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Jerry Phillips Shines a Little Light on Sun Records in 100th Birthday Celebration of His Father Sam

by Rich and Laura Lynch

Sam Phillips' 100th birthday was celebrated at the Musicians Hall of Fame Museum (MHOF) in Nashville, Tennessee on February 01, 2023. Many consider Mr. Phillips one of the originators of Rock 'n Roll as he recorded blues artists such as B.B. King in the days of segregation and their music would become the foundation of the genre. Sam also discovered and promoted a number of then unknowns going by the names of Cash, Elvis and Jerry Lee. The event at the MHOF featured an interview with Sam's son Jerry along with a quick Q&A session.

Jerry Phillips at the Musicians Hall of Fame in Nashville.

"All were welcomed," stated Phillips as he talked about his father's motivation behind the business that Jerry described as very hard. We learned that Sam had grown up picking cotton which exposed him to black music at an influential age. He opened the Memphis Recording Studios aka Sun Records in 1950 with the idea of taping blues artists in hopes of getting them more exposure which it did. All kinds of people casually came into the studio to make a record for special occasions and in other cases a whole album. One day, a young man walked through Sun's doors desiring to do something for his mother - that kid would become The King.

Jerry further explained that his father was always listening for something different. Phillips was not looking for another Roy Orbison once he found him - but the next thing. Sam was about breaking down barriers and digging down deep in support of artists. With success, Sam's stars would move to bigger labels who could do more for them. Phillips sold Presley's contract to RCA because Sun Records was broke. That influx of cash allowed him to record more newcomers. Sam was also the owner and operator of radio stations including an all-women's network which Jerry touched upon during the interview.

Jay McDowell conducted the informative interview with Jerry Phillps.

Jerry along with his brother Knox would stay in the family business. In fact, Jerry said he was currently working on a new album of music with his daughter Halley - who was also in the audience - producing. On her Linkedin page she states "I believe the Music Business and Radio are part of my DNA. I am currently the Vice President of Hi-Lo Music Inc., Knox Music Inc., Sam Phillips Recording and Big River Broadcasting. (WQLT-FM, WXFL-FM, WLVS-FM, WSBM-FM.)" After the discussion, attendees were invited to visit the Sun Records section of the museum to see a replica of the office and some vintage equipment.

One of the reasons this venue was chosen is that the MHOF has a display that pays tribute to Phillips. Sam's birthday was actually January 5th and that is when this event should have taken place but the MHOF had to undergo unplanned renovations after a pipe burst above them back in December. Thankfully, all of their artifacts were safe as most of the damage was to the floors. The MHOF re-opened on February 02, 2023.

The real Rek-O-Kut direct-to-disc recorder that cut Elvis Presley's first ever recording is on display at the MHOF in Nashville!

Each exhibit at the Musicians Hall of Fame Museum tells the story of an artist that you may have heard but may have never seen. The MHOF located in Nashville, Tennessee honors the labels, the musicians and more who created many of the greatest tracks of all time. Their collection includes instruments that were used on hundreds of iconic recordings - such as the Fender jazz bass that belonged to Joe Osborn who performed with The Carpenters, The Grass Roots, Simon & Garfunkel to name just a few. The MHOF also has a Grammy Gallery that explores the history of the awards and features interactive displays. The MHOF is also available for private events such as the interview with Jerry Phillips.

Jay McDowell - the Multimedia Archivist at Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum - served as host and conducted the interview. During the Q&A portion of the event Music City Nashville's Rockin' Rich Lynch was able to ask one question about Elvis and his post-Sun Records career choices. You can hear Jerry's reply beginning at the 41:33 mark in the video clip below.

Related Links: For more information on JERRY PHILLIPS and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links - Jerry Phillips | Halley Phillips | Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum


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