My next Tour is a second chance to enjoy the “Tracks of the Deep South”, a romp through the musical heritage of the USA and some of the slightly less well visited states and places in my favourite country.
It’s early days yet, but I’m beginning to start the process of doing my homework on what I need to know that I can share with my clients. One obvious highlight is the private guided tour of Sun Studio, Memphis, Tennessee. The recording studio was opened by Sam Phillips on January 3, 1950 and is generally accepted as being the the birthplace of rock & roll. Initially, the studio was used by artists such as Howlin’ Wolf, Junior Parker, Little Milton, B.B. King, James Cotton & Rufus Thomas, but in the later part of the decade it became a hub for Rock and roll, country music and rockabilly featuring artists such as Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, Charlie Feathers, Ray Harris, Warren Smith, Charlie Rich, & Jerry Lee Lewis.
In August 1953, fresh out of his high school graduation the previous June, the 18½ year old unknown and unheard Elvis Presley walked into Sun Studio to record a two-sided acetate disc as a gift for his mother. The Studio expressed interest, but little more happened until July 5th 1954 when, at the end of an unproductive session at Sun, Elvis suddenly launched into a version of “That’s All Right” that stopped them in their tracks. The resultant recording was played on a major local radio station and launched his career. Initially, many radio listeners assumed Elvis was black.
In 1956, Sun studio was also the venue for the so-called “Million Dollar Quartet”, an impromptu jam session with Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, & Johnny Cash. Listening to the recordings today, there’s a remarkable ease and comfort with the way the artists jam together singing Country and Gospel songs that they all grew up with. I think that this demonstrates one of the reasons that I love doing this Tour. People often believe that Country (Nashville), Blues and R&B (Memphis) and Jazz (New Orleans) are separate and discreet genres: In fact, they all cross over and intertwine with each other, wrapped around the major core of Gospel and Church music. In my opinion, for what it’s worth, I have always thought Elvis was at his finest when singing religious songs, and at his worst during the Las Vegas rhinestone period when he became a parody of his own original talent.
I’ll post more on this Tour as the prep continues. I’m really looking forward to it!