Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock 'n' Roll

Little, Brown. Nov. 2015. 752p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780316042741. $32; ebk. ISBN 9780316341844. MUSIC
Guralnick follows his biography of soul-gospel legend Sam Cooke (Sweet Soul Music) with an equally exhaustive portrait of Sam Phillips (1923–2003), the so-called "Father of Rock and Roll," who, as owner of Memphis-based Sun Records and Sun Studio, helped launch the careers of Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Howlin' Wolf, and Johnny Cash. The author emphasizes Phillips's contributions to rock and roll's 1950s emergence in the racially charged South and his personal and professional relationships with not only the many famous singers and musicians who benefited commercially and artistically from his vision, encouragement, and technical skills but also the obscure rockabilly, blues, country, and pop artists who were given an opportunity to express themselves on vinyl. Drawing primarily from new interviews with Sun musicians, family members, and even a few former girlfriends, Guralnick presents a well-told, well-rounded biography of an innovative and influential pop culture pioneer with an unorthodox and oftentimes rocky personal life.
VERDICT This long but consistently engaging book offers a more detailed and intimate account than Kevin and Tanja Crouch's Sun King and is recommended to fans of early American popular music. [See Prepub Alert, 6/15/15.]

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