• Aimee Spencer Tiemann


Memphis' Legendary Sun Studio Celebrates 50 Years of Creating Musical History

A few years back my aunt called me last minute to invite me to a musical called Million Dollar Quartet. I said yes and hours later I was in a theatre. I had no idea what the production was about.

Generally speaking, I can’t sit still. However, what happened next, I couldn’t believe…I was completely and totally enthralled with the story unfolding on the stage.

You see, Million Dollar Quartet, was about an impromptu session that took place with Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley, and Johnny Cash at the legendary Sun Studio in Memphis. The fateful night took place on December 4, 1956. At the end of the session, 17 tracks were born.

The play’s plot led into the development of each artist, the reality of the times they were creating in, and the magic that many artists found at Sun Studio.

I didn’t want it to end. When it did, I wanted to go again the next night.


Four years ago, around Christmas, I headed south to meet my now in-laws. My sister- and brother-in-law were stationed in the Memphis area.

I told my boyfriend (now husband) that besides wanting to make a good first impression with his family, I was very much looking forward to visiting Memphis. I had to visit the place where music legends were made.


I walked into Sun Studio and instantly got goosebumps.

Raw recordings of Elvis played through the speakers. I stood in the same spot where he recorded for the very first time.

I felt the energy of BB King.

This is where rock and roll was born.

Our tour guide was a superfan of the history that was made in the building. I left feeling creative, inspired, and hopeful that another “million dollar” moment could happen in my time.


  1. Sun Studio opened on January 3, 1950.

  2. Sam Phillips was the pioneer who opened the studio, originally calling it Memphis Recording Studio.

  3. The first rock record that was born there was by Jackie Brenton and the Delta Cats, with the song Rocket 88. Fun fact, Ike Turner composed the song.

  4. Elvis Presley came into the studio right after high school graduation to create a gift for his mother (and hear how he sounded on record). He wanted to cut a double-sided 45 with “My Happiness” on one side and “That’s Where Your Heartaches Begin” on the other.

  5. Howlin' Wolf, BB King, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis are just a handful of the greats who recorded at Sun Studio.

  6. In 1969, Sam Phillips sold the label portion of the business.

  7. In 1987, Gary Hardy reopened Sun Studio, attracting U2, Def Leppard, Bonnie Raitt, and Ringo Starr to record there.

  8. Brian Setzer, formerly of The Stray Cats, released Rockabilly Riot: A Tribute to Sun Studios – however, he didn’t record the album at Sun Studio.

The history of Sun Studio still lives in our souls. The people there made more than history. They defined a sound that would live in our hearts forever and continue to be the soundtrack to our lives.