Orbison enrolled at Odessa Junior College in the fall of 1955 wanting to major in
Geology but then changed to History and English. Soon, the band moved in together to a duplex in Walnut Street in Odessa. With a couple of new members they renamed themselves "The Teen Kings" as they were playing more and more Rock and Roll. They got a second
weekly local TV show on Saturdays from 4:30 to 5 PM on KOSA-TV, Odessa, Channel 7, which was part of the national CBS network.
Johnny Cash and also Elvis Presley came
in town to perform around this time and appeared on Roy's TV show. Roy asked Johnny for advice on how to get a record released and Cash gave him Sam Phillips telephone number in Memphis. He called Mr. Phillips who hung up the phone saying, "Johnny Cash doesn't
run my record company''.
Dick Stuart takes over from Bill Strength
as morning disc jockey on KWEM radio, West Memphis, Arkansas. Stuart is later to manage Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins.
Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash head a Sun package
tour of Texas. On December 28, they join George Jones for a show in Texarkana, Texas.
"Cry, Cry, Cry" was still doing good business, and Sam Phillips held off releasing
for Johnny Cash's new single until December. A few weeks earlier, Phillips had acquired a little venture capital from RCA, and he pumped it behind Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash. He placed an advertisement in the trade papers touting "handsome and young" Johnny
Then, in 1955, while Jack Clement attending Memphis State
University, he performed a Christmas Eve gig at a friend’s club in Arkansas. That same friend, Slim Wallace, drove him home, accompanied by Mrs Wallace and another woman who, deemed to be drunk and disorderly during a stop at a diner, ended up being
arrested and thrown in jail, along with her sober defender, Mr Clement. Still, this would have a fortunate outcome.
''Slim and I wanted to form our own label, Fernwood
Records, and during my spare time I was building a studio in his garage'', Clement recalls. ''Anyway, he hung around to get me out of jail on Christmas Day, and since there wasn’t much public transportation we decided to hitchhike. Out on the highway,
we were picked up by this guy named Billy Lee Riley. He was a rockabilly artist, and after I told him that Slim and I were getting into the record business, we rehearsed some of Billy’s songs in Slim’s garage. It didn’t have good enough equipment
to make a proper record, so I wound up producing ''Trouble Bound'' and ''Think Before You Go'' at the studio of the WMPS radio station''.
Clement subsequently took the
tape of this session to the Memphis Recording Service for mastering, and when he returned a few days later, he ran into Sam Phillips who, impressed by what he had heard, told him he’d like to release Riley’s tracks on Sun Records and that he’d
also like to offer Clement a job. Hardly enamoured with his current parttime work at a local hardware store, Clement accepted, and on June 15th, 1956, he became Sam Phillips’ assistant. ''If the Arkansas cops hadn't put me in jail on Christmas Eve, I
would have never met Billy Riley and landed a job with Sun Records'', says Clement, while adding,''Fate sometimes has a wonderful way of intervening''.
Sam Phillips owned the publishing rights to Carl Perkins' "Blue Suede Shoes", although the song was represented by Hill and Range as part of the Presley deal. This meant that every record
company who pushed a version onto the market owed Sam Phillips two cents for every copy sold. The success of "Blue Suede Shoes" also enabled Sam Phillips to assemble the nucleus of his foreign deals which saw Sun product go to Decca/London for most of the
world and to Quality Records and subsequently London Records in Canada.
The reel of tape, the bottles of bourbon and the night's work that Sam Phillips invested in "Blue
Suede Shoes" on December evening paid a dividend more handsome than anything he dared dream as he locked up the studio and walked to his car that night. The record business is a lottery and Phillips had hit the jackpot. More than that, he was a success on
his own terms. He had recorded music that no-one else believed in. He recorded it his way. He released it on his own label. And he reaped the colossal rewards.
too had been vindicated. However, for Perkins the struggle was just beginning. Although he wrote songs that were, in some respects, better than "Blue Suede Shoes", he could never recapture the commerciality of the muse that came to him at 3 o'clock on the
morning when he went downstairs and scratched his anthem on a potato bag.
Your Heart" b/w Wedding Gown Of White'' (Sun 231) by Charlie Feathers is released.
Sun 234, ''Blue Suede Shoes'' b/w ''Honey Don't'' by Carl Perkins is released. This
becomes a hit on the national popular, country and rhythm and blues charts, heralding an era of success for Sun with rockabilly music. On the very first day of the release, Music Sales, Sam Phillips' Memphis distributor, put in an initial order for four hundred,
then ordered six hundred more by the end of the day. In Dallas, Alta Hayes of Big State, who had been the first to give Sam hope that his experiment might actually catch on, moved twenty-five hundred copies out the door. By the end of the month it had passed
one hundred thousand sales, and Phillips was advertising it as a bona fide three-way smash, pop, country, and rhythm and blues. After gross sales of $45,000 in the last quarter of 1955, a new high for Sun, the label suddenly rocketed to nearly six times that
amount in the first quarter of 1956, and then to an almost unimaginable $350,000 in the second quarter, representing sales of something like $865,000 records.
on Sun's tiny three-person storefront operation was almost impossible to imagine. For Sally Wilbourn, who had gone to work at the end of November and just turned nineteen the week that ''Blue Suede Shoes'' came out, it was as if her whole world had turned
''It just seemed like everything burst wide open. You have to remember what we didn't have'', said Sally Wilbourn, ''You didn't have electric typewriters.
You didn't have photostat machines. You didn't have calculators. Everything was carbon copy. Every sample that went to a radio station had to be packaged individually with a label typed and put on them, and then you had to weigh them and put postage on them.
Records wore out. Juke boxes would just wear them out. I was packaging records, going to radio stations every day, you know, and answering the phone. I didn't know a lot but I was capable of learning. I got to the point where Marion Keisker and I were working
every night. Then I started working Sundays, doing invoices, because there was nobody else to do it except Marion and me. Just doing the billing was the biggest job. We would have to get in the studio on Sunday afternoon and spread all of those invoices from
every distributor out in the middle of the floor. We had no other place to do it, and some of them were so thick because we were selling so many records''.
b/w ''They call Our Love A Sin'' (Sun 236) by Jimmy Hagget is released at about this time "Sure To Fall" b/w ''Tennessee'' (SUN 235) by Carl and Jay Perkins is scheduled but never officially issued.
Sun 237/Flip 237 ''The Chicken (Dance With You)'' b/w ''Love For You, Baby'' by Rosco Gordon is released.
END DECEMBER 1955
Johnny Cash's musician Marshall Grant, was convinced that they would see better times. "On a lot of early shows we were openers", he told David Booth, "but I could see the momentum already
there. Johnny Cash was becoming popular with that little different sound we had. His big gigantic voice was cutting through something fierce. You could see it grow day by day".
1955 ended, Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two were still holding down day jobs. In fact, the only colour television set Johnny Cash would ever sell was to Marion Keisker at Sun. Whitin the next few weeks, though, Johnny Cash would sell his last domestic appliance.
In December 1955, Johnny Cash played a guest shot on the Louisiana Hayride.