Archive for Sam Phillips

Lost Classics! Jerry Lee Lewis

Posted in Lost Classics! with tags , , , , on October 6, 2008 by 30daysout

Jerry Lee Lewis, 1980. Photo by Art Meripol

You can call Jerry Lee Lewis a lot of things – but “boring” is certainly not one of them.  Lewis, of course, came up in the late 1950s through Sun Studios in Memphis, and his work for that label is one of the cornerstones of rock.  “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” “Great Balls Of Fire” and some of the other sides he cut for Sun are true rock and roll classics.

But almost as soon as he became well known, Lewis courted controversy.  He married his second wife before he was divorced from his first, and in 1958 he took on a third wife: his 13-year-old first cousin (once removed).  The resulting scandal basically ruined his career, and while Lewis never has stopped recording the only hits he had after that were on the country charts.

Continue reading

Cool Covers

Posted in Cool Covers with tags , , , on September 7, 2008 by 30daysout

B.B. King’s One Kind Favor is one of the better albums of the year, and probably the best of King’s long career.  The album’s dozen songs were all popular blues tunes when King’s career was taking off in the 1940s and 1950s, and they were all great influences – hence the album’s title. 

Howlin' Wolf

As we said in our review of the album, it’s tough to pick out highlights on an album this strong.  But one song that jumped out at me was “How Many More Years,” originally by blues legend Howlin’ Wolf.  Although the song is a staple of compilations put out on Chicago-based Chess Records, “How Many More Years” was actually recorded in 1951 in Memphis.  The Wolf was working on Sun Records, and the song was produced by the legendary Sam Phillips.  That’s Ike Turner on piano!  The song was released as a single; it went to No. 4 on the R&B charts, and was instrumental in getting Howlin’ Wolf signed to Chess a few years later.

Howlin’ Wolf, whose real name was Chester Burnett, worked with the great songwriter Willie Dixon and produced a number of blues classics including “Smokestack Lightning,” “The Red Rooster” and “Spoonful,” covered by everyone from Cream to the Rolling Stones.  Howlin’ Wolf died in 1976, and Eric Clapton purchased a stone for his grave.

MP3: “How Many More Years” by Howlin’ Wolf

MP3: “How Many More Years” by B.B. King

YouTube: Howlin’ Wolf in 1966

The Alternative Johnny Cash?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on April 29, 2008 by 30daysout

Johnny Cash was as “alternative” as it got.  Never exactly country, not exactly rock and roll, you couldn’t pigeonhole this guy.  When he sang country, his style was dead-on rock and roll.   It only stands to reason that Elvis became the big star out of Sun Studios – Johnny Cash was just too badass.  He could have been the very first punk rocker.

You can’t beat that Johnny Cash stuff out of Memphis.  It’s been available roughly since the 1950s but it never gets old.

That’s why it was so refreshing to hear The Alternative Johnny Cash, a promo-only CD distributed by Columbia back in 2002.  The short, 5-song disc was issued to help celebrate Cash’s 70th birthday and to serve as a bonus to Kindred Spirits, a multi-artist tribute featuring Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Steve Earle and others.

Continue reading