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Friday, August 01, 2003

Rest Well, Sam

A fond Adios to an icon of the early development of rock and roll, the legendary producer, Sam Phillips, founder of Sun Records of Memphis, Tennessee. Sam passed on yesterday at the age of 80.

It was Sam’s unimposing little studio, you may recall, into which a very young Elvis Presley wandered to see about cutting some demos. Phillips had the prescience to know that, if he could just find the right white boy who could bridge the racial gap in popular music, one who could get the white kids on board with the ferment that was happening in black pop, a cultural explosion might well ensue. Sam was so right.

Sam went on to discover other such notables as Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, and B.B.King. St. Peter-at-the Gate, please give that man a special chair out there in the Great Beyond.

My son was watching a piece with me that PBS did on remembering Phillips. Afterward he asked, “What did you listen to before Elvis?”

“Crap, mostly. Syrupy love ballads or novelty tunes like ‘How Much Is That Doggie In the Window?’ However some of us, like your Pops, were hip to that mighty purveyor of black R & B, which was then called “race music” ---station WLAC out of Nashville-- late at night when the radio waves carried hundred of miles northward.”

I wonder if there are any bloggers out there who were fellow listeners. If so, I’m sure that, like me, they’ll never forget the experience.

Actually, contrary to common mythology. The first bursts of the explosion occurred just prior to the emergence of Elvis. For a lively personal account of this, I’m going to refer you (SSP—shameless self-promotion) to my number one favorite post of all the blog posts I’ve ever written. It provided me with my proudest moment in blogging—surpassing the experience of my one day of residence within the Daypop Top 40.

This post was reprinted in full by Mark Woods in his ever-awesome blog, wood s lot, right there in the midst of his usual roster of the world’s intellectual and creative heavyweights. I should have quit while I was ahead.

Anyway, for a real and personal inside experience of the beginnings of rock and roll, I hope you’ll check it out. And once again, Adios, Sam!

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