began playing ''southern'' music, but the were drawing on a culture that they had only experienced vicariously, and the result was that they tried too hard to emulate it. They were to frantic. In fact, singers like Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis rarely rasped and screamed the way their many imitators usually did. In general, those from outside the southern culture built a style around exaggerations of southern music, and missed the lonesome hillbilly and blues feel that was its core. In the quest for abandon, they also failed to understand that southern music is lazy music, at any tempo.

As bandleader and producer Willie Mitchell has observed, ''Jazz players here could play really fast, but they still played behind the beat just a little bit. That lazy quality is something the jazz and rhythm and blues players in Memphis have always had in common. Even the Bill Black Combo and Otis Redding, they'd be playing behind the tempo just a little bit, and all of a sudden everyone would start to sway. Even the lazy horns. They'd be half a beat behind, so it sounded like they were going to miss it altogether, and they'd sway like that and be right up on the beat. I could hear that quality in Memphis blues when I was coming up and could hear it right through into Al Green''. It was into this climate that Sam Phillips came from Florence, Alabama, via Nashville.


Sam Phillips takes a lease on the premises at 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, and commences work to put in a recording studio. He also has a regular job as a radio announcer at WREC, Memphis and as engineer for big bands concerts broadcast from the Hotel Peabody. Country singer Buck Turner, a regular performer at WREC, puts up part of the money to purchase recording equipment.


By the end of the 1940s, Rufus Thomas had spent several years singing in Memphis night spots with a number of good local bands:, those of Bill Harvey, Al Jackson, Bill Fort, and Tuff Green. He hadn't seen this as his main forte but it was a developing part of his game plan as an entertainer.

He said, ''My models were Fats Waller and Louis Armstrong, and a fellow named Gatemouth Moore, Dwight Moore out of Memphis. They were all good entertainers, very very versatile''.

The rhythm and blues ballad takes shape with huge smashes in that style by Ivory Joe Hunter, Percy Mayfield and Laurie Tate which bring about a much needed versatility in the emerging music.

Fats Domino's first record "The Fat Man" ushers in the full-fledged rock sound. ''They call me the Fat Man'', that sang Antoine Domino in his first rhythm and blues hit, ''because I weigh 200 pounds''. Yes, fats Domino was big, in fact, he was one of rock and roll's real giants. From 1959 through the late sixties, he sold 65 million records, more than any other fifties rock pioneer except Elvis. Along the way, he earned 23 gold records for such songs as ''Ain't That A Shame'', ''Blueberry Hill'', and ''I'm Walking''. Influence by the likes of Amos Milburn and Professor Longhair, Domino's piano-based, New Orleans, style rhythm and blues was one of rock's early building blocks.


The Johnny Otis rhythm and blues caravan takes the rhythm and blues show on the road scoring ten Top Ten hits that year, three of them chart toppers, with such vocalists as 14 year old Little Esther, Mel Walker and the Robins.

Gatemouth Moore had recently been a successful recording artist before returning to Memphis to work over WDIA, and he was one of the reasons why Rufus started to think about making records himself. He recalled: ''I was working in a club as a singer, and it was something I wanted to do. It was a chance. I just wanted to be on record. I never thought of getting rich. I just wanted to be known, be a recording artist''.

Arkie Shibley & His Mountain Dew Boys record "Hot Rod Race" sets the stage for white country music to meet rhythm & blues in a term to be known as rockabilly in the future.


The 1950 census lists 147,141 African Americans living in Memphis, constituting 37% of the city's population. In rural communities around Memphis, the African American population is often as high as 70%.

The record companies generally adopted the new standards with the vast improvements in sound quality. Production of the 78rpm shellac disc began to be discontinued.

Future Sun recording artist Eddie Bond leaving school in 1950, he held down a variety of jobs including furniture factory worker, paint sprayer and, a job common amongst Memphis rockabillies, truck driver. After an eighteen months stint in the Navy, Eddie Bond returned to work in paint, this time selling not spraying.


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 possible some of these saw limited commercial releases.


Steve Ripley is born. He becomes the lead singer for the Tracktors, a raw amalgam of country, rhythm and blues and roots rock that defies a country tradition in 1994, achieving gold album without ever having played a full concert.


Decca released Bing Crosby and The Andrew Sisters' pop version of the Scotty Weisman-penned ''Have I Told You Lately That I Love You''.


Sam Phillips opened the doors of his Memphis Recording Service (20 by 35 feet) in January 1950, he sunk around a thousand dollars into renovating a small auto repair shop at 706 Union Avenue and converting it into the Memphis Recording Service, a storefront recording studio, and he was taking a chance on an area of business that remained unproven in Memphis.

He is still holding down two other jobs: as an announcer at radio WREC, and as a promoter at the Hotel Peabody. Just about the only similar venture anyone could remember was a short-lived company called Royal Recording, which had been founded in 1948 to record private functions and the like, only to become defunct a year later.

Sam Phillips managed to pay the seventy-five dollar monthly rent by doing custom recordings of weddings, funerals, conventions, and the like, in those dark ages before the camcorder. But his real love was the sideline he developed recording local blues artists for big city labels like Chicago's Chess or Los Angeles' R.P.M. and Modern.

Jack Clement, Sam's chief engineer, worked with Phillips setting up the studio, and, over the next few years, Stanley Kesler, Marcus Van Story, and Charlie Feathers worked on arranging the mikes. The famous "Sun Sound" was actually produced by one mike bleeding into the next. Creating the studio had been a tremendous remodelling job. On the plus side, the presence of carpenters, plumbers, and moving vans had attracted attention. Country performers, street musicians, blues artists, and big band members watched Sam Phillips develop his new company. When Sam Phillips formally opened the Memphis Recording Service, large numbers of local blues musicians walked through the company front door.

Sam Phillips recorded the Buck Turner band on country music radio transcriptions for use by the Arkansas Rural Electrification Program. Phillips may also have recorded Buck Turner as a vocalist with Tani Allen and his Tennessee Pals, who had seven records issued between 1950 and 1952 on the Bullet label of Nashville.

The first acetate was Bullet 702, "Tennessee Jive"/"Rockin' Chair Boogie". For instance, it is not clear whether the several vocal performances by a Buck Turner issued on Nashville's Bullet label between 1950 and 1952, issued under the name of Tani Allen and his Tennessee Pals, were in fact recorded by Sam Phillips.

"The very first job I had after I opened my recording studio - that was in January of 1950 - was recording for radio with a country singer name of Buck Turner. This was for the Arkansas Rural Electrification Corporation", recalled Sam Phillips. "We made fifteen minute programmes that transcribed onto the big old 16 inch disc. They were distributed to about eighteen or twenty outlets. That was actually the first recording I did".

"I had a little Presto five-input mixer board in the studio at 706 Union. It was portable and it sat on a hall table kind of thing, for my console. That's all it was". "With it I had a Presto portable tape recorder, a companion piece to the mixer, I think a PT 500. Dating back before then, I had a Crestwood tape recorder. Actually this was the first one I had - it was a little amateur thing. The second one I had along at the same time was a Bell tape recorder. The Bell was in a red case and the Crestwood was in a beige case, I'll never forget them. I had those just before I was able to buy the more professional Presto equipment. I used them to record things like the School Days Revue, which was an amateur show put on for charity each year here in Memphis. I also used the Bell and Crestwood for recording weddings and funerals and so on. I was real proud to get the Presto 'cause, man, that was big time stuff for me then".

"For making acetates I had the 6N lathe, also Presto, with a Presto ID cutting head. It was a small lathe - Presto made a big lathe but I certainly wasn't able to afford one of them. It was connected to a Presto turntable, and that's how I cut most of my early music".

"This five input mixer had out 4 microphone ports, and the fifth port had a multi-selector switch where you could flip it one way and get a mike and flip it another way and play your recordings back through it. That was my console". The first tape machines were just as primitive: "I had a Presto portable tape recorder, a PT 900, companion piece to the mixer.

"In the very beginning I recorded a lot onto those sixteen-inch discs, which I cut at 78rpm. Normally you wouldn't do that. You recorded at 33rpm on transcriptions, but in order to improve the sound, I recorded at 78rpm and would make an acetate master from there. For making acetates I had the Presto 6-N lathe, which was connected to a Presto turntable. That's how I cut most of my early music".

By 1954 Sam Phillips had upgraded his equipment and installed two Ampex 350 recorders: one console model and another mounted on a rack behind his head for the tape delay echo, or "slapback", for which Sun Records became famous. By "bouncing" the signal from one machine to another, with a split-second lag between the two, Sam Phillips created his characteristic echo effect. By the mid-1950s he had also ditched his Presto board in favour of the RCA 76-D radio consolette. Inputs and outputs were all coupled through transformers, giving a distinct warm coloration (often dubbed the "tube" sound) to anything passing through them.

For years after Sam Phillips made the switch from acetate discs to magnetic tape in late 1951, the relatively high price of tape ensured that, watching every penny, he reused every spare inch - including hours of Elvis Presley outtakes and rejected masters. Not until 1956, with the financial picture much improved and the price of tape lowered, did he finally feel able to let the tapes roll freely. From then on, much of the activity within the Sun studio was captured on tape and preserved for posterity.


Two months after Red Foley recorded the hit country version, Bing Crosby records a pop rendition of ''Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boys'' in a morning session in Hollywood.

''Slipping Around'' singer Margaret Whiting marries piano player Lou Busch, known professionally as Joe ''Fingers'' Carr, in Chihuahua, Mexico. Neither party has actually divorced his or previous spouse.


Kenny Robert recorded ''Cholate Ice Cream Gone''.

RCA introduces 33 rpm 12-inch discs, limiting the use of 45rpm seven-inch discs to popular music.


Tennessee Ernie Ford and his wife, Betty, welcome a son, Jeffrey Buckner Ford, in San Gabriel, California.


Hank Snow becomes a member of the Grand Ole Opry when he debuts on the show, introduced by Ernest Tubb. Also debuting the same evening: Tennessee Ernie Ford.


''Bells Of Coronado'' debuts in theaters, with Roy Rogers tackling uranium smugglers. His supporting cast includes the usual suspects: Dale Evans, Pat Brady, Trigger and Foy Willing's Riders Of The Purple Sage.


Hank Williams records "Long Gone Lonesome Blues, ''My Son Calls Another Man Daddy'', ''Why Should We Try Anymore'' and ''Why Don't You Love Me'' in his first session using the Original Drifting Cowboys at Nashville's Castle Studio.

Decca released Ernest Tubb's double-sided hit, ''Letters Have No Arms'' backed with ''I'll take A Back Seat For You''.


Hank Williams records his first recitations as Luke The Drifter at the Castle Studio in downtown Nashville

Steel guitarist Speedy West records his first instrumental ''Steel Strike'' during a Cliffie Stone session in Los Angeles.

The western ''Red Rock Outlaw'' appears in theaters, less than one month after one of its stars, former Grand Ole Opry member Lee ''Lasses'' White, died.


Frank Sinatra records a pop version of the Red Foley hit ''Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy'' in Hollywood.


The movie ''Hollywood Varieties'' debuts in theaters, with The Hoosiers Hot Shots singing two songs: ''My Bonnie'' and ''Darlin' You Can't Love One''. Robert Alda serves as master of ceremonies.


David Lyn Jones is born in Bexar, Arkansas. Compared by critics to Bruce Springsteen, he earns just one country hit as an artist, with 1987's ''Bonnie Jean (Little Sister)''. He also writes Willie Nelson's ''Living In The Promiseland''.

Spade Cooley stars, and sings, as the western movie ''The Kid From Gower Gulch'' debuts in theaters.


Red Foley tops the Billboard country chart with ''Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy''.

Dr. Norman Vincent Peale's column, ''The Power Of Positive Thinking'', begins running in newspapers across the United States. The title inspires a future Mickey Giley hit, ''The Power Of Positive Drinkin'''.


Rock-bassist from the Box Tops, Bill Cunningham is born in Memphis, Tennessee.

Decca released a double-sided Red Foley single: ''Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy'' backed with ''Sugarfoot Rag'', the latter featuring guitarist Hank Garland


Becky Hobbs is born in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Highly regarded, her 11-year country chart span includes a hit duet with Moe Bandy on ''Let's Get Over Them Together''. She also writes Conway Twitty's ''I Want To Know You Before We Make Love''.


India’s new constitution officially takes effect when the new President Dr. Rajendrea Prasad took the oath of office. The original draft of the constitution was submitted during November of 1947 and was re-worked until it was finally approved by the Constituent Assembly in November of 1949. The new constitution declared that the country of India would be a sovereign socialist and democratic republic that would be organized as a federal union of territories and states, ruled under a parliamentary system. As the constitution of India took effect, the newly self-governing country became the most populous democracy in the world.


MGM released Hank Williams' ''I Just Don't Like This Kind Of Livin'''.


Barbara Klein is born in Sacramento, California. Under the name Barbi Benton, she gains fame first as a 1970's Playboy cover girl, then for a 1975 country hit, ''Brass Buckles''. She also joins the cast of ''Hee Haw''.


Joe Hill Louis's first Columbia single ''Railroad Blues'' b/w ''A'Jumpin' And A'Shuffle'' (Columbia 30182) is released.

Capitol released Tennessee Ford's ''The Cry Of The Wild Goose''.


In January 1946 Robert E. "Buster" Williams and Clarence Camp had launched a record distributorship in Memphis called Music Sales. The major labels largely controlled their own distribution, but small distributors handled the indies. Music Sales, located at 117 Union Avenue in Memphis, distributed most of the rhythm and blues labels, such as Atlanta and Chess. Later Music Sales distributed all the records from Sun Records.

In 1949 Williams started a pressing plant, Plastic Products Incorporated, on 1746 Chelsea Avenue in Memphis. His intention was to press some product for the labels he distributed, thereby taking advance of the shipping location of Memphis, in the center of the country.

Robert Williams found the major plants unwilling to share their technology, though, and, in a display of rugged individualism, he designed his own presses and compound, the shellac-based amalgam from which records were made. Robert Williams and Sam Phillips became fast friends, and Williams supplied the manufacturing credit and local distribution that Sam Phillips had come to need after he started Sun Records, as well as supplying a warehouse and shipping point.

Buck Turner, who had lent Sam Phillips some of the up-front cash he needed to install his studio hardware, also gave him his first paying gig - recording transcriptions of Turner's band for the Arkansas Rural Electrification Program. The transcriptions were distributed to fifteen or twenty stations throughout the mid-South. "Remember", says Phillips, "that I still had a day job at WREC radio until the middle of 1951, and I was presenting the big bands at the Peabody at night. After I got off from the station at 3:30 in the afternoon, I went down to the studio, and everything had to be fitted in at that time of day. When I opened the studio I had already talked to record labels, but I didn't have any deals lined up. I felt I had to please myself first with the music and then go out and sell it. As I began to record, the word gradually got around that I might have something. The first deal I made was with Bill McCall and Don Pierce at 4-Star and Gilt Edge Records".


Senator Joseph McCarthy launches his campaign against alleged Communists in the U.S. State Department.

Rufus Thomas' first and only Star Talent 78 is released.

The Diner's Club issues the first credit cards. The first independent credit card company is created by Frank McNamara in February of 1950. The first cards were made with cardboard and the plastic versions did not appear until the 1960s. The Diners Club credit card was the first multi-purpose charge card and within a year of beginning operations the company had over 40,000 members. Soon after that businesses in other countries began to accept the Diners Club Card as a form of payment, making it the first international credit membership in 1953. By the end of the decade, over one million people were members in 1959. In 1981 Citicorp took over Diners Club and it continued to be a popular choice for businesses and travelers. In 2008 it was taken over by Discover and in 2009 BMO Financial Group was given the right to issue Diners Club credit cards in North America.


RCA unveils the first 45rpm record player. RCA introduced the new 45 RPM format records and record players in 1949. This 1950 RCA Victor 45-EY-2 Phonograph (above) was designed to stack and play up to seven 45 RPM records at a time.

The smaller diameter record produced higher fidelity and the raised edges and center prevented the groves on the records from touching each other when stacked. Lighter tone arms and tracking forces increased the life of the new "45s." By the early 1950s most record players produced would accommodate a stack of 45s on the changer with the use of a large diameter adapter that fit over the center spindle which was meant to accommodate only the smaller pencil sized hole of 78s and the newer 33 1/3 LPs.

The 45 became very popular in spite of its ability to hold only one or two songs per side. This was mostly due to its smaller size and lower cost. The new smaller vinyl records released by RCA were color-coded at first. Children's records were yellow, County and Western green, Classical red or dark blue, Rhythm & Blues orange, and Popular songs were pressed on black vinyl. The popularity of the 7-in. 45 record soured and record players that played 45's exclusively were manufactured in large numbers throughout the 1950s. Early RCA 45-rpm record players like the one pictured above are still quite common at auctions and sell for $20 to $100+ depending on model and condition.


Bill Monroe holds his first recording session for Decca Records in Nashville at the Castle Studio in the Tulane Hotel. For the first time, his studio musicians include vocalists/guitarist Jimmy Martin and fiddler Vassar Clements


Rhythm and blues act Natalie Cole is born to Nat ''King'' Cole in Los Angeles. She grabs a Country Music Association nomination in 1994 when a duet with Reba McEntire, ''Since I Fell For You'', appears on ''Rhythm Country & Blues'', up for Album of the Year.

Decca released Bing Crosby's pop hit ''Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy'', a cover version of Red Foley's current country hit.

Decca released Ernest Tubb's double-sided hit ''I Love You Because'' backed with ''Unfaithful One''.


Little Jimmy Dickens recorded ''Hillbilly Fever'' in Nashville at the Castle Studio in the Tulane Hotel. The song also mention ''Slipping Around'', ''Lovesick Blues'', ''Sugarfoot Rag'' and ''Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy''.

''Young Man With A Horn'', a movie based loosely on the life of late jazz trumpeter Bix Beiderbecke, opens. Starring Kirk Douglas and Lauren Bacall, it also features Beiderbecke's friend, Hoagy Carmichael, the author of ''Georgia On My Mind''.


Coral released Kenny Robert's remake of ''Cholate Ice Cream Cone''.

The animated Disney movie ''Cinderella'' appears in theaters. Forty-five years later, Garth Brooks references the film, and its song, ''Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo'' in his sexually tinged single ''It's Midnight Chinderella''.


Record producer and guitarist Paul Worley is born in Nashville. His productions include Lady Antebellum's ''Need You Know'', The Band Perry's ''If I Die Young'', Martha McBride's ''Independence Day'' and The Dixie Chicks ''Wide Open Spaces''.


''The WSB Barn Dance'' airs for the last time in Atlanta.


Spade Cooley has a starring roles as the western movie ''The Silver Bandit'' debuts.

Columbia released Johnny Bond's ''Love Song In 32 Bars''.


''Mule Train'' opens nationally, with Gene Autry singing the Tennessee Ernie Ford hit. Autry plays a singing lawman at the fictitious Trail End, and also sings ''Roomful Of Roses'' and ''Cool Water'' in the movie, Pat Buttram co-stars.


The first commercially issued tape recordings are released by Tape Recording Industries of Lansing, Michigan.

Like Louis Armstrong, one of his inspirations, Rufus Thomas was larger than life. He came both to symbolise the place and the music he grew from, and to transcend that time and place. His career spanned black music from vaudeville to funk.

We capture him here in the 1950s, the rhythm and blues years, at a time when he was firmly of and about Memphis, Tennessee and when he was just starting out as a recording artist. He was rather impressive fronting a blues combo or a swing, jazz band, although he would often say, "I'm not really a singer, but I think I'm a pretty decent entertainer''.

Rufus Thomas was above all a performer, a character. He was a dancer, an emcee, and a disc jockey before he found fame as the hit-making purveyor of dance-related recordings in the 1960s. Even then, it was his performance of those hits that was to the fore. Rufus came across as a man programmed to provide fun, who seemed not to take his music - or life in general - very seriously.

Yet Rufus Thomas did take very seriously his attempts to build a career as an entertainer and he was a man who wanted to be given his due for the dues he had paid. In the early days of rhythm and blues, those dues included melding together elements of swing jazz and the blues with some memorable phrases and a winning vocal delivery, producing a considerable body of recorded music that has been under acknowledged over the years.


Rufus Thomas was singing at the Club Tropicana from owner Johnny Currie, also known as Johnny Curry's Club, on Thomas Street on the north side of Memphis when Jesse Erickson walked through the door carrying a bulky recording machine and a microphone.

According to Rufus, he just introduced himself and asked if he could set up and record the band for his label. Rufus had never heard of the Talent label, but he did want to be on records, so he agreed. It is likely that Erickson had made some prior arrangements to be there, but if so the details remain undiscovered.


Session Published for Historical Reasons


As far as is known, Rufus recorded six songs that day. If the session really was an impromptu one, then it must be taken as representative of the music he was making at that time. It included mostly original songs by Rufus, or as original as a budding singer could get when he was hearing blues couplets and swing jazz phrases all around him, and recycling catchy lines that first saw action in his comedy routines.

The opportunity presented itself one day around Christmas 1949, in the form of a visit from Jesse Erickson. Jesse and Louise Erickson ran Louise's Record Shop at 3313 Oackland Avenue in South Dallas. Erickson was a regional record distributor who started issuing record on his Talend and Star Talend label to showcase local clubs. He issued many hillbilly recordings, made in his local area, before launching out with a short-lived blues series in 1950, comprising of recordings largely made on location.

01 - ''I'LL BE A GOOD BOY'' - B.M.I. - 2:53
Composer: - Rufus Thomas
Publisher: - Copyright Control
Matrix number: - None Master
Recorded: - Circa 1949/1950
Released: - 1950
First appearance: - Star Talend Records (S) 78rpm standard single > Star Talent 807-A < mono
Reissued: - 2008 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 16695-1 mono

Two of the songs of this session, "I'll Be A Good Boy" and "I'm So Worried" were chosen for release as Star Talent 807. They were good small combo rhythm and blues, somewhat typical for the time, and certainly leaning more to the rhythms of the city than the rural blues. The combo comprised, as best anyone can remember. Perhaps this was the band Rufus most commonly sang worth at the time, and certainly they were mainly musicians with whom he was familiar.

The band makes a storming opening to "I'll Be A Good Boy", the drum and piano riff giving way to Rufus's tale about how he and his baby had a few words last night and how good he'll be if she comes back. There are two fine sax solos and in all this was a well-sung and classy debut from Rufus.

02 - ''I'M SO WORRIED'' - B.M.I. - 1:56
Composer: - Rufus Thomas
Publisher: - Copyright Control
Matrix number: - None Master
Recorded: - Circa 1949/1950
Released: - 1950
First appearance: - Star Talend Records (S) 78rpm standard single > Star Talent 807-B <  mono
Reissued: - 2008 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 16695-2 mono

The other side, "I'm So Worried", evokes the cooler, late night club scene with its slow sax intro and guitar solo from the T. Bone Walker School. Rufus tells how he's in love with a married woman, a theme he would return to later along with other relationship themes.

The label of Rufus's' record stated at the top that it was in the Folk Series, but at the side indicated in smaller print that it was in fact part of the Blues And Rhythm Series. The disc was listed in Billboard among the New Rhythm And Blues Releases for the week of February 25, 1950, and "I'm So Worried" was also reviewed, although the opinion was mixed, and indeed a little harsh on the band: "Thomas shows first class style on a slow blues, but the combo work is amateurish behind him".

In later years, Rufus was fond of dismissing the disc saying, "The record sold five copies, and I bought four of 'em". But at the time he knew that it was a start, and that might lead on to better things. After all, apart from Dwight Moore and B.B. King, none of the other Memphis-based entertainers that would become so popular in the decade to follow were yet on records. Rufus may have hoped and expected that some of the other four songs he recorded for Erickson would have been released too, and things looked good in March 1950 when Star Talent Records took out an advertisement in Billboard for their Star Stubbed Star Talent, listing 14 hillbilly artists and six blues and gospel acts, including Rufus Thomas.

Erickson's four unissued recordings by Rufus Thomas did turn up. They had been made at the Sellers Studio in Dallas. The whereabouts of two songs, "Take Me Home, I'm Tired, He Lied" and "Paper Doll" are not released, but the remaining two titles, "Who's That Chick" and "Double Trouble", are issued here, nearly sixty years after they were made.

03 - ''WHO'S THAT CHICK'' - B.M.I. - 2:36
Composer: - Rufus Thomas
Publisher: - Copyright Control
Matrix number: - None - Not Originally Issued
Recorded: - Circa 1949/1950
Released: - 2008
First appearance: - Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 16695-3 mono

"Who's That Chick" is a piano-led boogie shuffle that quickly turns into a vocal tour de force from Rufus, describing the charms of the unknown siren coming down the street. There are some interesting sax solos and riffs, and this could easily have been a song to release.

In contrasting mood, "Double Trouble" is an atmospheric late night item about the trouble Rufus has got into having eyes for two woman. Piano and sax both work to add to the sombre mood Rufus creates. There is some surface noise to listen through on these two tracks, but the effort is very well worthwhile.

04 - ''DOUBLE TROUBLE'' - B.M.I. - 2:36
Composer: - Rufus Thomas
Publisher: - Copyright Control
Matrix number: - None - Not Originally Issued
Recorded: - Circa 1949/1950
Released: - 2008
First appearance: - Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 16695-4 mono

In contrasting mood, "Double Trouble" is an atmospheric late night item about the trouble Rufus has got into having eyes for two woman. Piano and sax both work to add to the sombre mood Rufus creates. There is some surface noise to listen through on these two tracks, but the effort is very well worthwhile.

Composer: - Rufus Thomas
Publisher: - Copyright Control
Matrix number: - None Unissued/Lost
Recorded: - Circa 1949/1950

06 - ''PAPER DOLL''
Composer: - Rufus Thomas
Publisher: - Copyright Control
Matrix number: - None - Unissued/Lost
Recorded: - Circa 1949/1950

Name (Or. No. Of Instruments)
Rufus Thomas - Vocal / Evelyn Young - Tenor Saxophone
Evans Bradshaw - Piano / Robert Carter - Guitar
Unknown - Bass / Red Davis – Drums

For Biography of Rufus Thomas see > The Sun Biographies <
Rufus Thomas' Sun recordings can be heard on his playlist from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube <


EARLY 1950

Bill McCall had purchased 4-Star, one of the first postwar indies based on the West Coast. He had been astonishingly successful with a primitive boogie pianist, Cecil Gant (a World War II veteran billed as ''Private Cecil''), and a large country catalog. ''I had known Bill for some time'', said Sam Phillips, ''and I contacted him and told him what I was trying to do with blues.

The first music took was by John Hunter, who was a blind man from South Memphis. He was a pianist with a lot of potential. Then they took some country items by the Slim Rhodes band''. Phillips' assessment of ''Lost'' John Hunter was perhaps overly charitable. Indeed, McCall's enthusiasm may have stemmed from the passing musical resemblance that Lost John bore to Private Cecil. But Billboard, reviewing his 4-Star record ''Boogie For Me Baby'', seemed to pick up on the energy Phillips must have found in the piano player: ''A crude boogie blues'', they called it, ''that could pick up some southern juke coin''.


The John Wayne movie ''Sands Of Iwo Jima'' goes into general release, with an appearance by Ira Hayes, who helped raise the flag at the Japanese battle. His story becomes the basic for Johnny cash's 1964 hit ''The Ballad Of Ira Hayes''.

Songwriter/producer and piano player David Foster is born in Victoria, British Columbia. A co-writer of Anne Murray's ''Now And Forever (You And Me)'', he produces Kenny Rogers and plays on hits by Kevin Sharp, Glen Campbell and Dolly Parton.

Piano player Joe ''Fingers'' Carr is divorced from actress Janet Blair. She tells the judge her husband would rather stay at the golf course for hours on end than come home to her cooking.


Karen Carpenter is born in New Haven, Connecticut. Though primarily a pop act, The Carpenters earn a country hit, 1978's ''Sweet, Sweet Smile'', written by Juice Newton. Alabama remakes their single ''Touch Me When We're Dancing'' as a country hit.

Gene Autry recorded ''Peter Cottontail''.


Columbia released Gene Autry's ''Peter Cottontail''.


Songwriter Tom Russell is born in California Lutheran Hospital in Los Angeles, California. He writes Suzy Bogguss' 1992 hit ''Outbound Plane''.


Buck Owens and Bonnie have their second son, Michael Lynn Owens.


Sax and flute player Jerry Eubanks is born in Spartanburg, South Carolina. He joins The Marshall Tucker Band, appearing on the single ''Long Hard Ride'', which earns a Grammy nomination in the country category in 1977.


MGM released a two-sided Hank Williams hit ''Long Gone Lonesome Blues'' backed with ''My Son Calls Another Man Daddy''.

Decca released a double-sided Red Foley hit, ''Steal Away'' backed by ''Just A Closer Walk With Thee''.

Songwriter Don Devaney is born in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He nets hits by authoring Charley Pride's ''Someone Loves You Honey'' and Highway 101's ''Cry, Cry, Cry''.


Jazz vocalist Bobby McFerrin is born in New York City. His 1988 pop hit ''Don't Worry, Be Happy'' will be referenced in the lyrics of Jake Owen's 2014 country single ''Beachin'''.


Scotty Moore marries his first wife, Mary Durkee. He later becomes the first guitarist for Elvis Presley.

ABC begins airing ''The Marshal Of Gunsight Pass''. By the end of the months, ''One Has My Name (The Other Has My Heart)'' singer and songwriter Eddie Dean takes over the lead role.

Belgian citizens vote in a referendum to determine whether or not to allow the controversial King Leopold III to return to the throne. The citizens of Belgium vote in a referendum to decide whether or not to allow the exiled King Leopold III to return to the throne. The vote took place on this day and the result was that 57.68% of the Belgian voters were in favor of his return. King Leopold III had first come into power in 1934 and had given Belgium’s unconditional surrender to Nazi Germany when they invaded in 1940, an unpopular and controversial decision. In 1944, Leopold III and his family were deported to Germany and then to Austria, only to be liberated by the Allies in May of 1945. After the March 1950 referendum, the king returned on July 22nd of 1950. In the next year King Leopold III renounced the throne in an effort to resolve issues over his controversial return. His son, Prince Baudouin, took over the crown after he left.


Columbia released Bill Monroe and His Blue Grass Boys'''Can't You Hear Me Callin'''. The song will become the title of a comprehensive Monroe biography.


Mercury released Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs' ''Foggy Mountain Breakdown'', which becomes the theme to Warren Beatty's movie ''Bonnie And Clyde''.


Reba McEntire's parents, Clark and Jacqueline, get married at the First Baptist Church in Atoka, Oklahoma.


Roy Acuff begins a 10-day tour of Alaska with shows for U.S military personnel, sponsored by the Air Force.


Columbia released Little Jimmy Dickens'''Hillbilly Fever''.


''Twilight In The Sierras'' debuts in theaters with Roy Rogers starring as a U.S. Marshall on the trail of counterfeiters on the back of Trigger. He's joined by Dale Evans, Pat Brady and Foy Willing and The Riders Of The Purple Sage.


Record producer Byron Gallimore is born in Puryear, Tennessee. Among his credits: Faith Hill's ''Breathe'', Tim McGraw's ''Live Like You Were Dying'', Martina McBride's ''I'm Gonna Love Through It'' and Sugarland's ''Everyday America''.


Barbara Jo Allen stars with the debut of the movie ''Square Dance Katy'', featuring music by Jimmie Davis.


Ronnie McDowell is born in Fountain Head, Tennessee. Following his 1977 tribute to Elvis Presley, ''The King Is Gone'', he reaps more than a dozen Top 10 hits through 1987, including ''Older Women'' and ''You're Gonna Ruin My Bad Reputation''.


Johnnie and Jack recorded their first hit record, ''Poison Love''.

Kitty Wells recorded ''How Far Is Heaven'' at Brown Radio Productions in Nashville. An early staple of her live shows, the song is re-recorded five years later as a duet with daughter Carol Sue Writh.


Hank Snow recorded ''I'm Moving On'' at Brown Radio Productions during his first Nashville session.

Roy Acuff closes a 10-day tour of Alaska, where he performed for Air Force personnel.


''Everybody's Dacin'''debuts in theaters, featuring Spade Cooley, who also wrote the script. Noel Boggs doubles in some scenes for Cooley, who had a heart attack during the production period. Also featured are The Sons Of The Pioneers.


Sam Phillips organises a deal with Bill McCall of 4-Star and Gilt-Edge Records in California, whereby Sam Phillips will record country and blues musicians from the Memphis area and sell the recordings to McCall for commercial release.

Phillips records blues musicians Lost John Hunter (for release on 4-Star) and Charlie Burse (Unissued). He also records gospel music with the Gospel Travellers, whose songs he pitches to Modern Records in Hollywood.

In April of 1950, the NSC-68 report was completed and presented to U.S. President Harry Truman. The report contained recommendations on how to approach the Cold War with the Soviet Union and would influence U.S. Policy in regards to the Cold War for the next twenty years. Some of the main results of the report was the United States’ aggressive military expansion and build up of nuclear weaponry, as well as enacting the policy of containment against Communist nations. The recommendations of NSC-68 became official U.S. policy in September of 1950 after the outbreak of the Korean War. One of the long term effects of the report was the massive increase in military spending, with the budget nearly tripling soon after the policy change was enacted. The document was not officially declassified until 1975.

APRIL 1950

In 1949 the Cohutta Mountain Boys with future Sun recordings star and pianist, Roy Hall assembled to cut the hillbilly boogie classic, ''Dirty Boogie'', which set the scene for much of the raucous and romping music that would be associated with Hall over the coming decade.

By the time his third Fortune disc was out, Roy Hall and his Cohutta Mountain Boys were back in Tennessee. ''I came to Nashville the first time with Tennessee Ernie Ford at the end of 1949. My band was backing him up there for a while, and he made some introductions for me back in Nashville''. Ford had just started to record for Capitol and was touring all the hillbilly markets at the time.

In April 1950, Roy Hall and his band joined up with Bullet Records in Nashville. label boss Overton Ganong, formerly a top salesman from Capitol Records, recalled: ''I had been working with Tennessee Ernie Ford when I was at Capitol, and after I moved to Bullet he introduced some musicians to me. One of them was Roy Hall. He was a pianist with a brilliant band and some novelty songs. I thought they were better than the ordinary and that we could make a go of his music''. Through much of the 1950s, Hall was based around Nashville although he also regularly turned up to play shows and made records in Detroit. He started playing Nashville dives and turning up on recording sessions with Bullet, Tennessee and other labels and playing some piano spots on the Grand Ole Opry show.


Rex Allen has his first starring role with the debut of the western ''Arizona Cowboy''.


WSM announcer David Cobb refers to Nashville as ''Music City U.S.A.'', unwittingly coining a nickname for the Tennessee capital.


Bass player Curtis Stone is born in North Hollywood, California. The son of music figure Cliffie Stone, he joins Highway 101, which earns the Country Music Association's vocal group awards in 1988 and 1989.

Red Foley recorded a trio of hits, ''Chocolate Ice Cream Cone'', ''Birmingham Bounce'', and ''Mississippi''.

Pop songwriter Kurt Weill dies of a heart attack in New York. Two of his songs find new life after his passing: Bobby Darin's recording of ''Mack The Knife'' and Willie Nelson's version of ''September Song''.


Decca released a two-sided Red Foley single, ''Birmingham Bounce'' and ''Cholate Ice Cream Cone''.


Slim Whitman makes his first appearance on The Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport.


Webb Pierce makes his first appearance on The Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport.


Hank Williams is arrested for violating a Nashville ordinance that prohibits smoking in bed, when a cigarette starts a fire in his room at the Tulane Hotel after he falls in sleep.


Priscilla Ann Wagner is formally adopted by Paul Beaulieu, the four-year-old is the future wife of Elvis Presley.


''Wagon Master'', a western directed by John Ford, debuts in theaters with music by Sons Of The Pioneers.


Hank Williams' ''Long Gone Lonesome Blues'' reaches the number 1 position on the Billboard country singles chart.


Eddy Arnold recorded ''A Prison Without Walls'', ''Cuddle Buggin' Baby'' and ''Enclosed, One Broken Heart'' at the RCA studio in New York.


Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys recorded ''Faded Love'' at Radio Recorders on Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood.


Bass player Wayne Secrest is born in Alton, Illinois. He joins Confederate Railroad, a 1990's southern rock-inspired group that earns favor with ''Trashy Women'', ''Queen Of Memphis'' and ''Daddy Never Was the Cadillac Kind''.

Carl Smith makes his Grand Ole Opry debut, at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee.

During the early years of the Memphis Recording Service, Sam Phillips recorded a wide range of blues, rhythm and blues, gospel and hillbilly. Phillips made several recordings in the spring and summer of 1950, placing titles with 4-Star and Modern Records. He also released two titles on a label he co-owned, ''It's The Phillips''. Although we don't associate Sun with country or pre-War blues, this is the music that Phillips remembered from his childhood. That music, he said, was the reason he established a recording studio.




With everyone who came in the studio, Sam Phillips was the same: respectful, deferential, determined to overcome their understandable mistrust, their certainly that there must be a catch in this somewhere. If some grizzled old man came in with an oil drum and ropes, or just four strings on his guitar, ''if I had a million dollars, I wouldn't have sent out and bought a string''. Because, for one thing, he wasn't going to insult a man's need, for another that man might have something completely different to say, with just four strings! On the other hand, if a seasoned professional came by with the idea that they were going to give this skinny little white man just what they thought he wanted, Cab Calloway, say or Jimmy Rushing or Nat King Cole, Sam quickly disabused them of the notion that he was looking for anything but what resided in the deepest recesses of their own soul, he was looking for originality, he was looking for feeling. With all of them he listened attentively and told them honestly what he thought. Because most of all they had to believe in him, they had to believe in his sincerity, his commitment to them. Maybe nothing would come of it until their second or the studio third visit. There was no charge, there was no rush, he assured them over and over again, in the face of their understandable suspicion that at any moment he was going to present them with the bill, they had to come to the belief on their own, they had to be comfortable with the idea that the purpose of this whole undertaking was to get them to express themselves.

''In a personality not really given to patience'', Marion Keisker observed, ''he showed patience beyond belief. Say they were to come in at three o'clock in the afternoon, and they came dragging in at 3:00 A.M., I mean, we would usually be there painting or working on (something), but Sam would just say, ''Come on in''. He never acted like he was surprised, never said, where were you, he'd just clear the decks and listen to them''. Occasionally he might suggest an ''audition recording'', not to give them a copy, because he was not going to let anything go out of the studio until he was fully satisfied with it, but just to let them hear what they sounded like on disc, to try to win their confidence for the day when he might have somewhere to send their audition to. Marion noted how sometimes he would sit in the little half-finished control room, acting like he was busy while the musicians started fooling around with something just to pass the time, and then all of a sudden, ''Sam would come in and say 'That's it, that's what I want''. Because that's trash, Mr. Phillips''. And he would say, ''That's what I want''. Because they had forgotten all about the idea of making music and were just doing it, without even seeming to give it a second thought.

01 - ''COOL DOWN MAMA'' - B.M.I. - 2:12
Composer: - John Hunter-Lyndell Woodson
Publisher: - Music Clearance
Matrix number: - 3726 Master
Recorded: - Probably May 1950
Released: - June 22, 1950
First appearance: - 4-Star Records (S) 78rpm standard single > 4-Star 1492-A < mono
Reissued: - 1996 Charly Records (CD) 500/200rpm CDSUNBOX 7-1-1 mono

There was considerable confusion for many years surrounding the actual place and date that these tracks were recorded, although the mystery now seems solved. Sam Phillips sold the sides to 4-Star Records, whose numerical system indicates that they were issued around May/June 1950, whilst this title was registered with B.M.I. shortly after its release, in September 1950. This seems to confirm that the Hunter titles were indeed the first blues recordings made by Sam Phillips - certainly, they were the first he placed with a third party. Technicalities aside, this remains a fine performance under any given circumstances driven along by the prominently recorded piano and Lost John's grainy vocal.

This track is essentially a jumping city blues, without the horn section. Hunter's backup group, the Blind Bats, make their presence felt as they chant their responses. Billboard reviewed Hunter's single at the beginning of August, in between, Sam Phillips wrote to Nashville's pre-eminent rhythm and blues disc jockey, Gene Nobles, stating (probably with some exaggeration) that the record was already moving well in Memphis. The Hunter titles were among the very first blues recordings made by Sam Phillips; the first he placed with a third party.

02 - ''SCHOOLBOY'' - B.M.I. - 2:49
Composer: - John Hunter-Lyndell Woodson
Publisher: - Music Clearance
Matrix number: - 3727 Master
Recorded: - Probably May 1950
Released: - June 22, 1950
First appearance: - 4-Star Records (S) 78rpm standard single > 4-Star 1492-B < mono
Reissued:- 1996 Charly Records (CD) 500/200rpm CDSUNBOX 7-1-2 mono

Lost John Hunter joins the long list of unlikely "schoolboys'' which includes the likes of Jimmy Reed, Peppermint Harris, and Fats Domino. A slower, but no less full-blooded performance, Hunter's confident vocal soars over the trio accompaniment, and its clear from both his vocal and piano styling that he's more at home at a slower tempo.

Following one further 4-Star single this local blind musician lived up to his name and went AWOL, a great shame as his talent shines through the surface noise. Just a few weeks after Lost John's first release came the second. It was a common enough practise in those days, albeit one that seems inexplicable today.

4-Star had been in business since 1945 when it was launched as a subsidiary of Gilt-Edge. The label's biggest selling rhythm and blues single was Pvt. Cecil Gant's ''I Wonder'', and part of Lost John's appeal to 4-Star/Gilt-Edge owner Bill McCall might have been his similarity to Gant. This mellow blues was named for the Yazoo & Mississippi Valley Railroad, a subsidiary of the Illinois Central, so it should have been Y&MV, not Y-M And V. The locomotives ran several different routes from Memphis to New Orleans, and were familiar sight in the Delta.

03 - ''Y-M AND V BLUES'' - B.M.I. - 3:08
Composer: - John Hunter
Publisher: - Music Clearance
Matrix number: - 3772 Master
Recorded: - Probably May 1950
Released: - September 1950
First appearance: - 4-Star Records (S) 78rpm standard single > 4-Star 1511-A < mono
Reissued: - March 8, 2013 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 17310-1-3 mono
THE SUN BLUES BOX 1950 - 1959

''Label's to be congratulated for being honest enough to say this disking's not suited for radio broadcast right on the label copy'', noted Billboard in its review dated September 9, 1950. ''It's a crude boogie blues that might pick up some Southern juke coin''. And it was true that someone at 4-Star believed that this side was unsuitable for broadcast, while the other was okay. Phillips brought the electric guitar way up in the mix, and the guitar drives the show. Lost John starts playing the solo but stops abruptly as if he'd just remembered that this was the guitarist's space. The song's energy is accentuated by the stop rhythms, and makes up in commitment what it lacks in originality. Lost John appears to have made no other recordings anytime, anywhere except for the unissued Memphis Recording Service acetate here on this session, an acetate that was essentially another version of this song.

04 - ''BOOGIE FOR ME BABY'' - B.M.I. - 2:12
Composer: - John Hunter
Publisher: - Music Clearance
Matrix number: - 3772 Master
Recorded: - Probably May 1950
Released: - September 1950
First appearance: - 4-Star Records (S) 78rpm standard single > 4-Star 1511-B < mono
Reissued: - March 8, 2013 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 17310-1-4 mono
THE SUN BLUES BOX 1950 - 1959

Hunter almost wears out the joys of a stop rhythm on the next acetate. It has an unmistakable similarity to Hunter's recording of ''Cool Down Mama'', originally released on 4-Star. It also bears an unmistakable similarity to uncountable pre-War piano-led blues recordings; in particular to Big Bill Broonzy's ''Play Your Hand, Baby''. The vocal is appealingly rough hewn (a Billboard' reviewer called Lost John, ''gravel throated'') and the track has an appropriately loose and boozy feel. There is plenty of give-and-take between Hunter and his sidemen, right down to the final second of the recording. A quick glance at mid-1950 rhythm and blues charts shows how out-of-date it was, and the sound quality seems to place it even further back in time. It's s faded audio snapshot of Sam Phillips five or six months into his venture, trying to figure out commercial rhythm and blues.

> 05 - ''PLAY THE GAME BABY'' - B.M.I. - 2:38 <
Composer: - Unknown
Publisher: - Copyright Control
Matrix number: - None - Not Originally Issued
Recorded: - Probably May 1950
Released: - March 8, 2013
First appearance: - Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 17310-10-4 mono
THE SUN BLUES BOX 1950 - 1958

Name (Or. No. Of Instruments)
Lost John Hunter - Vocal and Piano
The Blinds Bats
Unknown - Guitar
Unknown - Bass
Unknown - Drums

For Biography of Lost John Hunter see > The Sun Biographies <
Lost John Hunter's Sun recordings can be heard on his playlist from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube <


MAY 1950

In the meantime, though, without any of the buildup or drama that should have been attendant on such a momentous event, Sam Phillips had actually had a record come out, on a Los Angeles hillbilly label with whom he had come in contact at just about the time he first wrote to the Bihari. He had met Bill McCall, the hard-driving partner in 4-Star Records, in much the same way that he had first encountered the Bihari brothers, through the good offices of Buster Williams, and McCall offered a deal that would pay him $200 for eight sides. It was a connection for which he didn't have a great deal of expectation, but McCall had not only expressed interest in some blues sides Sam had cut on a gravel-throated boogie-woogie piano player from South Memphis named Lost John Hunter, in very short order he put them out. The record was sandwiched in between 4-Star's hillbilly hits, and McCall had in fact expressed at least as much interest in Sam recording some of Memphis' local hillbilly talent. But Sam was still barely able to mask his excitement when he wrote to his old friend Gene Nobles at WLAC on July 10 with an announcement of the record's upcoming release.

Lost John Hunter, not surprisingly, did not bear out Sam's optimistic sales projections, and Sam went on to dutifully record not only popular hillbilly radio personality Slim Rhodes, who had longstanding early-morning and midday shows on WMC, but his business partner, Buck Turner, as well. 4_star eventually put out four singles on Slim, but even if they had sold well, Sam still would have had little enthusiasm for the project. From his point of view, both Slim and Buck had loyal followings in the mod-South and ''good solid local combos, but, I never did see anything particular about either Buck or Slim's band that stood out, as far as style''. With a conventional commercial artist like Slim Rhodes, or Buck, for that matter, the nature of whose business was to remain conversant with all the latest trends, he knew he could never dig as deep as he wanted to, as much as he loved pure country music, ''I had to realize that recording straight country was a buffer until I could work out what I really wanted to do'', said Sam.

July 10, 1950

Mr. Gene Nobles
Radio Station WLAC
Nashville, Tennessee

Dear Gene:

Under separate cover I am sending you a ''4 Star'' copy of two selections by LOST JOHN HUNTER AND HIS BLIND CATS.

''Cool Down Mama''

''Schoolboy'' is really going here in Memphis and I know you can get it rolling over that way if only you will give it the works on you race shows.

Lost John is a local blind negro and will be more than grateful for any and all plugs. I sent an audition of him to 4 Star and they quickly waxed him and although I an completely out of the deal after making the masters on him, I surely would like to see him go.

Be on the look out for any more of Lost John's stuff see what you think of it. We will appreciate any plays any time.

Regards to Paul and Dave and any of the rest of the gang around there that might happen to remember my puss.

Yours very truly,
Sam Phillips

MAY 1950

Chess Records is launched in Chicago, Illinois.

The USS Valley Forge sets sail for the far East, with crewman Scotty Moore, future guitarist for Elvis Presley.

Sam Phillips arranges with either Don Pierce or Bill McCall of 4-Star and Gilt-Edge Records in Los Angeles to supply those labels with blues and country recordings of Memphis artists. He subsequently records sessions on Buck Turner and Slim Rhodes (country) and Lost John Hunter and Charlie Burse (blues).

The number that Sam recorded now, ''Shorty The Barber'', was a novelty item offering unmistakable hints of double entendre but for the most part focusing on the life and chores of a barber. It was sung with the same raucous good humor that characterized Burse's jug band work (the Memphis Jug band had recorded an extensive repertoire of blues with a ragtime and minstrel-show base between 1927 and 1934), and for authenticity Sam went across the street and borrowed a pair of barber shears, there was something about the exuberant spirit of the number that just tickled him. But none of the sides that he sent to the Biharis brothers were quite what he intended, the Newborns too polished, the Gospel Travelers too professional, Charlie Burse a little too old-fashioned, and none of the material was accepted for release (See the May/June session below).

The Tollund Man, a mummified body from the 4th Century, is found. Viggo and Emil Hojgaard found the mummified body of a 4th century man in a peat bog on the Jutland Peninsula in Denmark. After its discovery, the body was excavated and examined as if he had been a recent murder victim as he had been so well preserved that the men who discovered him called the police to report a crime. Similar ancient bodies had been found before in that region so the police decided to consult with a local museum. They determined that the body was pre-historic and had belonged to a man between the age of 30 and 40 who had died by hanging while being sacrificed to the Gods and buried in the peat bog by his village over 2,400 years ago.


Joe Hill Louis's second and last Columbia single ''Don't Trust Your Best Friend'' b/w ''Joe's Jump'' (Columbia 30221) is issued.

MAY 5, 1950 FRIDAY

Carl Smith signs a recording deal with Columbia Records, where he remains for the next 24 years. The contract calls for a 3% royalty rate.

Art Mooney recorded a hit pop version of Red Foley's ''M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I'' at the WOR Studio in New York City.


Fiddler Randy Howard is born in Macon, Georgia. He recorded with the likes of Chet Atkins, George Jones, Kenny Chesney and Blackhawk.

Dinah Washington recorded the original version of ''I'll Never Be Free'' in New York City. It's covered within weeks by Tennessee Ernie Ford and Kay Star.


Carl Smith has his first recording session at the Castle Studio in Nashville's Tulane Hotel, cutting his debut single, ''Guilty Conscience''.

Bee Gee Barry Gibb's second wife, is born. He's destined to write such country love songs as ''Come On Over'' and ''Rest Your Love On Me''

MAY 12, 1950 FRIDAY

Jerry Lee Lewis wins a talent contest in Jonesville, Louisiana, while his cousin, Jimmy Swaggart, finished second.

The romantic comedy ''Please Believe Me'' appears in theaters, with roles for Deborah Kerr, Pater Lawford and the late Lee ''Lasses'' White.

Mother Maybelle Carter and The Carter Sisters join the Grand Ole Opry, at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee.


American soul singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Stevie Wonder (aka) Steveland Morris is born in Saginaw, Michigan.


Stuart Hamblen writes ''Remember Me (I'm The One Who Loves You)'' on his way to the recording studio in Los Angeles, spurred by a parting comment from his wife. He recorded both that song and his country-gospel hit, ''It's No Secret''.


Songwriter Tom Shapiro is born in Kansas City, Missouri. Among more than 50 hits, he authors Brooks & Dunn's ''Ain't Nothing Bout' You'', Neal McCoy's ''Wink'', Keith Urban's ''You Look Good In My Shirt'' and George Strait's ''Living And Living Well''.

MAY 19, 1950 FRIDAY

MGM released Hank Williams' ''Why Don't You Love Me''.

Gene Autry's defends his ranch from rustlers in the debuting movie ''Cow Town''. Longtime associate Frankie Marvin is a ranch hand in the picture.

Johnny Cash performs ''The Whiffenpoof Song'' at his high school graduation ceremony in Dyess, Arkansas.

MAY 22, 1950 MONDAY

Lyricist Bernie Taupin is born in Lincolnhire, England. He earns acclaim as Elton John's primary co-writer, but also find his way into country music, writing the Willie Nelson and Lee Ann Womack hit ''Mendocino County Line''

Stuart Hamblen makes his final appearance as a singing cowboy as ''The Savage Horde'' debuts in theaters.

MAY 23, 1950 TUESDAY

Linda Thompson, Elvis Presley's future girlfriend, is born in Memphis, Tennessee. She becomes a regular on ''Hee Haw'' for 15 years, beginning in 1977.


Wesley and Marilyn Tutlle have twins, Wesley Leroy Tuttle Jr. and Leslie Ann Tutlle.

MAY 26, 1950 FRIDAY

The Weavers recorded Leadbelly's ''Goodnight Irene'', sells over 2 million copies. Its quickly covered by Ernest Tubb and Red Foley and by Moon Mullican for the country market.

MAY 29, 1950 MONDAY

Decca released Ernest Tubb's double-sided ''Throw Your Love My Way'' backed by ''Give Me A Little Old Fashioned Love''.

NBC telecasts the final installment of ''Village Barn''. The country variety show featured Dick Thomas as host for nearly half of its two-year run.




Charlie Burse belongs to a far older musical tradition, having first recorded with the Memphis Jug Band in 1928. This, his last commercial session, yielding this vaudeville-flavoured song reminiscent of the rollicking music prevalent among the jug bands in which he once worked. Despite his twenty-five years' experience Burse sings the light-hearted lyric with gusto, as if relishing the change to record one more - and they lively "knocked-out" piano is particularly appropriate. Dispute this, the song remained unissued for some thirty-five years.

The song was of more recent vintage, composed by C.G. ''Red'' Matthews. A label owner (Von, OJ, Ekko), Matthews also wrote one of the biggest songs to emerge from Memphis, ''White Silver Sands''.. a hit for Brother Dave Gardner on OJ and the Bill Black Combo on Hi Records. Shorty was based on a character from Amos 'n' Andy, while the song itself owed a pretty considerable debt to 1949's big hit, ''Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy''.

Burse sings the light-hearted lyric with gusto as if relishing another chance to record, and the lively knocked-out piano is particularly appropriate, if way too far up in the mix. Despite this, the recording remained unissued for some thirty-five years.

Phillips had high hopes for the song, writing to the publisher, Spencer Music, several weeks after the Burse session to inform them that he intended to record it with ''Joe Hill Louis, an ex-Columbia recording artist (Negro)''.

Spencer Music referred him to the Harry Fox Agency for a mechanical license, and Phillips, wrote back, ''We do not know Mr. Harry Fox or where we can reach him. We assumed he worked at BMI''.

At this point in his career, Phillips was evidently quite clueless on how to clear songs for release. He would get smarter. Red Matthews eventually placed the song with a hillbilly singer, Lou Millet, who recorded it rockabilly style for Republic Records in 1955.

01 - ''SHORTY THE BARBER'' - B.M.I. - 2:25
Composer: - Chuck Matthews
Publisher: - Cromwell Music
Matrix number: - None - Not Originally Issued
Recorded: - Probably May/June 1950
Released: - 1986
First appearance: - Charly Records (LP) 33rpm Sunbox 105 mono
Reissued: - 1996 Charly Records (CD) 500/200rpm CDSUNBOX 7-1-3 mono

Name (Or. No. Of Instruments)
Charlie Burse - Vocal Probably Guitar
Mickey Mathis or Lotis Stevenson or Bunny Hall - Saxophone
Probably Robert Burse – Drums

For Biography of Charlie Burse see > The Sun Biographies <
Charlie Burse's Sun recording can be heard on his playlist from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on 
> YouTube <




WHBQ radio program director, Gordon Lawhead, began a fifteen-minute segment that he called Red Hot and Blue, taken the name from a patriotic musical film of that year starring Victor Mature, not exactly a king of the blues himself, and twenty-four-year-old Dewey Phillips starts this WHBQ broadcasting from the Gayoso Hotel, located at Gayoso Street.

He is on air from 10:00 p.m. to midnight every weekday, and until 1:00 a.m., on Saturday nights, while keeping his job in the record department at W.T. Grant's on South Main Street. The music that he plays is some of the finest American vernacular music ever recorded: in the course of one fifteen-minute segment, you might hear Muddy Waters' latest hit, a gospel number by the Soul Stirrers, with the great singer, R.H. Harris, Larry Darnell's "For You, My Love", and Wynomie Harris' "Good Rockin' Tonight" - "boogies, blues, and spirituals".

"Dewey was hawking records at Grant's just like those guys down on Beale Street were hawking people to come into the pawnshops", recalls veteran disc jockey George Klein. Gordon Lawhead did give Phillips a few pointers, showing him how to run the radio control board, a skill Lawhead says Dewey never quite mastered. Phillips was later given his own studio so that on occasions when he broke the equipment the station wouldn't be totally incapacitated. Lawhead also gave Phillips some tips in reading advertising copy, and claims to have given him what would later become his catch phrase. "I suggested that when he was reading a spot, to say, 'Co in and buy this and tell 'em Phillips sent you".

To Lawhead's amazement, the response was immediate and overwhelming. "The day after, we got seven postcards asking for specific rhythm and blues music. And the next day we got seventy; and the next day we got seven hundred. It was a monsoon of mail".

Dewey Phillips' Red Hot & Blue show, was soon expanded to three hours, from nine to midnight, and Phillips also began an afternoon show at 2 p.m. that mixed country records in with the rockabilly and rhythm and blues. Dewey's salary rose from nothing to $125 and than to $250, a sizable sum in fifties radio.

And of course those were the glory days of payola, a time when independent labels owners like Syd Nathan of King Records paid so much money to disc jockeys to guarantee that his records got played that he actually listed the bribes on King's ledger books as business expenses. Some Memphis music insiders estimate Dewey Phillips pulled in as much as $100,000 annually from record companies.

JUNE 1950

Elvis Presley finished the ninth grade. One of Humes High School's teachers, Susan Johnson, remarked, "When one of our boys or girls does something special, like Elvis Presley, they should put an extra gold star after his name, because our children have farther to go than most. Elvis Presley liked to sing songs to a few friends during lunch or at a school assembly at Overton Park".

Among those who became caught up in the different sound was a thirteen year old living in a public housing development in Memphis. Elvis Presley began collecting the records of such bluesmen as Arthur Crudup and Big Bill Broonzy. Later, still in Humes High School, he started going down on Beale Street and emulating its musicians, not only in what they sang but in the way they sang it (and also in what they wore). He became acquainted not only with Nathaniel Dowd Williams, but with Robert Henry, who introduced him to many of Beale Street's entertainers. "I taken him to the Hotel Improvement Club with me, and he would watch the coloured singers, understand me, and then he got to doing it the same way as them", Henry said. "He got that shaking, that wiggle, from Charlie Burse, Ukulele Ike we called him, right there at the Gray Mule on Beale, Elvis, he wasn't doing nothing but what the coloured people had been doing for the last hundred years. But people... people went wild over him".

(From an interview with Robert Henry, October 19, 1973 by Margaret McKee)

JUNE 1950

Sam Phillips starts It's The Phillips label with disc jockey Dewey Phillips, and one of the very few Negroes to come in at first, certainly the only genuine blues singer, was a dark-skinned young man who told Sam Phillips he had recently signed with Columbia Records and broadcast from fifteen minutes a day on radio station KWEM in West Memphis as Joe Hill Louis, the Be Bop Boy. He played all around town and could be seen on Beale Street almost every day, where he stood out from the other blues singers as a self-advertised one-man band (guitar, rack harmonica and traps), but Sam had first encountered him when he stopped by on his way to a gig in Moscow, Tennessee, while the room was still under construction. He asked Sam what he was up to do, and Sam replied, ''I'm going to build a recording studio here once I get the building into shape''. ''Man, that's just what we need here in Memphis'', Joe said to him and, after a brief conversation, continued on his way.

According to Sam Phillips, ''He sat down at his equipment and played me everything he knew, which was quite a lot, a complete individual, a loner but not lonesome. He was his own person. I never saw him look defeated or unhappy about anything. Joe was sweet guy. He was the kind of person to just drop in and say 'hi' and then keep out of the way. He was always well-dressed, sharp, a dapper man. He was well-organized and very personable. He was a treasure to me, and, I just thought, 'This is a guy that deserves to be heard, even though I realized that (because of the constraints of the one-man band arrangement) it was basically a novelty kind of thing''.

But Sam Phillips still had no idea what to do with the acetates he had recorded, and while one or two of Joe's friends and musical associates started drifting by, veteran blues entertainers like Jack Kelly and Memphis Jug band player Charlie Burse and eighteen-year-old Phineas Newborn Jr., who held down the piano chair in his father's Phineas Sr. big band and, with his sixteen-year-old guitar-playing brother, Calvin, was blazing a be-bop-inflected path on the Memphis blues scene.

JUNE 1950

Sam Phillips commences recording sessions for RPM/Modern Records. He records Phineas Newborn Jr., Joe Hill Louis, and the Gospel Travelers, and dubs of these recordings are sent to Modern Records.

It's hard to say just what Sam Phillips' plan was. There was no question that Joe Hill Louis was his premium artist to date, not just in terms of the commercial potential that Sam believed him to possess but because he so completely embodied the aesthetic in which Sam believed; raw, untutored, following not the dictates of form or fashion but its own unpredictable kind of beauty, rough-edged and undefined. Maybe he was simply holding back his best for last, however unlike Sam that might appear to be. Maybe, just for a moment, he had lost his nerve, perhaps he was suffering from a rare spasm of self-doubt and simply submitted the music that he thought most likely to be accepted. But, he was convinced, there was no permanent harm done. Joe Hill Louis would be the next artist he would present to Modern Records, and he felt as confident as it was possible to feel when you had your studio open for nearly seven months and scarcely anything to show for it that, if they got the right song, if he could capture the man in the studio the way he knew he had the potential to come across, Joe Hill Louis just might be the one to do the trick.

Jules and Saul Bihari, who operate the West Coast distributorship for Kayle-Halbert TV's and also own Modern Records, plan an as-yet unnamed subsidiary record label. They hold a competition to decide the name, which is finally settled as RPM.

President Harry Truman authorizes the use of U.S. ground forces in South Korea.

Eunice Kathleen Waymon (aka Nina Simone) graduated from high school at the age of 17. (She was born on February 21, 1933 in Tryon, North Carolina.) After graduation Eunice attends Juilliard School of Music in New York City, to prepare for Curtis Institute of Music, Philadelphia, Pennsylvanie.

JUNE 1950

The Korean War begins when North Korea invaded South Korea in June of 1950. The country had previously been divided after the end of World War II with the North becoming Communist and the South remaining Capitalist. After the initial division each side had indicated that they wanted to unify the country under their preferred ideology but only small attacks had been made. Full on civil war began after the North launched a full invasion and eventually captured the South’s capital of Seoul. Not long after the war began, it became an international conflict when the United States and United Nations sent troops to help the South and China began helping the North. The war ended in 1953 when the two countries settled on maintaining the original division.


George Jones marries his first wife, Dorothy Bonvilliob

Rex Allen has his second starring role as a singing cowboy as ''Hills Of Oklahoma'' debuts in theaters.

The movie ''Hoedown'' debuts with Eddy Arnold performing ''Just A Little Lovin' (Will Go A Long, Long Way)'' and ''Bouquet Of Roses''. The Willis Brothers, working under the name The Oklahoma Wranglers, and Carolina Cotton are also featured


Decca released Red Foley's ''Mississippi''.


Pop songwriter Joe Burke dies in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania. The author of ''Tiptoe Through The Tulips'' and ''Rambling Rose'', he also wrote the 1925 hit ''Oh, How I Miss You Tonight'', destined to be a 1979 country hit for Deborah Allen and Jim Reeves.

JUNE 12, 1950 MONDAY

Gene Autry recorded ''Frosty The Snow Man'' at Radio Recorders in Los Angeles.


Hank Williams recorded ''They'll Never Take Her Love From Me at the Castle Recording Studio in Nashville's Tulane Hotel. He also cuts an unissued version of ''Honky Tonk Blues''.


Lefty Frizzell signs a recording contract with Columbia Records. He gets a 1.5-cent royalty per record.

JUNE 16, 1950 FRIDAY

The George Montgomery western ''The Iroquois Trail'' appears in theaters. The film includes a small part for former Grand Ole Opry star Lee ''Lasses'' White, who died exactly six months prior.

JUNE 19, 1950 MONDAY

Columbia released Carl Smith's debut single, ''Guilty Conscience'', and Stuart Hamblen's ''It's No Secret''.


Aerosmith drummer Joey Kramer is born in New York, New York. The hard rock band scores a pop hit with the 1998 single ''I Don't Want To Miss A Thing'', which Mark Chesnutt remakes as a country hit.




This track is an utterly fascinating glimpse of Sam Phillips, not as the discoverer of Elvis Presley or Johnny Cash or Howlin' Wolf or Carl Perkins, but as a radio snake oil salesman, selling some laughably suspect wares to the nice folks within the sound of his voice. The track also tells us about the state of Memphis radio in the early 1950s, before the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) however over claims just like these, trying to keep its citizens safe from products that were more likely to relieve them of their hard-earned cash than their allments. Maybe Sam was on auto-pilot when he read the text in front of him, but it's hard to imagine that he believed the magic elixir he was hustling would cure everything from cancer to erectile dysfunction. If you want a fuller picture of Sam the Radio man, check out his recitation on Sun Gospel (BCD 16387) of ''Would Anybody Care'', a poem from the Stamps-Baxter hymnal. That recording was made around 1950 to enchant an old girlfriend. As Sam told in 1999, he did it in his ''best announcer's voice''.

01 - ''TREE OF LIFE (ADVERTISING SPOT)'' - B.M.I. - 2:20
Recorded: Possible June 1950
Released: - March 8, 2013
First appearance: Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 17310-10-2 mono
THE SUN BLUES BOX 1950 - 1958

Name (Or. No. Of Instruments)
Sam Phillips - Announcer Voice

For Biography of Sam Phillips see > The Sun Biographies <
Sam Phillips' recording can be heard on his playlist from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on 
> YouTube <



Sam Phillips writes (above) to his brother-in-law, Jim Connolly at WJLD in Birmingham, Alabama, telling him that he has done some radio spots for a West African herbalist, ''Doctor'' Samuel Shokunbi, whose bogus Tree of Life General Tonic was revealed as a fraud later in the year, earning Shokunbi a nine-year prison term.

The spots that Phillips produced featured the Five Voice Singers of Memphis, singing spirituals.

The full text of the letter reads:

June 21, 1950

Mr. James E. Connelly
Radio Station WJLD
Bessemer, Arkansas

Dear Jim:

Please quote me your spot on the ''Atomic Boogie''.

I have an account, Dr. Shokunbi's TREE OF LIFE GENERAL TONIC, that is very interested in getting on the boogie. I made his spot for him and informed him of your sales potential for this sort of product.

The spot is 2:18 long but he didn't want it cut to the conventional minute. Do the best you can on the rats and I am sure you will have a regular and paying account in this product.

Also, I am producing a series of 15 minute transcribed programs for him and would like to have your rate on that just before or after the ''boogie''. Or if you can see your may clear give me a rate for the middle of ''Boogie''. The programs will consist of ''THE FIVE VOICE SINGERS OF MEMPHIS''..... Spirituals.

Let me hear from you on this and I will take it up with Dr. Shokunbi and we will probably be ready for your station shortly.

Remember, take care of us and if we make money will double or triple out budget with you later.


Sam Phillips

''DOCTOR'' SAMUEL SHOKUNBI – Among the previously unheard audio (above) is an advertisement that Sam Phillips wrote and performed for a patent medicine manufacturer, Dr. Samuel Shokunbi. In June 1950, Phillips let himself get suckered in by the herbalist and con-man, going so far as commending Shokunbi to his brother-in-law, Jim Connolly at WJLB in Birmingham, Alabama. Shokunbi's product was the tree of Life General Tonic, Asthma Aid, and Hair Growing Aid. Although Shokunbi claimed that he was a Nigerian who had studied at Oxford and Heidelberg, there's evidence that he was born in Chicago in 1896 and his professional qualifications were limited to a Swedish massage course. Shokunbi's portions made him thousands of dollars a month in the mid-South, and came from a book by an English herbalist, Dr. Culpepper, who died in 1940. To place this in context, WDIA owned a piece of another patent medicine, Pep-ti-Kon (with the emphasis on the 'con'), and the most famous patent medicine of them all, Hadacol, was at the peak of its popularity in 1950 and 1951. Hadacol's manufacturer, Dudley LeBlanc, staged touring shows, the Hadacol Caravans, with stars like Hank Williams, Roy Acuff, Bob Hope, and Milton Berle.

In November 1950, some five months after Phillips produced the radio spot, Shokunbi, who’d already served time for fraud, was handed what was then the severest first conviction sentence under Food & Drug Administration laws, a nine-year prison term. Newspaper reports made fun of him and those who bought the nostrums common within the African American community, like John the Conqueroot. Those same reports mentioned the tribal scars on his cheeks, and joked that his products were tinctures of dried newt's liver.

In 1966, Shokunbi was arrested again, this time in Chicago. At that point, he was the Reverent Shokunbi and he was calling himself a metaphysician. A police search of his premises revealed patent drugs and zodiac stamps. Shokunbi claimed that he was a minister of the Universal Spiritual Union. His case was dismissed, and the next time he was mentioned was at the time of his death in Los Angeles in 1986.


The most reliable source of income at the start came from recording Buck Turner and His Buckaroos for the fifteen-minute show that Turner, a popular western-styled performer who had an early-morning show on WREC since the late 1930s, sent out to some fifteen stations in Arkansas. Sam had recorded his shows at the station, but after listening to the playback in the makeshift control room of the little studio that was still under construction, Buck Turner (aka Bobo Otto) was so pleased that he offered to put some money into the business.

It was Buck who had helped buy some of the initial recording equipment and put down a deposit on a spinet piano, investing approximately $2,000 in a partnership agreement that Sam started paying off almost as soon as it began, buying out Turner completely by September of 1952. Sam, sniffed Marion Keisker, who helped with the buyout, was ''not a partner person in any relationship'', personal or otherwise, and Buck's wife was not happy with the arrangement either, so there was little incentive for Buck Turner to stay on once Sam's half-hearted attempts to recorded him as a commercial artist rapidly came to naught.




No Details

Composer: - Rex Criffin
Publisher: - Copyright Control
Matrix number: - None – Sun Unissued
Recorded: - Probably June 1950


Note: Possibly intended for 4-Star Records. A vocalist Buck Turner appeared on several records issued between 1950-1952 on the Bullet label of Nashville, credited to Tani Allen and his Tennessee Pals. It has not been established whether these are in fact 706 Union recordings.

Name (Or. No. Of Instruments)
Buck Turner – Vocal
Unknown Musicians



The first Lost John Hunter record "Cool Down Mama"/"Schoolboy" (4-Star 1492) is issued.

''Red Channels'', a pamphlet linking entertainment figures to Communism, is published. Among the 151 people cited are Burl Ives, Pete Seeger, Leonard Bernstein, Josh White and songwriter E.Y. Harburg.

Red Foley recorded ''Cincinnati Dancing Pig''.

JUNE 23, 1950 FRIDAY

Ernest Tubb and Red Foley recorded ''Hillbilly Fever No. 2'' during the afternoon at the Castle Studio in Nashville.


Probably studio session with Phineas Newborn Jr. at the Memphis Recording Service in Memphis, Tennessee. Details unknown.

Billboard reports Kenny Roger has had his tonsills removed.

JUNE 25, 1950 SUNDAY

Sam Phillips mailed two sides ''Phineas Boogie'' backed with ''The Joint Is Jumping'' he had cut the day before for Modern Records on teenage piano prodigy Phineas Newborn Jr., with his father (whose name was pronounced ''Fine-us'') and younger brother on drums and guitar respectively. Two weeks later Sam submitted samples by the Gospel Travelers, a spiritual staple on Memphis radio, and Charlie Burse, the grizzled Memphis Jug Band veteran, who, like the Newborns, had been working with Sam in the studio for some time.

JUNE 26, 1950 MONDAY

Columbia released The Chuck Wagon Gang's ''I'll Fly Away'' recognized by the Recording Industry Association of America and the National Endowment for the Arts among the 365 greatest Songs of the Century.

Columbia released Stuart Hamblen's ''Remember Me (I'm The One Who Loves You)''.


Tennessee Ernie Ford and Kay Starr recorded ''Ain't Nobody's Business But My Own'' and ''I'll Never Be Free'' at the Capitol Studios on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood.


Ernest Tubb recorded ''You Don't Have To Be A Baby To Cry'' during the afternoon at the Castle Studio in Nashville's Tulane Hotel.

JUNE 30, 1950 FRIDAY

Red Foley and Ernest Tubb recorded ''Goodnight Irene'' with The Sunshine Trio at lunchtime in the Castle Studio in Nashville. Foley also recorded ''Hobo Boogie'' and ''Our Lady Of Fatima'', the first hit to feature background singer Anita Kerr.

Songwriter Rick Carnes is born in Fayetteville, Arkansas. He will write a trio of country hits for The Whites, plus Reba McEntire's ''Can't Even Get The Blues'' and Garth Brooks' ''Longneck Bottle''.

The western ''Trigger, Jr.'' appears in movie theaters, with Roy Rogers and Dale Evans starring. Rogers sings ''Stampede'' during the film with Foy Willing and The Riders Of The Purple Sage.


Elvis Presley bought his hair oil "Triple Active Success Hair Oil" at A. Schwab's > Schwab's < Dry Goods store, located at 163 Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee.

JUNE 1950

Sam Phillips meets with disc jockey Dewey Phillips, whose Red, Hot, and Blue, a melange of "boogies, blues, and spirituals", is the hottest thing on Memphis radio, attracting a huge black and white audience with its idiosyncratic style. Sam Phillips recognizes a kindred spirit in Dewey, and while the partnership that they form later this summer, known as "It's The Phillips" label, doesn't last more than a month or two, they remain the closest of ideological allies.

The relationship with 4-Star seemed unlikely to lead anywhere, so Phillips and his friend Dewey Phillips took the brave step of launching their own record label. For Sam Phillips, his own label meant an end to the frustration of finding a company that would issue and promote his product.

''Dewey and I were together quite a bit. We figured that if we had a record out we could feel out the record business on a local basis and that would help both of us. I was suffering some real disappointments in getting my studio going, and I had to make a decision as to go what I was going to do with myself. It was partly a lark for both of us to see how it would go, but Dewey was a hot disc jockey in town, and I knew that we had a good chance to get some recordings played''.

The new label, simply called It's The Phillips, carried the modest subscript, ''The Hottest Thing in the Country'', one of Dewey's catchphrases. It had an active lifespan of no more than a few weeks in the late summer of 1950. Sam Phillips had grown fond of a song called ''Shorty The Barber''. In July 1950 he recorded a version of the song with jug band veteran Charlie Burse, and recalls borrowing shears from a barber across the street to get the right sound effect. Within a few weeks, Phillips had decided that the song's prospect would be brighter if it were recorded by a local one-man band, Joe Hill Louis. On August 8 Phillips wrote to the song's publisher, Cromwell Music, with the kind of bravado that only one who has nothing can muster: ''I would very much like to secure permission to cut this tune (''Shorty The Barber'') with Joe Hill Louis, an ex-Columbia recording artist (Negro). He has signed to make eight sides with my recording company, 'PHILLIPS', which is a new label but will be one of the most publicized regional labels to hit the market. I have three outstanding race disc jockeys behind my company and we will see to it that no record is played any more than It's The Phillips label in this territory.

''I am sure we can sell ''Shorty'' in the South and I am sure you will benefit greatly by having this excellent race artist do your number. . . . If you can give us the OK and approximate date that we could release it, we will hold off everything by Louis and plan to really get behind him on ''Shorty''. Phillips, lacking experience in the business, didn't know it was unnecessary to apply to the publisher for permission to record a song. The publisher referred him to the Harry Fox Agency, which issued mechanical licenses. Phillips had obviously not heard of the Fox Agency because he wrote personally to Fox in care of BMI, which was unconnected with Fox and had no jurisdiction over licensing songs for issue.

Obviously frustrated by his own lack of expertise, Phillips eventually decided that the first release would be two original Joe Hill Louis tunes, probably recorded before ''Shorty'', for which no thirdparty licenses were required. His naivete surfaced again, however, when Phillips forgot to assign an issue number to the record. Buster Williams' Plastic products pressed three hundred copies of Louis's ''Boogie In The Park'' on August 30, 1950, shipped them to Music Sales for distribution in Memphis, and billed Phillips fifty-one dollars. The extreme scarcity of the record today suggests that there never was another pressing, and as far as anyone remembers, the label was DOA by September.




You can never tire of ''John The Revelator''. In all its myriad forms, it is truly what makes gospel music great: ancient theology refracted through the prism of the African American experience. Its authorship is unknown, and, as far as we can tell, the first recording was by the Bessemer Sunset Four in 1929, a version that wasn't issued. Blind Willie Johnson recorded it the following year, and its inclusion on the seminal Anthology Of American Folk Music ensured that it has now fully permeated popular culture to the point that it is recorded more frequently these days than before World War II. It was in The Blues Brothers movie and its last prime-time appearance was on The Conan O'Brien Show performed by the White Stripes. We have no idea who is performing this version; the acetate is blank on that score. On the Phillips' ''Tree Of Life'' commercial (see above) used a group called the Five Voice Singers of Memphis. It might be them. Regardless, it's a marvellous performances, based closely on the Golden Gate Quartet's 1938 recording. In the years before the Anthology of American Folk Music became required listening for college-age white kids, the Gates' version was required listening among African American audiences.

01 - ''JOHN THE REVELATOR'' - B.M.I. - 2:29
Composer: - Traditional
Publisher: Copyright Control
Matrix number: - None - Not Originally Issued
Recorded: Possible June 1950
Released: - March 8, 2013
First appearance: Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 17310-10-1 mono
THE SUN BLUES BOX 1950 - 1958

This was a reconfigured and slightly garbled rendition of the Blue Jay Singers' justly lauded 1947 recording of ''I'm Bound For Canaan Land''. In place of the Blue Jays almost aching precision, this is a rough and ready ad lib performance based on a well-known text. The likelihood is that the performers of this recording were a local group who simply wanted to know what they sounded like. in those pre-home taping days, performers had no idea unless they made a record like this (hence Elvis Presley's appearance at the Memphis Recording Service of years later). The Blue Jay's version was credited to their instructor and lead singer, Charlie Bridges, and in the Jays' hands it's one of the finest post-War quartet recordings. The same, sadly, cannot be said of this.

02 - ''I AM BOUND FOR CANAAN LAND'' - B.M.I. - 3:09
Composer: - Charles Bridges
Publisher: Copyright Control
Matrix number: - None - Not Originally Issued
Recorded: Possible June 1950
Released: - March 8, 2013
First appearance: Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 17310-10-3 mono
THE SUN BLUES BOX 1950 - 1958

Name (Or. No. Of Instruments)
Unknown Gospel Group
Possible The Five Voice Singers of Memphis





Sam Phillips commences recording sessions for RPM/Modern Records. He records Phineas Newborn Jr., Joe Hill Louis, and the Gospel Travelers, and dubs of these recordings are sent to Modern Records. Jules and Saul Bihari, who operate the West Coast distributorship for Kayle-Halbert TV's and also own Modern Records, plan an as-yet unnamed subsidiary record label. They hold a competition to decide the name, which is finally settled as RPM.

01 - ''THERE'S A MAN AT YOUR DOOR'' - B.M.I. - 2:15
Composer: - Traditional
Publisher: - Copyright Control
Matrix number: - None
Recorded: - June 1950
Released: - April 1, 2012
First appearance: - Vintage Masters Internet iTunes MP3-20 mono

02 - ''GOD'S CHARIOT'' - B.M.I. - 2:53
Composer: - Traditional
Publisher: - Copyright Control
Matrix number: - None
Recorded: - June 1950
Released: - 1952
First appearance: Duke Records (S) 78rpm Duke G1 mono
Reissued: - 1984 Krazy Kat (LP) 33rpm KK 7424-A-4-5 mono
Reissued: - April 1, 2012 Vintage Masters Internet iTunes MP3-27 mono

03 - ''PRAYING TIME'' - B.M.I. - 2:20
Composer: - Traditional
Publisher: - Copyright Control
Matrix number: - None
Recorded: - June 1950
Released: - November 2, 2010
First appearance: - JSP Records Internet iTunes MP3-22 mono

04 - ''GOD'S CHARIOT PART 1'' - B.M.I. - 2:53
Composer: - Traditional
Publisher: - Copyright Control
Matrix number: - None - with Sound Effects
Recorded: - June 1950
Released: - 1984
First appearance: - Krazy Kat (LP) 33rpm KK 7424-A4 mono
Reissued: - April 2, 2012 JSP Records Internet iTunes MP3-1 mono

Probably cut at the Tri-State Recording Company in Memphis, Tennessee, late 1952. ''God's Chariot'' is one of the rarest and most sought after post-war gospel recording, originally released on Duke G1, it is the only known gospel issue prior to Don Robey acquiring the label.

The song is based on the standard ''God Rode In A Windstorm'' and traces the path of the devastating storm that hit the South on the 21ste March 1952. It also probably the only gospel record to have sounds effects of thunder, lightning and windstorm assisting the vocals.

05 - ''GOD'S CHARIOT PART 2'' - B.M.I. - 2:51
Composer: - Traditional
Publisher: - Copyright Control
Matrix number: - None - with Sound Effects
Recorded: - June 1950
Released: - 1984
First appearance: - Krazy Kat (LP) 33rpm KK 7424-A5 mono
Reissued: - April 2, 2012 JSP Records Internet iTunes MP3-1 mono

Name (Or. No. Of Instruments)
The Gospel Travelers consisting of
Eugene Walton - Lead Vocals
Ray Hurley - Tenor and Guitar
John Spencer - Baritone
Troy Yarborough - Bass

Notes: Samples recorded for Modern Records.



Session Published for Historical Reasons



If Rufus Thomas was disappointed at the lack of a second release on Star Talent, then his sorrow should have been short-lived. Within six months, he was back on record again. However, this time he was disguised on the record label as Mr. Swing and he may not even have known about his release on Nashville's Bullet label. If he did know at the time, he seemed to have forgotten about it through most of his career and only acknowledged it nearly fifty years after the event. When the disc played him in 1999 he appeared incredulous, saying "Hey, that is me. I had forgotten all about those songs, but you know, that really is me". He seemed to have no recollection of the matter being raised with him three years earlier by Dave Clarke of Blues And Rhythm magazine - but he had undergone a bypass operation in-between times.

The release of "Beer Bottle Boogie" and "Gonna Bring My Baby Back" on Bullet 327 came about in similar on location circumstances to those surrounding the Star Talent episode. The songs were apparently recorded sometime around 9 to 11 June 1950 when the Lionel Hampton orchestra was playing at the Handy Theater in Memphis, and when Rufus Thomas sang with a smaller band drawn from Hampton's musicians. The band was credited to Hampton's saxophonist and songwriter, Bobby Plater, and the deal was apparently set up between Overton Ganong, then head of Bullet records, Robert Henry, the manager of the Handy Theater, and Bert Ferguson of WDIA who had the previous year been instrumental in sending B.B. King's first recordings to Bullet.

01 - ''BEER BOTTLE BOOGIE'' - B.M.I. - 2:58
Composer: - Jenkins
Publisher: - Copyright Control
Matrix number: - None -
Recorded: - June 9-11, 1950
Released: - 1950
First appearance: - Bullet Records (S) 78rpm standard single > Bullet 327-A < mono
Reissued - 2008 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 16695-4 mono

''Beer Bottle Boogie" has a strong boogie piano opening from Milt Buckner, whose trademark grunting can be clearly heard on these recordings. Rufus tells how he got higher than a kite, then all hipped-up, then burned at poker - the recipe for getting the beer bottle boogie way down deep inside. Then the classy band really comes into its own with a fabulous sax solo while the other players interject and squirt all around it. Rufus to Martin Hawkins, "I do remember that 'Beer Bottle' song, and that is a good band, a quality band there. I think so".

Incidentally, Marilyn Scott recorded a "Beer Bottle Boogie" on Regent Records in September 1950, it appears to be a different song altogether, but Mr. Swing may have inspired the title. "Gonna Bring My Baby Back" is a swinging mid-pace item driven by the piano towards a smooth tenor solo that builds up while the band riffs effectively. Rufus tells a familiar tale about his baby leaving but he's gonna find her, and he tells it with some vocal style.

02 - ''GONNA BRING MY BABY BACK'' - B.M.I. - 2:24
Composer: - Rufus Thomas
Publisher: - Copyright Control
Matrix number: - None
Recorded: - June 9-11, 1950
Released: - 1950
First appearance: - Bullet Records (S) 78rpm standard single > Bullet 327-B < mono
Reissued: - 2008 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 16695-5 mono

Billboard listed the disc among the New Rhythm And Blues Releases of July 22, 1950, where Mr. Swing lined up alongside Mr. Cadillac and his "The R D Boogie", Louis Jordan's "Blue Light Boogie", Gatemouth Brown's "Boogie Rambler", and Ray Charles "The Ego Song", among others.

One disc it should have sat alongside was "Phillips Set Me", Bullet 329 by Jerome Richardson, Lionel Hampton's young saxophone prodigy, fronting the same Bobby Plater band that had backed Rufus. The disc possible included vocals by Hampton's vocalist Betty Carter but this is uncertain because a copy of the record has not been located. What is clear is that the tune was inspired by Memphis disc jockey, Dewey Phillips, whose catchphrase was to tell radio listeners to "say that Phillips sent ya" when entering a store.

A year later, in July 1951, Billboard reported that "Dewey Phillips advice to his WHBQ listeners to tell merchants 'Phillips sent me' has become a by-word in Memphis and his show is being considered for coast to coast broadcast over the Mutual network. Newest twist is that he's to be immortalized in song, with Joe Liggins and his Honeydrippers planning to record a ditty entitled "Phillips Sent Me'". It is possible that there had been some copyright wrangling over the song and a threatened legal restraint that led to Bullet pulling the disc from sale in 1950. Either way, it is a fascinating, and frustrating, side issue to what was already a confused picture surrounding Rufus's second recording venture.

Name (Or. No. Of Instruments)
Rufus Thomas (as Mr. Swing with Bobby Plater and his Orchestra) - Vocal
Bobby Plater - Alto Saxophone / Jerome Richardson - Tenor Saxophone
Probably Johnny Board - Tenor Saxophone / Unidentified - Baritone Saxophone
Unidentified - Trumpet / Milt Buckner - Piano
Probably Rudy Mason - Guitar / Probably Roy Johnson - Bass
Probably Ellis Bartee - Drums

For Biography of Rufus Thomas see > The Sun Biographies <
Rufus Thomas' Sun recordings can be heard on his playlist from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube <





Two fantastic 1950 recordings from Memphis, Tennessee, recorded at Sam Phillips' Memphis Recording Service and sold to Modern Records on the West Coast in July1951.

01 - ''FINE AS WINE'' - B.M.I. - 2:45
Composer: Dick Cole-Jules Taub
Publisher: - Modern Music Publishing
Matrix number: - MM 1602 Master
Recorded: - June 24, 1950
Released: - July 1951
First appearance: - Modern Records (S) 78rpm standard single > Modern 831-A < mono

According to Billboard magazine, ''Cole chants throatily on a routine medium jump bit of blues material don't match it in spirit and drive on ''Fine As Wine'', and the instrumental ''Tennessee Bounce'' features a free-swinging boogie piano and effective riffing by combo''.

02 - ''TENNESSEE BOUNCE'' - B.M.I. - 2:13
Composer: Phineas Newborn Jr.
Publisher: - Modern Music Publishing
Matrix number: - MM 1601 Master - Instrumental
Recorded: - June 24, 1950
Released: - July 1951
First appearance: - Modern Records (S) 78rpm standard single > Modern 831-B < mono

03 - ''PHINEAS BOOGIE'' - B.M.I.
Composer: Phineas Newborn Jr.
Publisher: - Modern Music Publishing
Matrix number: - None - Not Originally Issued
Recorded: - June 24, 1950
Released: - 1985
First appearance: - Krazy Kat Records (LP) 33rpm KK 7427 mono

Composer: Phineas Newborn Jr
Publisher: - Modern Music Publishing
Matrix number: - None - Not Originally Issued
Recorded: June 24, 1950
Released: - 1985
First appearance: - Krazy Kat Records (LP) 33rpm KK 7427 mono

These tracks were recorded as samples for Modern Records. Modern later issued a single ''Tennessee Bounce'' b/w ''Fine As Wine'' (Modern 831) which may derive from this session. Alternatively ''The Joint Is Jumping'' and ''Phineas Boogie'' (KK 7427) may have been recorded at this session.

Name (Or. No. Of Instruments)
Phineas Newborn Jr. - Piano
Calvin Newborn - Guitar
Richard Sanders - Tenor Saxophone
James Walker - Bass
Phineas Newborn Sr. - Drums
Dick ''Cane'' Cole - Vocal on ''Fine As Wine''

Dick ''Cane'' Cole emceed at Sunbeam Mitchell's Club Paradise in South Memphis, and brought his stage persona to the airwaves.


JUNE 1950

As if he needed one, Phillips had another reason to force the manufacturing end of the business; an evolving relationship with the Biharis who operated Modern Records with exemplary know-how in Los Angeles. The Biharis, Joe, Saul and Jules, were planning to start a subsidiary, RPM Records, and were looking for new music with a down-home feel. At first Phillips sent them some samples of Joe Hill Louis (which he soon withdrew for It's The Phillips label), together with samples from a local gospel group and from jazz pianist Phineas Newborn, Jr.

But Memphis held a brighter prospect than all of those, in the guise of a young man named Riley King. King had left Mississippi in 1947 and journeyed to Memphis to play in the parks and hustle a little work for himself. ''When I left Mississippi'', he told David Booth, ''I had been used to singing gospel songs. I had never played professionally with a band until I came to Memphis. I had heard Sonny Boy Williamson on the radio from Helena, Arkansas, and by the time I got to Memphis he had moved to West Memphis, and I started to go over there and play the blues''. He was not yet twenty-five years old.

''I went to KWEM and asked If I could sing on the radio, and that's how I came to know Sonny Boy. It happened that he had two jobs one night and he arranged for me to fill one of them So I went out to the Sixteenth Street Grill. The lady's name was Miss Annie. She paid me twelve dollars that night, which was more than I had ever had in my life. Miss Ann1e said she would hire me six days a week if I got a radio spot where I could advertise her place. So I went over to WDlA and got a job there. I played ten to fifteen minutes live every day''. King went back to Mississippi, collected his wife, Martha, together with their few belongings, and moved to Memphis.

WDIA gave King a gig hustling a patent cure-all, Pep-ti-Kon. ''If you feel run down, tired, achy, pains, can't sleep, are nervous, can't eat, have indigestion and bloating gas, you are guaranteed satisfaction'', would call over the air. '''Get Pep-ti-Kon today and see if you don't say, 'Man, I'm really living'''. He also persuaded his bosses at WDIA to help him get on record. At that time, Bullet Records in Nashville was the closest label, and WDIA pulled a few strings to get their budding star two releases in July and November 1949.

By that point, Riley King had acquired his nickname, B.B., which has always been thought to stand for Blues Boy. Yet an article in the local black newspaper, The Tri State Defender, dated March 29, 1952, suggests a more probable derivation in a synopses of his story: ''Riley King, whose public had christened him ''Singing Black Boy'', was producing a popular radio show of his own. His public donated nickname was shortened to 'B. B.' King and under this title the slim guitar strummed from Ito Bena realized his ambition to cut original platters''.

After the Bullet contract expired, King was contacted by Jules Bihari, who placed him with Sam Phillips. Working under Bihari's direction, Phillips recorded King for approximately a year, from mid-l950 until June 1951. The Biharis drew five singles from the repertoire that Phillips supplied to them, making King one of the first artists on their new RPM subsidiary.

At the dawn of his long career, King's sound was not nearly as distinctive as it later became. His voice, like his figure, was thinner, and his guitar playing had yet to take on the stinging tone and dramatic flourishes that would become his trademarks. Yet the promise in those early sides was undeniable. As he later would with Elvis Presley, Phillips kept King to an established formula, coupling an uptempo boogie with a slow number. On some of the faster songs Phillips indulged his budding taste for over amplification to produce a primitive fuzz effect.

One song in particular, ''She's Dynamite'', was a showcase for Phillips' flair for experimentation, as he encouraged the bass, piano, and guitar to play a boogie riff in unison. It was a bottom-heavy sound that challenged established precepts of how recordings should be balanced. A comparison of B B. King's version of the song with Tampa Red's original, recorded earlier the same year, illustrates Phillips' evolving production philosophy: there is an explosiveness and barely contained energy in King's version that overwhelms the mannered restraint of Tampa Red's. It was that blistering energy and the willingness to experiment that pointed unerringly into the future.

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

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