I grew up on Elvis. My mom loved him and his music could often be heard playing around the house or in the car. Soon, I got to know all the lyrics and could sing along to his smooth, soulful voice. Even though he died before I was born, like many others whose parents who grew up listening to and loving Elvis Presley, I always felt like he was a singer for my generation as well.
So this summer, on a road trip to Tennessee, I decided to stop by a couple of Elvis Presley’s famous spots.
Our first stop was Sun Studios, where Elvis was first recorded. The studio is found in an old industrial area that looks pretty run down, but in 1950, Sam Phillips started the studio here. At first, he was just a recorder. He had a portable set up and would travel around recording anyone and everyone, but the new blues style of music was his favourite. He was doing all these recordings, but getting no credit, as the artists were taking their demos and getting signed by labels. This led to the decision to start Sun Studios. Elvis first came in to record a few songs for his mother at 18 years old. Sam didn’t like him, but the woman at the office, Marion Keisker, loved him. Over the year, he kept coming back to record songs and speak with Marion, and eventually sang something Sam liked. In 1953, he signed him. Over the next two years, Elvis recorded 5 hits before being sold to RCA. Sam needed money at the time for one of his many lawsuits to save the studio and knew Elvis would do well with RCA. For 25 years, the studio sat empty. Then in 1984, they started recording there again at night. During the day you can take a tour, and at night everyone from U2 to Maroon 5 comes in to record. The recording studio is still exactly the same as it was when Elvis recorded there. It was also where Million Dollar Quartet was secretly recorded on December 4, 1956. Elvis liked to stop by and see how things were going when he could and one night he was there with some Sun Studio artists – Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and newcomer Jerry Lee Lewis. They all started jamming, and Sam secretly recorded this session, but legally couldn’t use it for anything as Elvis was under contract with RCA. So it remained a secret until the 1980s, after Sam sold the studio.