Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock ‘n’ Roll
Peter Guralnick, Little, Brown and Co., 784 pages
If Phillips had only caught lightning one time, he would have earned his place in rock history as the founder of Sun Records and the discoverer of Elvis. But then came Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis. Oh, and Phillips also recorded Howlin’ Wolf and Ike Turner’s “Rocket 88,” often called the first rock ‘n’ roll record.
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Guralnick, a veteran music journalist who wrote an acclaimed two-volume biography of Elvis, knows the incredibly rich Memphis music landscape well. In fact, he knew Phillips well in the decades before the music pioneer’s death in 2003. Guralnick paints a detailed and sympathetic picture of Phillips as a relentless visionary, a talker, a loving but imperfect family man and a perfectionist who relished imperfections that could make recordings special.
Like an incandescent nova, Sun burned out.
The end of the book bogs down by devoting too many pages to these later years. It’s no match for Sun’s glory years when, as Jerry Wexler said, Phillips recorded a “millennium’s worth of music” in a decade.
Michael Hill, Associated Press
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