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The Annual Sam Phillips Music Celebration

January 06, 2008 | People
The annual Sam Phillips Music Celebration is under way in the Shoals, celebrating the Florence native's colossal influence on the course of popular music in the 20th century.

It's been more than 50 years since Sam Phillips first recorded a young unknown singer who would go on to shake up the world with a brand of music called rock 'n' roll, but the influence of those recordings and many others reverberates even today.

Phillips, of Florence, first recorded Elvis Presley in 1954. The Mississippi truck driver, fresh out of high school, had what Phillps was looking for - a white man who could sing with a black man's soul. The rest, as they say, is history.

It seems that Phillips, who died in 2003 at the age of 80, was born to be a world shaker. He left Florence in the late 1940s and opened Memphis Recording Service as a way to not only supplement his disc jockey income but to indulge his lifelong fascination with sound. He was soon recording the blues artists working Memphis clubs looking for a break. Howlin' Wolf, Rufus Thomas and B.B. King, then largely unknown, made some of their first recordings with Phillips. In 1951, Phillips produced a record by Jackie Brenston and the Delta Cats - "Rocket 88" - that some music historians say was the first rock 'n' roll record. With the meteoric success of Presley, Phillips formed Sun Records and soon had a stable of artists who shaped a radical new pop music. Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Charlie Rich and others unleashed music like no one had heard - and it was an instant hit with young listeners. It's influence continues to this day in the independent music makers who tap into the spirit of freedom that Phillips cherished.

The celebration of Phillips' music continues today with a noon showing of the A&E biography "Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock 'n' Roll," at the Alabama Music Hall of Fame. It will be screened again on Friday. Then, at 8 p.m. this evening, the Muscle Shoals to Music Row performance at Fizz lounge in the Holiday Inn will feature T. Graham Brown and Jimmy Hall. On Friday at 8 p.m., "The Official Sam Jam" kicks off at the Shoals Theater with the Paul Thorn Band performance. The celebration culminates Saturday at the Marriott Shoals Resort & Conference Center. From 6-8 p.m., acoustic music rooms will feature the Christian Turner Trio, Michelle Malone and Jason D. Williams. At 9 p.m., members of Nashville's Muzik Mafia, including John Rich, Gretchen Wilson, Shannon Lawson, James Otto, Jon Nicholson and Cowboy Troy will perform.

The Phillips music celebration gets bigger every year - a sign that his pioneering spirit still lives.
Jumpin Jehosaphat wrote on January 05, 2008
Boy I love Sam he had a gift finding the talent that made his label, but its a shame he never really made any big money at it. Sam made it big with stock in Holiday Inn, also release one record on the Holiday Inn label which is one tough record to find.
Mofoca22 wrote on January 07, 2008
sam phillips rules if it werent for him there wouldnt be no good music left i dont think