Meet the Guy Behind Your Favorite Rock ‘n’ Roll Songs


Various Artists
Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock ‘n’ Roll
Yep Roc

“Invented” might be a slight exaggeration, but Memphis, Tennessee’s Sam Phillips discovered and/or produced some of the greatest voices in blues and early rock ‘n’ roll, releasing many of them on his own Sun Records label. This wonderful 55-track compilation illustrates the staggering range of electrifying music he midwifed, from Elvis Presley (“Mystery Train”) and Jerry Lee Lewis (“Whole Lot of Shakin’ Goin’ On”), to Howlin’ Wolf (“How Many More Years?”) and B.B. King (“She’s Dynamite”), to Carl Perkins (“Blue Suede Shoes”) and Johnny Cash (“Big River”). Not to mention Roy Orbison, Ike Turner, Junior Parker, Charlie Rich, and many other lesser-known but vital performers. For newcomers, this is the perfect introduction to an essential body of work; for everyone else, it’s merely a thoroughly satisfying collection.

Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock ‘n’ Roll was compiled by journalist Peter Guralnick as a companion piece to his absorbing new book of the same name (to be published November 10 by Little, Brown, and Company). The author of the best biography of Elvis Presley to date, as well as a host of other excellent studies of American roots music, Guralnick is a captivating enthusiast and exhaustive researcher, who never lets a mastery of the facts obscure the visceral thrill of the art he celebrates. At 600 pages, his thoughtful account of Phillips’ complex life is not for the casual reader, but it’s hard to put down once you get started.