The name Sam Phillips is synonymous with the careers of Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison and Johnny Cash. But the strength of Morgan Neville's 2000 documentary is that it goes beyond the biggest names on the Sun Records' roster in defining label owner/producer Phillips' place in the rock pantheon.
Written by the Vanderbilt English Department's Writer in Residence and legendary music historian Peter Guralnick — whose two-volume Elvis biography stands as pretty much the go-to reference on The King — the film also illuminates the pre-Elvis days at Sun, when Phillips was recording music by black artists such as Howlin' Wolf, Rufus Thomas and Ike Turner. It was Turner's Kings of Rhythm who recorded “Rocket 88” for Phillips in 1951. The song is now widely considered to be the first rock record.
Guralnick will present the film. If you caught any of his guest spot last Friday morning on Pete Wilson's 91 Rock show Nashville Jumps, you know not to miss this.