Legendary SUN Records Sold to New Owners

Media release from Primary Wave:

On October 1, 1949 Sam Phillips signed a lease on a storefront at 706 Union Avenue in Memphis and on that day, music would forever be changed.

In 1952, Phillips’ Sun Records would establish itself as a label where artists would be treated with respect and honesty. Every artist, from Elvis Presley to Charlie Rich, was provided with a non-critical environment that invited creativity and vision.

In 1969 music producer and label executive, Shelby Singleton, continued that environment after he purchased the iconic label from Phillips for an undisclosed sum.

Over seven decades later, a new day and a new beginning has come as Primary Wave Music, the home of legends, announces its acquisition of the legendary recording company that changed so many lives.

The multimillion-dollar deal encompasses master recordings for legendary artists including Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, The Dixie Cups, and more, all of the music publishing owned by Sun, as well as the iconic Sun Records logo and all other trademarks owned by Sun, including that of Nashville’s Sun Diner.

John Singleton, President of Sun Records, will remain at the label, and he will now have additional resources provided by Primary Wave under the terms of this exciting deal.

Primary Wave will help expand the Sun Records brand by providing access to their internal infrastructure which includes marketing, branding, digital strategy, licensing, synch opportunities, and film & TV production.

“We are extremely pleased to pass the Sun Records baton to Primary Wave and are confident that they will continue to reach new heights for the crown jewel of the music business created by Sam Phillips, which my brother, Shelby, and I have kept alive and relevant for the past 50 years” says John A. Singleton, President of Sun Entertainment Corporation.

“Sun Records is the original home to some of the biggest legends in music,” said Larry Mestel, CEO & Founder of Primary Wave Music. He continues, “Sam Phillips treated all of his artists with the utmost respect and provided a space of creativity unlike no other. His vision for Sun aligns perfectly with the creative ethos of Primary Wave, and I am overjoyed that this historic label is now a part of our family.”

Recordings included in the monumental deal are some of the most beloved and well-known tracks that came out of Sun Records such as “Raunchy” famously recorded by Bill Justis, the Jerry Lee Lewis classic “In the Mood,” as well his smash hits “Whole Lot of Shaking Goin’ On” and “Great Balls of Fire.”

Upon the release of “Whole Lot of Shaking Goin’ On,” the song soared to #3 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and made Lewis an instant sensation. “Great Balls of Fire” was a huge success for Sun and Jerry Lee Lewis, selling a million copies within a week of it being released. The single went on to sell more than five million copies, making it one of the best-selling singles in the States. Both songs remain on Rolling Stone’s list of Greatest Songs of All Time.

Multiple Johnny Cash recordings are also a part of the acquisition including “I Walk the Line” and “Folsom Prison Blues.” Both were huge hits for Cash who once said, “If it had not been for Sam Phillips, I would still be working in the cotton field today.”

Cash’s first number one in the United States was “I Walk the Line.” It remained on the charts for over 43 weeks and sold two million copies.

After writing the song, a conversation with label-mate Carl Perkins, whose Platinum-certified song “Blue Suede Shoes” is also included in the acquisition, steered Cash to name the then untitled song, “I Walk the Line.”

One of Johnny Cash’s signature songs, “Folsom Prison Blues,” appeared on his debut album. A live version that was recorded in front of an audience of inmates at Folsom State Prison became a number one hit in 1968.

Cash, Lewis, Orbison, Perkins

The Sun “sound” began when Sam Phillips launched his record company in February of 1952. He named it Sun Records as a sign of his perpetual optimism: a new day and a new beginning.

Sam rented a small space at 706 Union Avenue for his own all-purpose studio. The label was launched amid a growing number of independent labels.

As a businessman, Phillips was patient and willing to listen to almost anyone who came in off the street to record.

Memphis was a happy home to a diverse musical scene: gospel, blues, hillbilly, country, boogie, and western swing. Taking advantage of this range of talent, there were no style limitations at the label. In one form or another Sun recorded them all.

Then in 1954 Sam found Elvis Presley, an artist who could perform with the excitement, unpredictability and energy of a blues artist but could reach across regional, musical and racial barriers. He helped form the beginnings of the Sun “sound” by infusing Country music with R&B.

Elvis’s bright star attracted even more ground-breaking talent to the Sun galaxy. Listed among his contemporaries and label mates were Johnny Cash, the inimitable Jerry Lee Lewis, and the “Rockin’ Guitar Man”, Carl Perkins. These four soon became known as the Million Dollar Quartet.

Right behind them came Roy Orbison, Charlie Rich, Bill Justis, Harold Jenkins (a.k.a. Conway Twitty) and other equally memorable musical talents. All eventually sold on Pop, R&B and Country charts and grew to international fame.

In early 1969, Sam began negotiations with his good friend Shelby Singleton for a deal to purchase Sun. A successful music producer, Shelby had earned his stripes at Mercury Records. He started out in regional radio promotion and wound up as head of A&R before leaving in 1966 to start his own company.

In July of 1969, Sam and Shelby finalized their deal and Sun Records was sold. Shelby would soon move the label to Nashville, joining Singleton’s already existing stable of labels – SSS International and Plantation. Shelby and his partner/brother, John A. Singleton, managed the label group until Shelby passed in 2009. John continues to guide the Sun legacy started by Sam Phillips.

Inherent in the music of Sun is a vibrancy that survives to this day. Sincere, passionate music. Music that has stood the test of time. It is music that has reached across race, age and gender boundaries. It reflects the diversity and vision of the talent that recorded on the Sun label, and indeed, American popular culture itself.

One of the most important figures in the history of rock, Sam Phillips has been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Country Music Hall of Fame, Blues Music Hall of Fame, Alabama Music Hall of Fame, R&B Foundation Hall of Fame, Rockabilly Hall of Fame, Radio Hall of Fame, and Memphis Music Hall of Fame.

In 2017, Variety Magazine named Sun Records one of the best record labels of the 20th century, with the historic recording company coming in at number 9.

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Texans Jack & Dodie View All →

Raised in San Antonio, Jack Dennis’ early experiences were as a newspaper reporter and private investigator. With a Texas State University bachelor’s degree, Jack studied journalism, education and psychology. He was the founding vice-president of Sigma Delta Chi, the Association of Professional Journalists at the University. Jack has received numerous awards, including Investigative Reporter of the Year from Rocky Mountain Press Association, David Ashworth Community Award, and Leadership in Management.
Some of the people and groups Jack has interviewed include:
Elvis Presley, Merle Haggard, George Jones, Willie Nelson, B.B. King, George Strait, Roy Orbison, Justin Timberlake, Steven Tyler, Freddie Mercury, Kenny Rogers, Kenny Loggins, Jackson Browne, Steve Wariner, Tanya Tucker, Scotty Moore, Fats Domino, Patty Page, Tommy Roe, Emmy Lou Harris, Johnny Rivers, Charly McClain, Kinky Friedman, John McFee, Guy Allison & Patrick Simmons (Doobie Brothers) , Randy Bachman (BTO), Jim Messina, Todd Rundgren, Alvin Lee, Gary Puckett, The Ventures, Freddy Cannon, Augie Meyer, Christopher Cross, Whiskey Myers, Sha Na Na (John “Bowzer” Baumann), Flash Cadillac, Jerry Scheff, John Wilkinson, Darrell McCall, and more.
Politicians & News
George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Lady Bird Johnson, Greg Abbott, Rudolph Giuliani, Larry King, Jack Anderson, Tom Bradley, Connie Mack, and more.
Clint Eastwood, Mike Myers, Taylor Lautner, Cameron Diaz, Jerry Lewis, Eddie Murphy, Antonio Banderas, Julie Andrews, Selena Gomez, Tippi Hedren, James Earl Jones, James Woods, Jim Nabors, Martha Raye, Rosalind Russell, June Lockhart, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Howie Mandel, Meg Ryan, Cheri Oteri, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, James Drury, Melanie Griffith, Nathan Lane, Alan Thicke, Lou Diamond Phillips, Clint Howard, Tony Sirico, Cesar Romero, Michael Berryman, Tracy Scoggins, William Windom, Warren Stevens and more.
Space Explorers
Buzz Aldrin, Alan Bean, Wally Schirra, Dave Scott, Gene Cernan, Walt Cunningham, Scott Carpenter, Gene Kranz (NASA Flight Director), Ed Mitchell, Richard Gordon, Bruce McCandless, Vanentina Treshkova (first woman in space, Russia), Alex Leonov (first man to walk in space, Russian), Al Worden, Dee O’Hara (nurse to astronauts) and more.
Sports: Joe Torre, Roger Staubach, Bob Hayes, Billie Jean King, Manuela Maleeva, Drew Pearson, Bob Lilly, Tim Duncan, David Robinson, George Gervin, Tony Parker, Shannon Miller, Cathy Rigby, Bruce Bowen, Wade Boggs, Fernando Valenzuela, Bernie Kosar, Dale Murphy, Jim Abbott, Dick Bartell, Mike Schmidt, Dan Pastorini and more.
May Pang, Bob Eubanks, Vernon Presley, Vester Presley, Charlie Hodge, Joe Esposito, Rick Stanley (Elvis’ step-brother, Harold Lloyd (Elvis’ first cousin), Doyle Brunson, Kara Peller, Hank Meijer, Norman Brinkler, Stanley Marcus, Jerry King, Mac King, Nathan Burton, Zach Anner, Louie Anderson, Owen Benjamin, Steve Byrne and more.

As head of Facilities for a major retailer (H-E-B Food/Drugs) for 20 years, Jack co-founded Professional Retail Store Maintenance Association (PRSM) and was elected President to establish PRSM magazine. Jack is a writer, speaker, golf-concierge and happiness coach. He has researched and studied happiness for over 40 years.
Jack was a prolific writer for Examiner.com, with over 1,900 articles written in six years. His articles and stories have appeared in AXS Entertainment, The ROWDY Country Music, Memphis Flash, and numerous magazines.

He is author of “Miracles of Justice,” a true courtroom drama novel about social injustice and miracles.

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