Sun Records story continues to intrigue

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Kimberley Thomson

Playwright Kieran Carroll says the rebelliousness of 1950s music explains the enduring fascination with the Sun Records story.

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The name Sam Phillips may not be singed on to our collective rock ‘n’ roll consciousness in the same way as Elvis or Jerry Lee Lewis, but the owner of Sun Records was an inarguable mainspring for the genre.

The theatrical story of Phillips and his little recording studio in Memphis, Sons of Sun, premiered at Sydney Fringe Festival in September 2012 and has enjoyed enduring success since then. The play’s latest run is set to begin October 19 at the Bridge Hotel in Rozelle.

After Australian musician John Kennedy became infatuated by the music of the 50s and recorded two albums of songs, he recruited playwright Kieran Carroll to develop a play around the fascinating life trajectory of Sam Phillips.

Carroll explains to ArtsHub the back-story of Phillips, ‘He was from a big family; he was the youngest of 7. His family and his brothers and sisters were all very un-bigoted. They worked in the cotton fields. Occasionally the family would take in boarders and often they were older men who worked in the fields and those men sort of had a great love for music and for singing, so there was a very early love of gospel and blues that came through for him.’

Phillips – played here by Matt Charleston – went on to record some of the biggest names in rock ‘n’ roll lore: Howlin’ Wolf, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and then, as Carroll puts it, ‘eventually Elvis walks through the door in early 1954.’

About the author

Kimberley Thomson is a Melbourne-based writer. Follow her on twitter: @2bottleThomson