Sunset For Pop Music Pioneer

Sam Phillips, known best for his recordings of Elvis Presley, died in Memphis on Wednesday, July 30, 2003. AP

The sun set on a brilliant musical life last Wednesday. Sam Phillips died at the age of 80 in Memphis, the city where he founded Sun Records in 1952. CBS Sunday Passage recollects highlights of his career.

Sun Records had a simple motto, "We record anything, anywhere, anytime." In Sun's early days, Phillips' label primarily featured black musicians, including B.B. King and Rufus Thomas.

"I had to produce absolutely raw talent that I thought would never have a chance," said Phillips.

In 1954, Phillips produced the very first single by a young singer from Tupelo, Miss., named Elvis Presley. "There was something about that dude that will never be explained. He makes an indelible impression on you," Phillips said.

The rest, as they say, is history. Presley quickly became the King of Rock 'n' Roll, while Phillips went on to record a veritable pop music House of Lords, including Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Charlie Rich and Conway Twitty.

Phillips eventually sold Sun Records, but its Memphis headquarters remains. One day after his death, it was designated a national historic landmark -- a shrine for lovers of Elvis and all the other recording stars Phillips helped to shine.
  • Violet Feng

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