Archive for Thursday, July 31, 2003

Rock pioneer Sam Phillips dies

Founder of Sun Records discovered Elvis Presley

July 31, 2003


— Record producer Sam Phillips, who discovered Elvis Presley and helped usher in the rock 'n' roll revolution, died Wednesday. He was 80.

Phillips died of respiratory failure at St. Francis Hospital, his son Knox Phillips said. He said his father had been in declining health for a year.

The elder Phillips founded Sun Records in Memphis in 1952 and helped launch the career of Presley, then a young singer who had moved from Tupelo, Miss.

In the summer of 1953, Presley went to the Sun studio to record two songs for his mother's birthday. Phillips noticed him and decided Presley deserved a recording contract.

Phillips produced Presley's first record, the 1954 single that featured "That's All Right, Mama" and "Blue Moon of Kentucky," and nine more.

"God only knows that we didn't know it would have the response that it would have," Phillips said in an interview in 1997.

"But I always knew that the rebellion of young people, which is as natural as breathing, would be a part of that breakthrough," he said.

Phillips was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. In 2000, the A&E; cable network ran a two-hour biography called "Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock and Roll."

By 1956, when Phillips sold Presley's contract to RCA for $35,000, the rock 'n' roll craze had become a cultural phenomenon and a multimillion-dollar industry.

When Phillips started Sun Records his plan was to let artists with no formal training play their music as they felt it, raw and full of life. The Sun motto was "We Record Anything, Anywhere, Anytime."

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