Happy Birthday to Sam Phillips

It’s hard to imagine a world without Sam Phillips… There would probably be no Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, or Carl Perkins. Sure, some of those artists may have shown up on some other record label, but surely not in the capacity that they did with Sam. Without Sam’s guidance  Howlin’ Wolf may not have ever found his way to Chess Records… Ike Turner may have never recorded the first ever Rock & Roll song…. Elvis might have been nothing more then a truck driver. Without Elvis & Carl Perkins, what would have happened to the Beatles? (They cite Elvis and Perkins as major influences). Certainly, without Sam, there would be no Sun Record Company.

So, Happy Birthday Sam, from all of your friends, all of your artists and their families, and from those of us who still carry the torch.

The Sun Records Crew

A Copy of “At The Rock House” by Roy Orbison – For Sale

We just found a copy of this very rare album on eBay… if you collect or are just a big Roy Orbison fan, you should check this out!

Roy Orbison At The Rock House Up For Bid, A RARE Roy Orbison vinyl record LP. Artist: Roy Orbison Title: At The Rock House Format: vinyl LP Record Label / Catalog: Sun LP 1260 Year: 1961 Cover Condition: Very Good Shape, No seams split or folds, minimal wear. Record Condition: Near Mint NM – Some light scuffs but the LP plays perfect.  In Goldmine Records & Prices 2nd Edition by Tim Neeley, the value shown for this exact LP in the same condition is $600.00. I have over 30,000 pieces of vinyl records in my collection and I am trying to make room for more. 🙂 Email me any questions.

Shelby Singleton Jr.

As many of you have undoubtedly heard, our dear friend, Shelby Singleton passed away on Wednesday October 7th, 2009. Not only was he the Chairman of The Sun Entertainment Corporation, but he was also our brother, father, mentor, and friend. His contributions to American Music were vast, and without his efforts, The Sun Record Company would not be what it is today. Many articles have already been written and can be read elsewhere (links are at the bottom of this post). The following is his obituary, written by his family. This is the story they want to tell.

Shelby Singleton

Shelby Singleton

SHELBY S. SINGLETON, JR., Age 77, passed away on October 7, 2009 after a brief illness. Preceded in death by his parents, Shelby S. Singleton, Sr. and Alvina Marcantel Singleton. Survived by his wife, Mary Roberts Singleton; children, Stuart, Shana (Doug) Dyer, Sidney (Beth) and Steve (Sandy); grandchildren Emersyn and Drake Dyer, Scarlett, Sofia, Stefanie and Shelby S. Singleton III; and brother, John A. (Mary Cook) Singleton. Graduate of Byrd High School (at age of 15) and Meadows Draughan Business College in Shreveport, LA.

He worked at various jobs after finishing school, and began promoting his wife’s (Margie Singleton) singing and songwriting career part time, and this led to his full time entry into the music business in 1957 when he joined Mercury Records as a south eastern United States promotion man. While promoting records by artists signed to the Mercury label, he was always on the lookout for local talent, and this resulted in Mercury acquiring hit records such as “Sea of Love”/Phil Phillips, “Chantilly Lace”/The Big Bopper, “Running Bear”/Johnny Preston. With the success of these hit records, Shelby was soon covering the entire south and, through his efforts, hit records such as “Hey Paula”/Paul and Paula, “Hey Baby”/Bruce Channel, were acquired for Mercury affiliated labels.

Shelby got into the production side of the business accidentally. He was at a Nashville recording studio in the early 60’s waiting for a session to be done on Rusty Draper. When word was received that the scheduled producer was stranded in Chicago due to a snowstorm, Shelby filled in as producer and the record achieved moderate success. He was moved to Nashville to head the Mercury office, and soon had signed Faron Young, Dave Dudley, Ray Stevens and others. One day during this period, he produced three number one records, “Walk On By”/Leroy Van Dyke, “Ahab The Arab”/Ray Stevens and “Wooden Heart”/Joe Dowell. Mercury soon moved Shelby to New York as executive vice president to head the artist and repertoire department, and he worked with Quincy Jones, Brook Benton, Dinah Washington, Clyde McPhatter, Sara Vaughn, Sil Austin and Patti Page.

In 1966, Shelby left his job at Mercury to start his own music business, and he soon achieved new heights in his career. After some initial success in the R & B field with “Shout Bama Lama”/Mickey Murray and “Pickin’ Wild Mountain Berries”/Peggy Scott and JoJo Benson on the SSS International label, “Harper Valley PTA” by Jeannie C. Riley, a number one (in multiple categories) single was produced in 1968 by Shelby and released on his Plantation label. More hit records by Riley and other artists followed and in 1969, the landmark purchase of Sun Records was completed.

Initially, Sun Records founder Sam Phillips, approached Singleton about buying his company, but Shelby turned it around and bought Sun. Reissues by the known Sun artists such as Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Charlie Rich and Roy Orbison soon followed. The music from these classic artists continues to be heard in TV shows, movies and commercials. Singleton also saw the value in the Sun logo and its use in merchandise, and it is now seen on t-shirts and other memorabilia with artists such as Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis.

Shelby’s brother and partner for 41 years, John Singleton, oversees the business affairs of Sun, and will continue the tradition established by Shelby.

Dr. Todd Jones will conduct funeral services at 1 p.m. Saturday, October 10, 2009 at First Presbyterian Church. The family will receive friends in the Cheek House of First Presbyterian Church from 11 a.m. until time of service. Interment Harpeth Hills Memory Gardens.

The family has requested that instead of flowers, donations be made to the Recording Academy’s MusiCares Foundation, which provides aid to musicians in need. Music Cares, 1904 Wedgewood Avenue, Nashville, TN 37212.

Other Articles:



John Tefteller Wins One Of A Kind, Previously Unknown Sun Label 45

Blues Collector and longtime Rare Records dealer John Tefteller won a recent eBay auction which featured a previously unknown and potentially one of a kind Blues 45 rpm record produced by the Sun label back in 1953.” I think I stole it,” said Tefteller of the record when the auction ended with his winning bid of $10,323.00.

The record, “Lonesome Old Jail” and “Greyhound Blues,” features an outstanding old style acoustic Blues performance by Alabama Blues singer D. A. Hunt. It was Hunt’s first and only record and sold very, very few copies when first released by Sam Phillips’ now legendary Sun records label of Memphis, Tennessee. The Sun label is most famous for being the first to record Elvis Presley and is credited as being the label that started Rock and Roll, but the first couple dozen releases were almost exclusively Blues records.

This record was not previously known to exist on 45 rpm and even the 78 rpm version is one of the rarest and most expensive on the Sun label with several documented sales in excess of $10,000.00,” explained Tefteller.” To find a 45 is a discovery of monumental importance to the record collecting world and I just had to have it.”

Of course, the latest addition to Tefteller’s Blues collection, already referred to by many as the best in the world, means that all the history books, price guides and discographies have to be amended to now state unequivocally, that yes, there is indeed an original 45 rpm pressing of Sun # 183.

Tefteller goes on to explain that when the British record researchers first came to America in the late 1950’s, they went to Sun and, with assistance from Sam Phillips, documented everything. 78 rpm stampers were found for # 183, but NOT 45 rpm stampers and Phillips told the researchers that NO 45’s were made.”

This discovery proves otherwise,” says Tefteller, who speculates that they probably pressed a few hundred and that was it. “Sam must have just forgotten that he made a small amount of 45’s and, significantly, this is NOT a promotional copy, which means that they made some promos as well as regular copies for the stores.”

The copy of Sun 183 that Tefteller won on eBay from Minnesota seller Tim Schloe is not in the best of condition. “I would grade it at VG- which in the world of record collecting means it is pretty well used and abused,” Tefteller states. “There is some damage to the labels as well, but the record does indeed play all the way through and is not totally unpleasant to look at. But all that doesn’t really matter because it is so impossibly rare. No one, myself included, ever dreamed that this existed on 45. It is mind-boggling that since 1953 only one of these has ever surfaced and to surface in 2009 is unbelievable!”
Schloe says he got the record “as part of a large collection of used 45’sthat I bought from the estate of a Dallas, Texas collector who had left them to his brother.” Schloe knew the record was rare when he found it in the rubble of thousands of old 45’s but had “no idea” it would bring over $10,000.00. Tefteller is certain that the Texas collector could not have known it was so rare either or he would have told someone he had it or sold it while he was alive.

According to Tefteller, the world of Sun record collecting has just been turned on its head. “Guys who thought they had them all are now scrambling to find another legitimate copy. This will prove to be quite a challenge, however as no other copy has surfaced in over 50 years. There are hundreds of bootleg copies of this title out there on 45 rpm but so far, I now have the only legitimate one,” boasts Tefteller. “I’ve got it, and I have no plans to sell it. After all, I can’t say I have the top collection ofBlues records in the world if I let this one go.”

While some people may not understand why a collector would pay over $10,000.00 for a beat up old 45 rpm record when you can easily hear both sides of this one in top sound on a reissue CD or a 99 cent Internet download, Tefteller has a ready answer: “You can go to the Louvre and buya 99 cent postcard of the Mona Lisa too, but there is nothing that beats the history and importance of actually owning the original!”

Tefteller, 50, lives in Grants Pass, Oregon and has been buying, selling and collecting rare phonograph records for 35 years. He also produces a yearly Blues calendar and has a series of reissue CD’s on the market of extremely rare Blues performances from the 1920’s. His personal collection contains thousands of original Blues 78 rpm records including dozens of one-of-a-kind records by Blues singers. Tefteller also maintains the world’s most extensive collection of original Blues advertising art and photographs.


A Box of Old Records Held Treasure – A Rare and Pricey Gem

A St. Paul record dealer scored $10,323 on eBay Wednesday. Not bad for a hissy 7-inch blues record that gets stuck in the middle and cost him less than 25 cents.

“I’m pretty amazed,” said Tim Schloe, 39. “I had no idea what to expect” because the disc — “Greyhound Blues,” a 1953 single by obscure Alabama bluesman D.A. Hunt — is “insanely rare,” as he put it. It was one of the first singles from Sun Records, the historic Memphis label that would soon discover Elvis Presley.

The 45-rpm record surfaced recently as Schloe sorted through boxes of more than 10,000 discs he bought two years ago from a Texas collector’s estate.

“A 45 that’s bid up to more than $10,000 is in a very select group of rare vinyl,” said Joyce Greenholdt of Goldmine, the discophiles’ bible. The highest-known price for a Sun 45 was $17,820 for a mint-condition copy of Presley’s first single, “That’s Alright, Mama.” A West Coast blues collector outbid 33 others — including the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — for the Hunt disc, according to Schloe. Once he sends it off (by registered mail), he plans to dig through that Texas collection for another gem — even if it gets stuck in the middle.

Billy Lee Riley – RIP

Billy Lee Riley passed away this month at the age of 75. He will be greatly missed by all of us here at Sun Records.

Billy Lee Riley was born in Pocahontas, Arkansas, on October 5, 1933 and was introduced to harmonica by his father at an early age. Living in poverty in an 8 children family, Billy left school at ten to go to work in cotton fields (just like Carl Lee Perkins). There he first heard the blues and started to play guitar. He learned his first chord from a black man nicknamed “Lightning”. Way back then, living without electricity, he used to listen Hank Williams Sr. on a portable battery operated radio. When the battery was off work, the radio was too. Times were tough so like Johnny Cash, another Arkansas cat, he managed to find his way in the army at the age of fifteen with falsified documents. Clayton Perkins, Carl’s younger brother, would do the same few years later. While in the army, he formed a Hillbilly band. He even won a talent contest and did some radio work. After being discharged he worked for a time in a Jonesboro shoe factory before joining his brother-in-law in the restaurant business in Memphis. When the venture failed he found a truck driver job but, after wrecking two trucks, he was let go (sounds like young Elvis Presley might have been a better driver!). While driving his truck Billy meet another truck driver with musical ambition named Slim Wallace. That guy hired Billy Lee Riley as vocalist for his group, The Dixie Ramblers, and brought him to a tiny record studio built in his garage on Fernwood road. With the help of Jack Clement and Johnny Bernero, former Elvis drummer at Sun, they cut two numbers. Clement took the tape to Sam Phillips who liked “Trouble Bound” and got a deal at Sun for himself and Billy.

With a recording contract, Billy set his own group featuring Roland James (gtr), Marvin Pepper (bs) and Jimmy Van Eaton (dms).

His first record consisted of the master purchased from Fernwood coupled with “Rock with my Baby”, a song cut at a local radio station, as Sam don’t want the second song cut for Fernwood titled “Think Before you Go”. The first record cut at Sun studio, with the support of Jerry Lee Lewis, is a fabulous waxing. Recorded on December 1956 and issued on Sun 260, the fabulous rockin’ “Flying Saucers Rock ‘n’ Roll” and “I Want You Baby” were set for success, but “Flying Saucer” didn’t take off from Memphis probably because it was a bit too wild for the time. Anyway, that raucous rock ‘n’ roll song will lead Billy, with the advice of Sam Phillips, to call his band “The Little Green Men” and to clothe them with bright green suits. The boys toured extensively not only as act in their own right but also as backing band for the other Sun acts and worked a lot as session backing band at Sun. Billy toured a lot with Carl Perkins and they used to have drinking contests to see who could hold their liquor the longest. Billy’s next single, cut in January 1957, was a cover of Billy The Kid Emerson’s song “Red Hot”. That R &B song was turned in red-hot rockin’ ditty and is still Billy’s favorite song to perform. Unfortunately, Sam was then concentrating all his efforts on Jerry Lee Lewis leaving such great performers as Warren Smith, Billy Lee Riley, Sonny Burgess or Dick Penner in the shade. Sam even made the decision to call distributors and to tell them to push “Great Balls of Fire” instead Billy’s waxing. According to Alan Freed, “Red Hot” should have ride on the tops of charts if Sam had not made that choice. If Billy’s had charted, he would have had to go on the road and Sam would have lost his house band. Around mid 1957, Billy Lee Riley increased his group by the inclusion of legendary sax man Martin Willis and recorded great songs as “Baby Please don’t Go”, “No name Girl” and a fine cover of “Betty & Dupree”. Many sides stayed in the vaults like “She’s My Baby” and “Sweet William” (issued for the first time in 1977). Those songs were issued on Sun 607, by French cat Charlie Barbat, and pressed at only 700 copies in Nashville with the legendary yellow label. Disillusioned with events Billy Lee Riley signed up with Brunswick in 1958 and had a very good single out “That’s all to the ball, Mister Hall” b/w “Rockin on the Moon” but, in December 1958, he was back at Sun. Here, he will rework the classic “Down By The Riverside” (Sun 313) and in June 1959, he cut his last session for Sam Phillips. That session lead to his last single (Sun 322) and went to join his former guitarist Roland James in the formation of “Rita” records. He got some records on that label and, later, on Mojo.

In 1962, Billy Lee Riley left Memphis and moved to Los Angeles but that’s a story for another day. Billy Lee Riley pursued a musical career for numerous years, in his own right and under a host of pseudonyms, and toured often in Europe. His first concert in France was set in Paris in November 1979, with Warren Smith, at The Palace. I was there and we really had a ball with those wild rockin’ cats. It was the first Rockabilly concert with vintage Sun cats ever set in France soon after the legendary “Sun Sound Show” in London. Billy Lee Riley never really thought of himself as a Rockabilly artist but more of a Rock ‘n’ Roll one. And he never forgot those little green men and what they said to him in 1956.

Dominique “Imperial” ANGLARES

Sound of the 50’s / Rockabilly Hall of Fame


Sun Gospel – Bear Family

From “Pop & Hiss – The L.A. Times music blog” Full story here: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/music_blog/2009/07/backtracking-.html

It has long been assumed that Sun Records founder Sam Phillips didn’t like gospel music because he discouraged his greatest discoveries, including Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash, from recording spiritual music for his Memphis label in the 1950s. But it turns out Phillips loved gospel music — he just didn’t think he could successfully market it in the mid-1950s when his rock and country records were exploding onto the charts.

“It certainly wasn’t intentional neglect,” Phillips says of Sun’s lack of gospel focus in the liner notes to “Sun Gospel,” a CD retrospective from Germany’s invaluable reissue label Bear Family Records. “But you have to compromise. There is no telling what I could and should have done with gospel music from the Memphis area. I’m ashamed to say I barely touched the surface.”

“Sun Gospel” contains 31 gospel recordings from Sun’s vaults, most rarities, as well as a previously unreleased inspirational recitation by Phillips.

These historic recordings make you wish Phillips, who died in 2003 at the age of 80, had recorded more gospel music because he tried to draw just as much individuality and character out of these sessions as he did in his rock, blues and country selections. Phillips’ other discoveries included Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Charlie Rich, each of whom is represented on this CD.

Graceland Stable Opens for Tours

Priscilla Presley will preside today over the opening of Elvis Presley’s Stable at Graceland for public tours for the first time ever in the storied history of Elvis Presley’s home, Graceland.

Artifacts on display as part of The Elvis Presley Stable Tour will include saddles used by Elvis and his entourage, personal western wear including chaps, hats and boots all worn by Elvis. Other items include checks and documents related to the purchase of some of Elvis’ horses, and home movie footage of Elvis on horse back at Graceland.

Built on the Southeast corner of Graceland by its original owners in 1939, the Graceland Stable currently houses four horses. After Elvis bought the 13-acre estate in 1957, he often rode his horses around the property and even up to the front gate to sign autographs for fans.

Elvis started to focus more on riding and horses in December 1966, when he purchased a horse named Domino for Priscilla, along with a variety of riding clothes and equipment for the Presley family’s equestrian activities. Shortly after Christmas, Elvis bought what would become his favorite horse, a Golden Palomino named Rising Sun. The Elvis Presley Stable eventually became known as the “House of the Rising Sun” in honor of Elvis’ favorite horse. Elvis went to great lengths to personally organize everything in the stable. His handwriting can be seen today on the wall where he wanted the tack and harnesses of each horse.

When Graceland opened for public tours in 1982 there were still five of Elvis’ original horses being cared for on the property.

• Rising Sun – a Golden Palomino American Quarter horse born in 1961.

• Memphis – a bay colored Tennessee Walking Horse.

• Moriah – Lisa Marie’s black Shetland Pony.

• Mare Ingram – a bay-colored Mixed Breed horse Elvis named for Memphis Mayor Ingram when Highway 51 in front of Graceland was named Elvis Presley Boulevard.

• Ebony’s Double – the last horse Elvis purchased for Graceland in 1975.

• Sun’s Reflection – a Golden Palomino and a distant cousin of Rising Sun who was brought to Graceland in 1988.

• Just Candy No Cash – a distant relative of Ebony’s Double having come out the same Tennessee Walking Horse bloodline.

• Max of Maine – came from a rescue unit called Six Horses Saved. Priscilla arranged to have Max come to Graceland and three moved to Virginia to a foster farm. Two remain with Six Horses Saved.

• The Blue Eyed Bandit – rescued by Fayette County Tennessee Animal Rescue, Priscilla became involved and decided to move him to Graceland.

The Elvis Presley Stable Tour will be open Memorial Day through Labor Day.