Music History

A Look Inside the Legendary Sun Studio in Memphis, Tennessee

Take a virtual tour of Sun Studio, birthplace of rock and roll

sun studio memphis

Photo by James Adamson

Sun Studio is the legendary room where Elvis Presley made his first recordings, including ‘My Happiness’ and ‘That’s All Right.’ After producer Sam Phillips’ tenure at Sun Studio, the space was used for other businesses (including a surf shop, which must not have lasted long in Memphis, Tennessee). Remarkably, the studio’s original perforated sound-proofed walls and linoleum floor remained throughout this period. Sun Studio was later restored and turned into a museum of rock and roll history. The space next door, formerly a small cafe, was purchased and is now used as a gift shop and extension of the museum.

Here are some photos from my recent studio tour. You can also view my extensive photo gallery of Elvis Presley’s Graceland. Photos by Dan Redding except where noted.

Sun Studio Photos

Sun Studio history

Assorted instruments, Sun Studio

Above: Sam Phillips’ producer’s booth is visible in the upper right. The studio is still used as a working recording studio today; its hours are split between tourist’s visiting hours and recording sessions.

elvis presley sun studio

L to R: Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash at Sun Studio

It’s surreal to view this photo of rock and country legends photographed in front of the same wall on which the photo rests today. The group had gathered for an impromptu jam session and were later known as ‘The Million Dollar Quartet.’ Recordings of this session remained unreleased until decades later.

u2 bono sun studio

U2’s Bono in Sun Studio

The surreal layering of history continues: U2’s Bono is pictured in front of the photo of Lewis, Perkins, Elvis and Cash. U2 recorded parts of Rattle and Hum in Sun Studio.

dewey phillips radio sun studio

Dewey Phillips’ Radio Desk

Dewey Phillips was the popular Memphis radio jockey who championed Elvis Presley’s first recordings and helped popularize rock and roll. Phillips hosted a show called ‘Red, Hot and Blue’ on WHBQ/560. Our Sun Studio tour guide mentioned one radio show during which audience demand for Elvis Presley’s music was so high, the host played ‘That’s All Right’ a staggering 40 times in two hours. Phillips was known for his lightning-fast hillbilly delivery. Our tour guide, a native Memphian, remarked that even she found Phillips’ speech incomprehensible.

Here’s Dewey Phillips introducing Elvis Presley’s breakout hit, ‘That’s All Right’:

Related: A Journey Into Elvis Presley’s Graceland

elvis presley cowhide guitar cover

Elvis Presley’s cowhide guitar cover

U2 drum kit sun studio

U2’s drum kit in Sun Studio

Author Dan Redding with U2’s drum kit.

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