Jim Bulleit informed Sam Phillips that some months earlier in November 1953, Jud
Phillips purchases Jim Bulleit's interest in Sun Records and sets up a new distribution system unrelated to Bulleit's Delta and J-B labels as an inducement to sell his shares, an important point of information now that he was thinking of selling his publishing
Jud adamantly denied having said any such thing, and there was a brief, angry flurry of correspondence in which Sam set the uncompromising tone. ''Now if you
want to.. call in your lawyer, if you can get one to take the case, then I'm ready. Or if you want to live up to your obligation and not try to railroad another one of your stunts over on somebody then we will sit down and settle up. But get this, buddy...
I'll stake my reputation with yours any day of the week and will be glad at any time to do it''. That seemed to do the trick, as Jim swiftly capitulated and transferred all of the Sun material, as they had originally agreed, to Sam's newly Sun registers the
Hi-Lo Publishing Company with B.M.I., to publish Sun copyrights.
Sam Phillips pays Leonard Chess two checks totalling $1500, probably a repayment of a personal loan to
Phillips after the ''Bear Cat'' judgment went against him.
Country recording artist Hardrock Gunter is put in touch with Sam Phillips when working with Phillips' brother-in-law,
Jim Connally, at radio WJLD in Birmingham, Alabama. Unable to spare the time to get to Memphis, Gunter record two songs locally and ships them to Phillips for release on Sun. The titles are "Gonna Dance All Night" and "Fallen Angel", performed in a western-swing
style. The A side has rock and roll overtones in the Bill Haley mould.
Jud Phillips borrowed $1200 and bought Jim Bulleit out. Sun was now free from outside interference,
and Sam Phillips could negotiate his own business deals. This was an important turning point for Phillips. During the year, Sam frantically recorded numerous black acts. Jud Phillips helped sell the product by making a deal with a Shreveport, Louisiana, distributor,
Stan Lewis, who agreed to get Sun Records played on local radio.
Sam Phillips' files show he was continuing to do custom mastering work for other labels, including for
Johnny Vincent for Specialty Records, and for Meteor Records, and he cast about for any and every way that he could think of to improve his situation. He came up with the idea of a management company that would provide representation for each of the artists
he had under contract, calling for a 5 percent commission on gross earnings. It was to be called the Exclusive Booking Agency, and he signed all of his new artists to it. But in the end, like all the other moneymaking schemes he had come up with in the past
for which he seemed to have little heart, Sam never put this plan into practice.
FEBRUARY 5, 1954
There was no money in the till. Marion Keisker had gone back to supplementing petty cash with money from her salary as assistant program director at WREC. When Jud Phillips' wife, Dean, wrote to Sam Phillips on this day requesting $300 to
settle what was owed, Sam replied to his brother, ''Right now we do not have that much in the bank, but.. I'm sure we will have a check from somebody before the week is gone''. Leonard Chess had come in, he wrote, ''and I paid that off... and a lot of other
things have hit us pretty hard, but I will send, the money, the minute we get it''.
FEBRUARY 10, 1954 WEDNESDAY
''Phantom Stallion'' debuts in theaters, with Rex Allen and Slim Pickens starring. It's considered the last of the singing-cowboy westerns.
14, 1954 SUNDAY
Eddy Arnold recorded ''Live Fast, Love Hard, Die Young'' at Thomas Production Studio in Nashville. Faron Young cuts the definitive version 11 months later.
FEBRUARY 15, 1954 MONDAY
Sam Phillips was on the road for almost the entire month of February, putting
over five thousand miles on the black 1951 Cadillac four-door he had bought a few months earlier with a down payment of $750 for just this purpose. If his brother Jud had continued to be involved, he might have been better able to focus on what really mattered
most, making records (Sam was unable to schedule a session for the next two weeks, he wrote to Jud on February 15, because of the constant travel), and some of Knox's and Jerry's most vivid early memories of their father, they were now eight and five respectively,
were of going to the pressing plant with him on the weekend and helping him load up the trunk of his car with records. Sometimes that was the most they got to see of him, as he set out on his latest sales and promotion trip through Louisiana, Texas, and up
into Oklahoma, before Sam could turn around, come back home, and start all over again.
FEBRUARY 17, 1954 WEDNESDAY
Terry Fell recorded ''Don't Drop It'' at the RCA Studios in Hollywood. The session also yields ''Truck Driving Man'', a song that George Hamilton IV covers a decade later.
FEBRUARY 18, 1954 THURSDAY
Actor John Travolta is born in Englewood, New Jersey. After starring in ''Saturday Night Fever'' and ''Grease''
he becomes a focal point of the trend toward country music and fashion during the 1980s, thanks to his role in the movie ''Urban Cowboy''.
FEBRUARY 19, 1954 FRIDAY
Eunice Kathleen Waymon (blues-singer Nina Simone) Recital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at New Center Auditorium.
FEBRUARY 20, 1954 SATURDAY
Eddy Arnold is a special guest on NBC-TV's ''The Spike Jones Show''
Bluegrass performer Claire Lynch is born in Poughkeepsie, New York. The plaintive singer begins her career with The Front Porch String Band, earning Grammy nominations with two solo albums, ''Moonlighter'' and ''Silver And Gold''.
FEBRUARY 20, 1953 SATURDAY
Sun 195 ''No Teasing Around'' b/w ''Somebody Told Me'' by Billy ''The
Kid'' Emerson another Ike Turner discovery, a singer and pianist from Florida with a flair for highly crafted, quirky, and idiosyncratic songwriting in the blues vein. Sun 196 ''Wolf Call Boogie'' b/w ''Harmonica Jam'' by ''Hot Shot'' Love also are issued
from this hard-blowing local harmonica player and sign painter (he advertised both his sign painting and his distinctive philosophy on the back of his bicycle as he rode all around the streets of South Memphis.
Earl Peterson's "Boogie Blues" b/w ''In The Dark'' (Sun 197) is released at about this time, the first inaugural contemporary country single on Sun. Earl was a twenty-six-year-old country disc jockey from Michigan, who showed
up at the studio for an audition with his mother and billed himself as ''Michigan Singing Cowboy''. The B-side was a smoothly sung ballad referencing Hank Williams and put across with a good deal of warmth. The featured number, ''Boogie Blues'', with which
Peterson had auditioned, was a cheerful hillbilly boogie update along the lines of Hawkshaw Hawkins, but with allusions to some of Bill Monroe's more extravagant bluegrass yodeling numbers.
The second was deep-seated country gospel labeled as Sun 198 "Troublesome Waters" b/w ''I Must Be Saved'' by Howard Seratt, the Arkansas singer Sam Phillips had carried over to Nashville to help persuade Governor Clement to let him sign the
Prisonaires. Seratt, whom Sam considered to be one of the most beautiful singers he had ever heard, accompanied himself on guitar and harmonica. When he had first come to the studio the previous year early 1953 , to cut some sides for his manager's custom
label (St. Francis), Sam was well aware that his music didn't have a chance in the pop market, but he couldn't restrain himself from recording Seratt again (late 1953), and this time putting the record out on his own Sun label. Maybe in the back of his mind
he was still hoping to convert Seratt to a more secular approach, but he knew that was a pipe dream. Seratt had made himself very clear, and in the end Sam Phillips wouldn't have wanted to change his mind anyway. But there was something haunting about the
music, something about the pure spirituality and honesty of the singer's voice that failed to lead anywhere except to reinforce Sam's conviction that music like this needed to be preserved, that someday music like this, presented properly, could reach an audience
that, even if it didn't know it, might just be hungering for something more. Neither disc is successful commercially but they represent an increasing commitment to country music on the part of Sun Records.
FEBRUARY 21, 1954 SUNDAY
Johnnie & Jack recorded ''(Oh Baby Mine) I Get So Lonely''.
Keyboard player Billy Earhart is born in Tullahoma, Tennessee. He joins The Amazing Rhythm Aces, appearing on all three of their hits, ''Third Rate Romance'', ''Amazing Grace (Used To Be Her Favorite Song);; and Grammy-winner
''The End Is Not In Sight''.