I have to be honest with you here, my reason for visiting Sun Studio was not for my love of music. I went because I didn’t have a car and there is a free shuttle bus that takes you from Downtown Memphis to Elvis Presley’s Graceland. But as it turned out, my visit to Sun Studio, known as ‘the birthplace of Rock N Roll’, was the beginning of a fantastic Rock N Roll pilgrimage.
Sun Studio is a recording studio on Union Avenue that was set up by record producer Sam Phillips in 1950. It was originally called ‘Memphis Recording Studio’ and shared the premises with the Sun Records label.
Famous artists such as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins all recorded music there, until eventually Sam Phillips opened a larger recording studio called Phillips Recording.
In 1987 the original building was reopened by Gary Hardy as “Sun Studio”- a tourist attraction and recording label that has attracted many famous musicians over the years, including U2, Def Leppard and Ringo Starr. Today you can take a tour of Sun Studio and see all sorts of Rock N Roll memorabilia.
Fresh off the bus in Memphis, the first place I visited was Sun Studio. I had heard there was a free shuttle from here to the Rock N Roll Museum and Graceland, so that was my main motive for visiting. But in fact Sun Studio is a brilliant attraction and definitely worthy of a visit.
When you walk through the doors of Sun Studio the first area you come across is the Rock Shop, which features a café and all sorts of souvenirs and memorabilia. I purchased a ticket, and luckily I didn’t have to wait very long because I had arrived bang on time for the next tour.
To begin the tour we were led upstairs to a small room which houses lots of Rock N Roll memorabilia from the 50s. Our enthusiastic tour guide explained the story of Sun Studio and the birth of Rock N Roll, then gave us time to browse the displays full of photographs, records and instruments. I even got to see Elvis’s High School Diploma.
The highlight for me was at the very end, when we stood in the very same room that launched the careers of Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and many other famous artists.
At the back of the room is the microphone that Elvis once sang into, and our guide informed us that a girl once licked it with her tongue! I’m not sure what she got from that, since I’m sure Elvis’s saliva was long gone.
I know it’s cheesy, but I couldn’t resist tilting it to one side and pretending to sing into the Mic!
Sun Studio is open from 10am till 6pm and tours start at 30 minutes past the hour from 10:30am till 5:30pm.
The tour price costs $12 + tax. Give yourself about and hour and a half to take the tour and enjoy the café.
Sun Studio Shuttle Bus to Graceland: There is a FREE shuttle bus that runs regularly to/from the Rock N Roll Museum and Graceland, home of Elvis Presley.