Sun Studio: Birthplace of Rock'n'Roll
Updated: Mar 31, 2022
While some say Cleveland, OH is the birthplace of Rock'n'Roll, I am wholeheartedly on the side that says Memphis, TN. More specifically, Sun Studio, where Jackie Brenston & his Delta Cats recorded the first ever Rock'n'Roll song, “Rocket 88.”
Formerly known as the Memphis Recording Service, Sun Studio launched the careers of several greats, including: Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, B.B. King, and Carl Perkins. I mean, the King made his first record here!
Did you know the snare drum used throughout Johnny Cash’s “I Walk the Line” was actually NOT a snare drum?! When recording this song at Sun Studio, Cash did not have access to a snare drum. He improvised by placing a dollar bill under the strings on the neck of his guitar. Mind blown! In more “recent” history, U2 used Sun Studio to record three songs off their Rattle & Hum album; their drum set still decorates the back of the studio. These are just a couple of many fun facts you learn while touring this historic place…in which you can even record your own music!
Tours of Sun Studio are offered several times each day, range about 45 minutes - 1 hour, and are first come first served. The tour is split into two parts; the first part of the tour is devoted to the history of the studio and showcases memorabilia from many of the artists who recorded there. The second part of the tour takes you inside the recording studio itself, where snippets of original recordings are played and stories of the legends are shared. The tour ends with a photo op in the studio, including touching, singing into, or posing with the microphone Elvis used to record his music. Kudos to the guides, who exude passion and enthusiasm for sharing their knowledge of the studio and its legends.
I cannot recommend enough a visit to Sun Studio. Sun Studio left a mark on our souls. Music does that anyway - leaves a mark. But to step foot into the place where Rock'n'Roll began, walk through the same doors the legends walked, touch the microphone Elvis used, hear stories and sounds that leave you wanting to hear more - was undeniable.
TIP: Children under 5 are not permitted on the tour. When we visited, they allowed our son, 3 at the time, to join us upstairs for the first part of the tour. However, he was not allowed on the second part, which was the recording studio. At this point, my husband and I traded who watched our son, and who toured. We didn’t find this a huge issue, as they allowed us to wait in the office just outside the studio. Although a bit distracted with caregiving, we could hear what was happening in the studio and even poke our nose in. When the tour was over, they allowed all of us in the studio together for pictures and questions. We also were charged only one admission.