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PBS special on Sun Studios (American Masters)
Old 20th August 2005
  #1
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PBS special on Sun Studios (American Masters)

Did anyone see the recent PBS documentary on Sun Studios (American Masters)?

It was really wonderful, much better than these sorts of productions usually are. Very lively, indepth (2 hours), but entertaining. The genius thing was they focused on the lesser "coulda been a contender" artists, rather than the usual "cash-presley-jerry lee" triumvirate. There's tons of interview and archival footage with the likes of Sonny Burgess, The Prisonaires, Rufus Thomas, Malcolm Yelvington, etc.

It's not sugar-coated stuff - the great Billy Riley even gets to vent on-camera about his resentment at losing Sam Phillips' support (in favor of Jerry Lee Lewis). Later in the doc, they've even got a filmed confrontation between the two (Billy & Sam), where they sort of begrudgingly bury the hatchet, 50 years on. Electrifying stuff.

The best part, gear-head wise, is tons of modern tribute performances filmed in real studios, such as Abbey Road, Sun, etc. Lots of great in-room shots, including the big room at Abbey. Paul McCartney sits in with Scotty Moore & DJ Fontana (live!), Mark Knopfler does rockabilly, Page/Plant do their Sun vocal group homage, etc.

Lots of vintage Neumanns, Telefunkens, gear/musichead wet dream stuff. I kept freeze-framing on the studio scenes, much to my wife's amusement.

I tivo'ed it, so I can't recall when it actually aired (a week ago?) but most local PBS stations re-broadcast these shows a lot in the month they first air.

Adam (who loves this sort of stuff - now I'm off to crank up the Bear Family Sun box set)
Old 20th August 2005
  #2
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Durv's Avatar
 

man, why do i never hear about things till its too late ;(
sounds awesome! maybe they will do a re-run on pbs!
Durv
Old 20th August 2005
  #3
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junior's Avatar
 

thanks for the headsup. just scheduled my dvr to record it wednesday night on kcet (LA)...
Old 20th August 2005
  #4
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Toss me a VHS and I'll cover shipping, tape time and royalties. heh
Old 20th August 2005
  #5
Gear Maniac
 

hopefully you can get it on Tape or DVD somewhere. I'm a huge Sun fan. A recording like Elvis' "Mystery Train" sounds sooo awesome. The vibe is just so Lonesome (to use an Elvism). Goes to show that it's not about perfection in a recording.
Old 20th August 2005
  #6
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toolskid's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by bunnerabb
Toss me a VHS and I'll cover shipping, tape time and royalties. heh
whats VHS?? A new kind of DVD???
Old 21st August 2005
  #7
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bunnerabb's Avatar
I want video.

Send.

Money

0ok.
Old 21st August 2005
  #8
Old 21st August 2005
  #9
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I saw Sam Phillips at a seminar at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame a few years ago. He reminded me of an annoying used car salesman, as he was hawking a new band he was working with, and he was trying to raise money for a housing project, and I think he was selling a book too..........spam, spam ,spam, ...give us your money....

It never stops......hustle, hustle, hustle.........
Old 21st August 2005
  #10
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I saw that doc the other night. Really cool to see McCartney, Plant and Page tear it up. Those guys are all really in top form. All of the studios were wonderful to see and Scotty Moore and crew still sounded super tight and soulful.

Having said that, I was just appauled at the newer artists they had in to cover the Sun songs. I thought their performances were weak across the board and they just didn't seem to be students of the history they were being honored in partaking in. It would have been nice to see someone like a Jack White, or someone with some background and passion for the music, meeting and playing with these legends.

For me personally, the Phillips sections were, at times, a little much. He's very into his own myth and God knows I certainly give the man his due...he had a bloodhound's nose for talent and some golden ears, but I guess I like a balance of modesty and ego in my hero's and I didn't hear a lot of that.

Having said that, maybe I'll shut up and see if I manage to revolutionize music for 3 decades and then see how modest I am

Brilliant doc. Highly recommended.
Old 22nd August 2005
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Randall
Sam Philips son Jerry is a buddy of mine.. I have been trying to talk him into joining us here... he's a pruducer/engineer in his own right... has some great stories.... I'll call him and remind him again that we want him here as a fellow slut

Randall, I did a recording with my band about 12 years ago at Phillips Recording. Jerry was behind the board and Roland Janes was setting up the mics. I do not know if he would remember us, but Sam's great niece was in the band. It would be a blast if he remembered us. The music was 'internationally influenced funky rock.' Say hi to him for me, please.

We got to spend a morning with Sam at his house. Heard some stories. One of the highlights of my musicial career.

It would be great if he joined in!
Old 22nd August 2005
  #12
Gear Head
 
JSAudioTN's Avatar
 

Wow, now we're talking my stuff....

Hey all... just wanted to say hello. I'm the chief engineer (read: only engineer, self appointed title) for Sun Entertainment Corporation... I have all those tapes in my studio! I'm basically in a state of constant tape transferage or database management... I put together the masters for things like the Bear Family box sets (though I didn't do that one, that was done before I was here) and transfer still-unreleased outtakes and demos from other Sun Artists for new releases. You wouldn't believe the amount of stuff that's still on tape from Jerry Lee, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and tons of others.

Glad you all enjoyed the broadcast, and is it just coincidence that Jules made an Elvis post recently?


James

BTW: If you want a DVD copy of the movie, they do exist at fine retailers everywhere...

You can get other Sun Goodies (and read a bit about the company) here: www.sunrecords.com
Old 23rd August 2005
  #13
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Original thread poster here... lots of fun to hear from someone who's still with Sun! Glad to see there's a 'curator' (how about that for an alternate title?) for all the old stuff; it's starting to really age; preservation is so important at this point. Any chance on some choice unreleased Prisonaires stuff? Those voices still give me chills.

To respond to an early poster, I totally agree that most of the 'later day' bands featured (Live, Third Eye Blind come to mind) really seemed weak. Jack White, Wilco, Ani DiFranco, even someone like Eminem would've all been better choices musically.

Those pop acts didn't detract from the documentary for me though. It was actually sort of the opposite. (From a music standpoint, those segments were of course a letdown.)

But it was almost as if the filmmakers were making a sly point about how success & big money has changed the music industry. Like they were saying about Sonny Burgess, et al: "Here are the '50s acts that history remembers mostly as a footnote (compared to Presley, Cash, etc.)... they didn't make a lot of money, but they sure were amazing, weren't they? Now look over here, here are some really hugely successful acts of today (Matchbox 20, Third Eye Blind). In contrast, they've made a TON of money. But.... by comparison they kinda suck. Will history remember them in 50 years? Wonder what those pretty boys will be saying to themselves about the significance of THEIR glorious careers, when they're 75 and sitting around a BBQ with their peers?"

The whole selling off Presley's contract thing (plus Billy Riley's career letdown, the demise of the 50's indie labels in favor of big rock/pop labels like Capitol, etc.) was actually the foreshadowing of the big music biz of today.

The handwriting may not have been on the walls yet, but the men in suits were certainly sharpening their pencils.

Adam
Old 23rd August 2005
  #14
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JSAudioTN's Avatar
 

Wow... a 'curator' that's something I've never been called before... fuuck j/k

I'm not sure if there's Prisonaires stuff in the out-take room or not... There's about 1300 boxes of 7" reels that mostly have not been played since 1977 and date back to the mid 50s. In '77 they hired a guy to sit in there with a tape machine & literally transcribe word for word what's on each tape. The result was about 2.5 years of work for that guy and a stack of legal pads about 4.5 inches high. None of it is in a database yet, so everytime I get a request for something I have to basically read the entire thing to find out what tape so&so is on, or if we even have a tape of so&so... I think the most intetresting thing I've found is a Jerry Lee session where he ripps a fart loud enough to make it on tape & everyone in the studio starts cracking up... Not sure who the engineer was (Cowboy Jack, most likely) but Jerry Lee goes on to talk about how much he like to eat p#@@y & the engineer starts kidding about how it's going to be the 'B-side of his next single... I'm pretty sure that's never been released... Funny stuff.

Anyway, I should go transfer some more tape.

BTW: If you're ever in the Nashville area & need some Studer maintence call Steve Smith. He just brought back our B67 & it's like brand new. Very cool!


James
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