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The Next Elvis

Searching for Stardom at Sun Records

Barbara Barnes Sims

Publication Year: 2014

An American institution, Sun Records has a history with many chapters-its Memphis origins with visionary Sam Phillips, the breakthrough recordings of Elvis Presley, and the studio's immense influence on the sound of popular music. But be-hind the company's chart toppers and legendary musicians there exists another story, told by Barbara Barnes Sims. In the male-dominated workforce of the 1950s, 24-year-old Sims found herself thriving in the demanding roles of publicist and sales promotion coordinator at Sun Records. Sims's job placed her in the studio with Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, Charlie Rich, Carl Perkins, and other Sun entertainers, as well as the unforgettable Phillips, whose work made the music that defined an era. The Next Elvis: Searching for Stardom at Sun Records chronicles Sims's career at the studio, a pivotal time at this re-cording mecca, as she darted from disc jockeys to distributors. Sims not only entertains with personal stories of big per-sonalities, she brings humor to the challenges of a young woman working in a fast and tough industry. Her disarming narrative ranges from descriptions of a disgraced Jerry Lee Lewis to the remarkable impact and tragic fall of DJ Daddy-O Dewey to the frenzied Memphis homecoming of Elvis after his military service. Collectively, these vi-gnettes offer a rare and intimate look at the people, the city, and the studio that permanently shifted the trajectory of rock 'n' roll.

Published by: Louisiana State University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-viii

Contents

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pp. ix-x

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Preface

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pp. xi-xvi

Lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place—everybody knows that. But still they came. The procession of singers and guitar pickers to 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, began after Elvis Presley crazed the nation’s teenagers as he exploded on the music scene in 1954. A constant stream of hopefuls crossed the threshold of the unassuming Memphis Recording Service, home of Sun Records, each convinced he could be the Next...

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One: 1957: Whole Lot of Shakin’ Going On: Jerry Lee Lewis (Sun 267)

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pp. 1-29

Sam Phillips discovered Elvis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, and some lesser-known rock and country musicians. Leo Soroka discovered me, or so the girls at Sam’s company would say to tease me. Leo recommended me to Sam for a promotion and publicity job at Sun Record Company....

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Two: Early 1958: Ooby Dooby: Roy Orbison (Sun 242)

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pp. 30-84

The next day, which was January 6, 1958, I went to work for Sun Records, and I was feeling pretty confident. I had already gotten familiar with my office during the six months I had freelanced, and I had gotten to know Sam, Jud, and Sally and had met Jack Clement a couple of times. Sam had given me a key to the door in case I needed to open up. When I arrived I was happy to see Sun’s receptionist, Regina Reese, already sitting at her desk, all fresh and perky....

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Three: Late 1958: Great Balls of Fire: Jerry Lee Lewis (Sun 296)

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pp. 85-105

Still stunned by Jerry Lee’s flame-out, we soldiered on as the days lengthened into early summer 1958. The magnolias and crepe myrtles were beginning to bloom, and the many trees along the main streets and boulevards were in full leaf. It was warm, but the oppressive heat and humidity of July and August hadn’t come yet....

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Four: 1959: Guess Things Happen That Way: Johnny Cash (Sun 295)

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pp. 106-155

The first Monday in 1959 marked my first anniversary as a full-time Sun employee, and I was happy there despite the reversals Sun had endured in 1958. I really enjoyed the work, and I liked being among creative and endlessly amusing people. I sometimes thought that musicians were just big children and Sun Record Company was their playpen. Sam possessed generosity of spirit, giving us a lot of freedom to do our jobs and appreciation of our efforts. But I dreaded going to work on that Monday,...

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Five: 1960: Lonely Weekends: Charlie Rich (P.I. 3552)

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pp. 156-188

Not only a new year, but a new decade was launched on January 1, and it had been with high hopes that, just the day before, we released a new Phillips International disk, “Lonely Weekends” by Charlie Rich. With all our former big stars only a memory, it seemed that Charlie was our best bet for a new major artist and hope for the future of the company....

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Epilogue

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pp. 189-196

Sun Record Company and Phillips International continued in business until 1968, when Sam Phillips sold their catalogs to Shelby Singleton, a Nashville producer. Singleton re-launched the company as Sun International Corporation and subsequently packaged, re-released, and licensed the recordings to companies for re-issue and for box sets. These releases brought Sun’s music to even wider audiences, which led to...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. 197-198

I cannot adequately express my gratitude to, nor even here name, all those who have expressed interest in the subject of my Sun years. Hoping I have not omitted anyone, I would like to thank especially those who have read and offered comments on various drafts or chapters, including Frank de Caro, Jim Bennett, Lynn Mitchell, Rick Coleman, Bret Lott, Jack and Jeane Lavin, Will MacCalder, Russell Desmond, June Kost, Bennie Coates, Joanie Penniman, Leon LeJeune,...

Index

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pp. 199-211

Image Plates

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pp. 212-223


E-ISBN-13: 9780807157992
E-ISBN-10: 0807157996

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2014

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Subject Headings

  • Sims, Barbara Barnes, 1933-.
  • Sound recording industry -- Tennessee -- Memphis -- Employees -- Biography.
  • Sun Records -- History.
  • Phillips, Sam, 1923-2003.
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