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Good Rockin' Tonight: Sun Records and the Birth of Rock 'n' Roll [Kindle Edition]

Martin Hawkins , Colin Escott
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Rock ’n’ roll was born in Memphis in the tiny storefront recording studio of Sun Records. This is the definitive account of how it happened!
Sam Phillips’s credo was: “If you’re not doing something different, you’re not doing anything.” If he had done no more than discover Elvis Presley and produce his first five singles he would still be the godfather of rock ’n’ roll. But he did more. Much more. While Elvis was still sitting on the edge of his bed listening to the radio and figuring out guitar chords, Phillips was discovering and recording blues giants like B.B. King, Howling Wolf, and Ike Turner. During the few months that Elvis was with Sun Records, Phillips found Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins. Soon after, he found Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, and Charlie Rich. And he did it almost singlehandedly—from his two-room studio in Memphis, Tennessee.
Phillips’s story, which Colin Escott tells in beautiful detail, is more than a catalog of hits. Without Sun’s philosophy of experimentation, innovation, and genre transcendence, the musical revolution could have never begun.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The authors, freelance writers, build a credible case for their assertion that the Sun studio was the birthplace of rock 'n' roll. Sun's founder, Sam Phillips, was the first to record artists who blended country music with rhythm and blues (R & B), creating the "rockabilly" sound that set the direction rock 'n' roll has taken to the present day. Sun, a Memphis, Tenn.-based label formed in 1952, never attained the level of success of the major record companies. But Phillips, a former disc jockey who broke into the record industry by recording R & B artists such as Howlin' Wolf and Joe Louis Hill, remains a seminal, almost legendary figure in modern music history, having discovered Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison and a host of lesser-known performers who have influenced recording artists of the past 40 years. Well-written and well-researched, the book is a worthy addition to the growing literature of rock 'n' roll. Photos.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

This culmination of a work in progress since 1971 follows the authors' earlier Catalyst: The Sun Records Story ( 1975) and Sun Records: The Brief History of the Legendary Record Label ( LJ 2/15/81) as their most detailed and critically astute evaluation of the seminal Sun Records and its founder and creative genius Sam Phillips. The developments of Sun and the nascent rock 'n' roll phenomenon in the early 1950s are inextricably entwined through Phillips's recordings of Howlin' Wolf, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, and Jerry Lee Lewis, all of whom began their careers at Sun. In explicating the "Sun sound," Escott and Hawkins also document Phillips's mistakes, flaws, and failures. The stories individually are wonderful, and collectively they form a lush composition of a significant slice of rock 'n' roll history. Numerous pictures, newspaper clippings, and other scrapbook paraphernalia complement the text, along with a Sun Records discography. For all libraries with even a passing interest in the history of popular music. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/90.
- Barry Miller, Austin P.L., Tex.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 6726 KB
  • Print Length: 276 pages
  • Publisher: Open Road Media (March 1, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004NEW0H0
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #471,390 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Have you heard the news? Good Rockin' Tonight is the encyclopedia for all fans of Sam C. Phillips' groundbreaking Memphis Recording Service and Sun/Phillips International labels. Colin Escott and Martin Hawkins, whose expert commentaries appear in the liner notes of many Sun CD reissue packages, deliver thorough accounts of the players and events in the Sun story. Full chapters are devoted to Sun's best-known players (Sam Phillips, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, and Elvis Presley) and the landmark events (the recording of Rocket 88, the arrival of Howlin' Wolf, and the birth of Rockabilly), but the real highlight is the attention to the lesser-known players like Joe Hill Louis, Scotty Moore, Sonny Burgess, Billy Riley, and Roland Janes. They didn't top the charts, but were as important to the creation of the "Sun Sound" as Perkins, Lewis, Cash and Presley were to its export outside the Memphis city limits, and in Good Rockin' Tonight they receive the recognition they deserve. Escott and Hawkins round out the Sun story with a complete discography of all the Sun and Phillips International singles, EPs and LPs released while both labels were active.
Sun was the first powerhouse independent record label of Rock & Roll music. It's catalogue, performed by rough-edged musicians who turned out consistently innovative material and a Top Ten hit here and there, has been exhaustively reissued over the past ten years, much to the delight of Sun connoisseurs. Sadly, the same can't be said of material written about Sun: most of the books (several also written by Escott and Hawkins) are now out of print. Good Rockin' Tonight stands alone as the most comprehensive work dedicated to Sam Phillips and the record label whose influence on popular culture deserves much more.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Introduction To Sun Records April 17, 2014
Growing up in the mid-1950s, I became an aficianado of the Sun sound.

The first Sun record I owned was "Mystery Train" by Little Junior's Blue Flames, purchased for 10 cents at Kresge's. It remains one of my favorite Sun records (though, alas, I no longer own the 45 I bought way back then).

I then bought everything I could find on Sun, even a few Elvis 45s (which also have disappeared into the snows of time), Warren Smith, Jerry Lee, Carl Perkins, Billy Riley, Johnny Cash, Sonny Burgess, and etc.

This book was the best account to its date of publication of Sun. Since then a lot more information has come out, particularly in the notes and booklets in the glorious collections of Sun sides released by Bear Family. All Sun fanatics eagerly await Peter Guralnick's upcoming bio of Sam Phillips, the genius who created the Sun sound.

Phillips is never given his due. He wasn't a musician, but he had an uncanny feeling for "sound", the word he used constantly. Elvis' Sun sides are his greatest recordings, but Elvis is only part of the phenomenon: Scotty Moore's guitar and Phillips' recording technique are equally important. When "That's All Right" was released, even professional promoters and DJs didn't realize that there were only three instruments on the recording, most famously Jim Denny of the Grand Ole Opry who complained that he'd contracted for the whole band when Elvis, Scotty, and Bill turned up for their Opry appearance.

Phillips convinced Junior Parker to forget his saxophone driven urban style and go with his John Lee Hooker-inspired boogie, thereby creating the first big seller on Sun that was also a quality recording ("Feeling Good").
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13 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For the true to heart and those new to great music! April 4, 2000
Coming from an age group that barely remembers the days of Sun Studio's most talented performers and songwriters, this book drives home the importance and impact of the many talents that emerged from this Memphis-based shrine.
This is a must read for anone who loves rock-n-roll, blues, jazz, or just wants to learn more about the hardships, the triumphs and the many lessons learned in the music industry.
Many top idols are present, but what makes the book such a worthwhile reading are the writings on those less known. My hats off to a true tribute for the sounds and artists of the south!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sun Records Redux February 3, 2013
By Ken
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A detailed and informative account of Sam Philips and the Rise & Fall of Sun Records. The focus is limited to their time at Sun Records, with some discussion of their Sun Records career, and so those seeking a full history of Elvis, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison and others will have to look elsewhere. Many of the artists discussed are unfamiliar to me, but there's enough about them to warrant further exploration.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Rockin' December 27, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Engaging, telling the story of how Sam Phillips' vision and hard work slowly earned him success, each step of the way. Lot's of great stories and not bogged down in statistics or superfluous background information.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting March 23, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed it. I have been to Sun studios and Graceland. I liked the stories about Sam Philips and the rest of the stars.
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5.0 out of 5 stars I love it March 10, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I grow up listening and playing this music. What's not to like? Still listen to this music today and still love it.
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3.0 out of 5 stars An encyclopedia, not a cover-to-cover read. January 13, 2015
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It has an impressive collection of facts and dates with excellent citations, however it reads like an encyclopedia. There is zero flow to this book, so it is almost impossible to get into.
As source material or a fact checking resource regarding Sam Phillips and the Sun label this book is an invaluable tool.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very entertaining, arrived quickly and was priced well.
Published 10 days ago by shirley stinson
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
As Promised.
Published 1 month ago by Debra Frost
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read
Good insight into the recording industry as well as the historical significance of Sun Records.
Published 1 month ago by Jeffrey
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Husband said it was great and brought back memories
Published 3 months ago by Helen Todd
5.0 out of 5 stars History of Rock and Roll resides here
I received it as a gift - but have not read it yet. Love the pictures. We visited Sun Records while on vacation this year and want to learn more.
Published 4 months ago by Baba Looey
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
great product and service
Published 4 months ago by Norman L. Hammar
5.0 out of 5 stars a must read
Great book on history of sun
Published 8 months ago by Christopher D. Soto
5.0 out of 5 stars Nicely done, well documented
Nicely done, well documented, a real nice record of the story of Sun. Little interesting stories are scattered throughout, and when you read this you will be amazed at the sheer... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Jerry Briggs
5.0 out of 5 stars The Sun Rcords Story
This story about Sam Phillips and Sun Records is great. A part of American history that is woth knowing about.
Published 11 months ago by mel
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read and 1st edition in great condition
The service was great, the book was a great read but more to the point it was a first edition in better condition than stated - can't ask better than that!!
Published 15 months ago by Gary
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More About the Author

Colin Escott (b. 1949), the foremost authority on Sun Records, first wrote the company's history in 1975 and has revised and expanded it several times since. He has published several other volumes on the early days of country music, including a biography of Hank Williams and The Grand Ole Opry: The Making of an American Icon. He won a Grammy for his work on Mercury Records' The Complete Hank Williams, and in 2010 received a Tony nomination for Million Dollar Quartet, a Broadway musical about the legendary one-night jam session of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis, scheduled to open in London in February 2011. In 2010, he was nominated for a Grammy for producing Hank Williams: The Complete Mother's Best Recordings.


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