After a busy week of touring we had last Monday off in Memphis, TN. If you’ve never been to Memphis, it’s a town rich in musical history and culture. In the 1950’s many artists came to record their albums here with dreams of becoming stars... and some of them did! Incredible musicians such as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, and BB King were all recorded by legendary producer Sam Phillips at his recording facility, Sun Studio. All right there in downtown Memphis.
One of our favorite things about touring is all the different cities, cultures, foods, and people we get to meet and experience. We’re always looking for fun things to do when traveling, be it a hike, a great restaurant, or in this instance, a tour of a recording studio! We didn’t have a lot of time in town, but when we heard Sun Studio gives tours, we knew we had to go see!
The building itself is very unassuming aside from the large Gibson guitar hanging above the front door. The opening room is a gift shop and cafe where we bought our tickets (and afterwards, our souvenirs) and waited for our guide. The tour starts upstairs with a museum type exhibit. Memorabilia including pictures, old recording equipment, and vintage guitars were on full display while our informative guide gave us the history of the studio and played us a few of their iconic recordings over the loud speaker. One such recording was the first ever Elvis song named “My Happiness”. He recorded it when he was 18 years old, but Sam Phillips didn’t think it was unique enough. Soon our guide led us into the tracking room - The actual room where Elvis recorded “That’s All Right” and the legendary “Million Dollar Quartet” picture was taken. Though the great history in that room is undeniable and it was fun to see microphones the king himself sang into, it struck me how insignificant the space really was. There was no vocal booth (at least that we could see) and the ceiling tiles were slightly chipped and pealing. But it reminded me of why music is so powerful. It didn’t matter that the room wasn’t perfect because a great lyric and melody performed with passion moves people.
In all honesty, life on the road can be tough. When you spend months away from home, sleeping in different beds every night, it's easy to wonder "why am I doing this?” Sun Studio helped remind me why. It’s the hope that, maybe one of our songs will breach the walls someone's built up and touch their heart. That our lyrics might effect peoples lives and encourage them to walk with purpose.
This probably seems like an odd realization to come to after a short 45 minute tour. Especially a recording studio tour that birthed a genre one day known for the phrase “sex, drugs and rock n’ roll” but my brain’s weird like that sometimes. Anyway, thanks for reading. If you’re ever in the Memphis area, get yourself down to Sun Studio and bask in all that rock n' roll glory. Until my next random rambling…