Everyone Knows “Sam Phillips”

thOne of the musicals that most surprised me was Million Dollar Quartet, a story about how Sam Phillips influenced the rise of Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Cal Perkins. I wanted to learn more about Sam Phillips and his recording label, and was thrilled to receive a copy of this from Goodreads. This is a biography that would certainly make Sam’s family proud. It was clear from the energized wording that the author was excited to tell Sam’s story, and that made this fun to read. 

Sam was portrayed as an honorable man dedicated to spreading good music throughout the country. Sam’s rise to fame was a turbulent ride through naysayers, debt, sibling rivalry, and racial oppression. He didn’t set out to be a rich music mogul, but was a man who genuinely wanted to help each artist. That became a challenge which ultimately transformed his small Memphis Recording Service to the well known Sun Record Company. I was amazed at how influential Sam was in creating each artist’s persona and presence. Because so many music giants came from humble beginnings with matching personalities, they relied heavily on Sam to guide them through the music industry. As a result, the portion of the book which talked about the famous jam session of the million dollar quartet was powerful because of the journey each man had taken to get there.

I loved the pictures of everyone mentioned in the book and kept looking up the songs on iTunes so I could hear the songs that made them famous. Truth be told, this was a daunting read for me. At almost 700 pages, the author obviously spent a great deal of time researching Sam’s life and packed the pages with intricate details about the way he conducted business and the music industry at that time. However, that didn’t make for an easy read. There were just too many details provided on too many people. Still, the enormity of the book supports the author’s point that Sam truly revolutionized the recording industry. As an example, the story of finding and promoting Elvis could be a book.

I picked at the book by skipping artists I wasn’t familiar with, but I absolutely loved this! The quotes that filled each page made this feel like the most authentic book that could ever be written about Sam and his studio.


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