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American Masters
August 3, 2005 7:37 PM   Subscribe

Jackie Brenston, Ike Turner, Joe Hill Louis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and of course Elvis all passed thur Sun Records in the 1950's. PBS American Masters Good Rockin' Tonight The Legacy of Sun Records has good music and history of the blues and rock and roll. Paul McCarty, Live and other preform the old tunes.
posted by bjgeiger (24 comments total)

 
What timing. For a feature documentary currently in production I've been looking for on-camera interview subjects in Los Angeles and/or Nashville who can be considered experts on the life and career of former pop crooner Johnnie Ray. We can't offer compensation but the film will be screened on the festival circuit so exposure is guaranteed.

And we're not looking for fans. We need credentialed experts, meaning academics in pop culture, published authors, etc. The film is not about Ray but his story is integral to the piece, particularly any stories related to his recording of “Just Walkin in the Rain", which was recorded at Sun Records originally by Johnny Bragg and the Prisonaires.
posted by RodgerJ at 7:46 PM on August 3, 2005


Did you ever see Johnny Ray's appearance on the Jack Benny TV show in the early 1950s? It was a homerotic orgy, with Jack throwing himself at Johnny, and trying to tear his clothes off. Sometimes I wonder about old Jack.
posted by Faze at 7:54 PM on August 3, 2005


Oh yeah, and that TV special is pretty sad, with those alte cockers dragging themselves through those old songs for the ten billionth time, trying to pretend like they care. The only fire in the movie comes from Sam Phillips, who can be seen to be a major American bullshitter -- and a great man for all that -- and Billy Lee Riley, who would like to rip Sam's guts out. Paul McCartney does an okay version of "That's All Right," with a bored-looking Scotty Moore, but I'd much rather hear him do "Please, Please Me."
posted by Faze at 7:58 PM on August 3, 2005


I just finished watching the TV special. Not sad, awesome, although I do think most of the spots with other artists doing Sun songs were pretty lame, except for Paul McCartney doing "That's All Right Mama." Sun is the wellspring of all current rock goodness. Bow, pray, atone.
posted by caddis at 8:08 PM on August 3, 2005


Who is Paul McCarty?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:11 PM on August 3, 2005


Maybe he has something to do with sarcasm.
posted by whoshotwho at 8:12 PM on August 3, 2005


Okay McCartney. So sue me......
posted by bjgeiger at 8:15 PM on August 3, 2005


The performance by Page and Plant was pretty good (My Bucket Has a Hole In It?). I stumbled into the broadcast during that and sat relatively transfixed to the end.

I grew up on the echo of this music in the 70s and 80s. The Sun Records sound was in the pop music of the time and helped inspire the punk movement too.

I was a fan of the neo-rockabilly artists of the 1980s (Tex Rubinowitz and the Bad Boys, for example) and that led me back to the originals. That music also informed my experience of the music of he Grateful Dead.

So. Yeah. I dug it.
posted by mmahaffie at 8:25 PM on August 3, 2005


*sues bjgeiger for damages, wins a golden scarab*
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:26 PM on August 3, 2005


Live around the corner from J&M studios in New Orleans, and its history and influence on rock and roll puts Sun Studios' to shame. However, for unexplained reasons, New Orleans is not especially good at promoting, or even recognizing, their own musical history.
posted by maxsparber at 8:43 PM on August 3, 2005


Filing for bankruptcy and going on the dole...
posted by bjgeiger at 3:58 AM on August 4, 2005


Sun is the wellspring of all current rock goodness.

And by wellspring I assume you mean "where the white kids learned about it" no?
posted by Pollomacho at 5:36 AM on August 4, 2005


Where did all current rock badness come from?

Everybody in my car's gonna take a little nip
Move on out, boozing and cruising along

posted by pracowity at 5:45 AM on August 4, 2005


What Faze said. I loved the archival footage, but it quickly became apparent the thing was basically a promotion for Ertegun's "acts I'm promoting sing the Sun classics" record, and when they trotted on Johnny Hallyday to do "Blue Suede Shoes" I bailed out. (I should have bailed out when that lugubrious Live bunch assaulted my eardrums, but I was hoping for more great '50s footage.)
posted by languagehat at 5:47 AM on August 4, 2005


Sam Phillips memorial thread

The greatest Sun Records non-musical moment came during a recording session for "Great Balls of Fire," when Jerry Lee Lewis got religion:
...the meaning of the image must have hit him. "Great balls of fire": that was a Pentecostal image, that meant Judgment Day—and now Sam Phillips wanted Jerry Lee to turn that image into a smutty joke, to defile it. Jerry Lee rebelled.

JERRY LEE LEWIS: H-E-L-L!
SAM PHILLIPS: I don't believe it.
JLL: Great Godamighty, great balls of fire!
BILLY LEE RILEY: That's right!
SP: I don't believe it.
JLL: It says, WAKE, MAN! To the joy of God! But when it comes to worldly music—that's rock 'n' roll—
BLR : Rock it out!
JLL: —or anything like that, you have done brought yourself into the world, and you're in the world, and you hadn't come on out of the world, and you're still a sinner.
You're a sinner—and when you be saved—and borned again—and be made as a little child
And walk before God
And be holy—
And brother, I mean you got to be so pure! No sin shall enter there:
no sin!
For it says, No sin! It doesn't say just a little bit, it says, NO SIN SHALL ENTER THERE—brother, not one little bit! You've got to walk and talk with God to go to Heaven. You've got to be so good.
BLR: Hallelujah.
SP: All right. Now, look, Jerry. Religious conviction—doesn't mean anything—resembling extremism. [Phillips suddenly goes on the offensive.] Do you mean to tell me that you're gonna take the Bible, you're gonna take God's word, and you're gonna revolutionize the whole universe? Now, listen!
That's just the opening salvo; you can read the whole magnificent exchange here (Greil Marcus's Mystery Train): just click on the page link and keep hitting the "next page" arrow. Then go listen to the song with renewed appreciation for the struggle it represents.
posted by languagehat at 6:17 AM on August 4, 2005


languagehat: Thanks for reminding us that eschatology is never far from great rock and roll (if only because "roll" rhymes with "soul").

But we all know what side of the sin question Jerry Lee eventually came down on (he has several dead wives to account for). My favorite Jerry Lee trivia, is the fact that he showed up for his Sun audition with a hipster goatee, and sat down and played the very version of "Crazy Arms" that was his first release, in one incredible take. That, as much as anything, exemplifies the Sun "magic." Another great one: Jerry Lee and everybody else was roaring drunk when they recorded "Move on Down the Line" -- and explains why it is one of their rockinest, most frantic numbers.
posted by shambles at 6:38 AM on August 4, 2005


The first words of the thread are "Jackie Brenston," pracowity quotes from the song, there are 16 comments so far, and still nothing from rocket88. Should we be concerned?
posted by kimota at 7:03 AM on August 4, 2005


Word languagehat... my favourite passage from that book. If you ever hear the unexpurgated CD (or album in my case) of 'The Million Dollar Quartet' where Jerry Lee is the last guy in the studio... woah.

On preview, available on CD.
posted by bdave at 7:11 AM on August 4, 2005


[J&M studios in New Orleans]' history and influence on rock and roll puts Sun Studios' to shame

Say what? That link you provided sure doesn't make the case. Not even close, really. I'm not dissing New Orleans music at all, love the stuff, but the above statement strikes me as ridiculous and I'd love to learn more.
posted by mediareport at 7:12 AM on August 4, 2005


However, for unexplained reasons, New Orleans is not especially good at promoting, or even recognizing, their own musical history.

Surely you mean this only insofar as it applies to Rock and Roll? After all, there's an entire tourist industry tied to New Orleans jazz.

Though now that I think on it, I don't see where New Orleans takes a back seat to any own in it role as an historical, and contemporary, source of great music in most genres.
posted by mmahaffie at 7:12 AM on August 4, 2005


On post/preview, Rocket 88 changed my life. Oozin' all along...
posted by bdave at 7:12 AM on August 4, 2005


mmahaffie wrote "The performance by Page and Plant was pretty good (My Bucket Has a Hole In It?). I stumbled into the broadcast during that and sat relatively transfixed to the end."

Same here - my wife was channel-surfing, and I said "Hey, that's Robert Plant..." and we sat there until the end. I didn't even know it was going to be on.
posted by caution live frogs at 7:13 AM on August 4, 2005


...still nothing from rocket88. Should we be concerned?


Thanks for the concern. Just saw the thread now, and it's too bad I missed the PBS show...it looks cool.
Ike Turner was a musical genius. It's too bad his legacy will be 'Tina's abusive ex-husband'.
posted by rocket88 at 8:35 AM on August 4, 2005


My PBS station is replaying this on Friday night. Maybe some peeps can catch it on their local stations.
posted by bjgeiger at 6:59 PM on August 4, 2005


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