Tuesday, October 28, 2008
I'm really glad that Graceland was last on my list of things to see during my recent visit to Memphis, because after visiting Sun Studio there was no reason for me to go.
I mean no disrespect to hard-core Elvis Presley fans, several of whom I spoke with during my recent visit to Bluff City. I understand that you have to go to Graceland if you want to immerse yourself in all the costumes and the country opulence (and decadence) that most people think of when they think of Elvis.
When I think of Elvis, I think of the three years or so after he arrived in Memphis from Tupelo, went to work as a truck driver for Crown Electric, and began churning out a raw blend of country and soul that sounded like nothing anyone had heard before. He recorded it at Sun Studio for Sam Phillips at the same time Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash were doing the same.
At Sun Studio, you stand in the same recording studio they all used, right next to the original speakers and recording equipment; for hardcore rock and roll fans, it is overwhelming.
When I was fourteen , the adult world hated Elvis for exposing us white kids to black music, but after Sam Phillips sold Elvis’s contract to RCA for $35,000 and Colonel Parker got hold of him and made him into a Hollywood star so that he would be acceptable to mainstream America, I lost interest in him and in his music.
Morgan Freeman recently opened a restaurant and blues club just off Beale Street in Memphis called "Ground Zero." I didn't get a chance to check out the music or the food, but it sure looks a cool place, and the name is perfect for its location at the epicenter of the blues in America. The music had better be good because that's a lot to live up to, especially with BB King's club just around the corner.
But for me, Sun Studio is the real Ground Zero in Memphis.
It's where Rock and Roll was born.
I was pleased to see that it has been designated a National Historic Landmark, but it’s really too bad that Memphis couldn’t have beaten out Cleveland as the home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, because that's where it really belongs.