It’s a strange coincidence that we should be celebrating and mourning at the same time – but that’s what early February brings to us true fans of rock’n’roll music. It was 70 years ago when Sam Phillips took the big step, renaming his Memphis Recording Service, formerly only a recording studio, and relaunched it as a full-fledged record label – SUN Records. He would soon make history by not only ‘discovering’ Elvis Presley, but also launching the careers of such legends as Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison and many others.
Was rock’n’roll ‘born’ at SUN? Impossible to say, but it was a very significant influence, shaping the new music during the mid-50s. And at least two of the songs often claimed to be ‘the first rock’n’roll record’ were in fact recorded at SUN: ‘Rocket ’88‘ by Jackie Brenston & Ike Turner’s Band, and ‘That’s All Right‘ – Presley’s first local hit. You want further proof? Well how about ‘Blue Suede Shoes‘ by Carl Perkins, or ‘Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin On‘ by Jerry Lee Lewis.
Those are just four of fourteen legendary SUN recordings I’ll play in a fascinating one hour salute to SUN on its 70th anniversary.
As for the mourning? It was also the first week of February – in 1959 – when Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper died in that plane crash, Don McLean called it ‘the day the music died’ in his classic song ‘American Pie‘ – which was #1 50 years ago this week. As part of our look back at ‘This Week in Zoomer Music‘ I’ll delve into ‘The Story Behind the Song‘ ‘Three Stars’. It was the first tribute song in rock’n’roll history, prompted by the deaths of Holly, Valens and Bopper. I’ll play two versions of the famous song, including the rarely-heard first version, recorded by Holly’s friend, Eddie Cochran.
Ten years after Holly’s death, another rock’n’roll force breathed its last, as The Beatles gave their final live public performance, with their ‘rooftop concert’ in downtown London. It’s a specific moment recently transformed from a sad finale to a celebratory closing of one chapter – thanks to Peter Jackson’s ‘Get Back’ doc. So many memories captured every week on ‘Vintage Favourites’ – I hope you’ll join me for this next edition, this Sunday, January 30th.