Good Rockin' Tonight: Sun Records and the Birth of Rock 'n' Roll

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Overview

Memphis, Tennessee. The early 1950s. The Mississippi rolls by, and there's a train in the night. Down on Beale Street there's hard-edged blues, on the outskirts of town they're pickin' hillbilly boogie.

At Sam Phillips' Sun Records studio on Union Avenue, there's something different going on. "Shake it, baby, shake it!" "Go, cat, go!" "We're gonna rock..."

This is where rock 'n' roll was born-the record company that launched Elvis Presley, ...

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Good Rockin' Tonight: Sun Records and the Birth of Rock 'n' Roll

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Overview

Memphis, Tennessee. The early 1950s. The Mississippi rolls by, and there's a train in the night. Down on Beale Street there's hard-edged blues, on the outskirts of town they're pickin' hillbilly boogie.

At Sam Phillips' Sun Records studio on Union Avenue, there's something different going on. "Shake it, baby, shake it!" "Go, cat, go!" "We're gonna rock..."

This is where rock 'n' roll was born-the record company that launched Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, and Carl Perkins. The label that brought the world, "Blue Suede Shoes," "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On," "Breathless," "I Walk the Line," "Mystery Train," "Baby, Let's Play House,' "Good Rockin' Tonight." Good Rockin Tonight is the history, in words and over 240 photographs, of Sam Phillips' legendary storefront studio, from the early days with primal blues artists like Howlin' Wolf and B.B. King to the long nights in the studio with Elvis and Jerry Lee. As colorful and energetic as the music itself, it's a one-of-a-kind book for anyone who wants to know where it all started.

Elvis Presley. Jerry Lee Lewis. Johnny Cash. Carl Perkins. Roy Orbison. All got their start in a little recording studio in Memphis called Sun Records.Good Rockin' Tonight is the story, in words and hundreds of photos of Sun Records and its founder, producer Sam Phillips. "From Sun-rise to Sun-set . . . the last word on the first great rock 'n' roll record label." -- Rolling Stone.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Elvis Presley. Jerry Lee Lewis. Johnny Cash. Carl Perkins. Roy Orbison. All got their start in a little recording studio in Memphis called Sun Records. Good Rockin' Tonight is the story, in words and hundreds of photos, of Sun Records and its founder, producer Sam Phillips.
From the Publisher
"A resounding success...A cogent, highly entertaining and eminently readable history." —Variety

"Myriad dazzling vintage photos...and a load of fresh insight into some of the hottest sounds ever committed to tape...The authoritative work in one of the most important musical legacies-and the visionary who built it from scratch." —Goldmine

"Tricked out with photos of Sun's stars and staff-which is to say, with faces that just plain take your eyes into custody-this book's as glorious a bit of Americana as blue sueded shoes." —Booklist

Rolling Stone
Good Rockin' Tonight...the last word on the first great rock 'n' roll record label.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312081997
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 7/28/1992
  • Edition description: REV
  • Edition number: 4
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 627,692
  • Product dimensions: 7.03 (w) x 9.01 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Rick Bragg

Colin Escott and Martin Hawkins have conducted twenty years of research on Sun Records as catalog and reissue specialists. Escott lives in Toronto, Hawkins in London.

Biography

Rick Bragg caught his first break as a journalist when the competition for his first newspaper job decided to stick with his current position in a fast-food restaurant. From there, Bragg has moved from small newspapers in Alabama to the likes of The St. Petersburg Times, the Los Angeles Times and, finally, The New York Times.

He eventually won a reputation in one newsroom as "the misery writer." His assignments: Hurricane Andrew, Miami rioting, Haiti, and Susan Smith, the South Carolina woman accused of drowning her two boys in 1994 by driving her car into a lake. In 1996, while at the Times, Bragg covered the terrorist bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City and won the Pulitzer Prize.

"I've really served at all stations of the cross," Bragg said in a December 2002 interview with Writer magazine. "I've been pretty much everywhere. I don't think there's a difference between writing for a newspaper or magazine and doing a chapter in a book. People who think there is something pedestrian about journalism are just ignorant. The best writers who have put pen to paper have often had a journalism background. There are these boutique writers out there who think if they are not writing their novels sitting at a bistro with their laptops, then they're not real writers. That's ridiculous."

[Bragg left The New York Times in 2003 after questions surfaced regarding his use of uncredited stringers for some of his reporting. Bragg's departure was part of a larger ethics scandal that also claimed the newspaper's top two editors.]

Bragg's memoir, All Over but the Shoutin', recounts these stations, particularly his hardscrabble youth in rural Alabama, where he was brought up by a single mother who sacrificed everything for her children.

"In his sad, beautiful, funny and moving memoir...Rick Bragg gives us a report from the forgotten heart of 'white trash' America, a sort of Pilgrim's Progress or Up from Slavery about how a clever and determined young man outwitted fate," The New York Times Book Review wrote in 1997. "The story he tells, of white suffering and disenfranchisement, is one too seldom heard. It is as if a descendant from one of the hollow-eyed children from Let Us Now Praise Famous Men had stepped out of a photograph to tell his own story, to narrate an experience that even Agee could not penetrate because he was not himself 'trash.' "

In 2001, Bragg went back a generation in his family's story and wrote about his grandfather, a hard-drinking fighter who made whiskey in backwoods stills along the Alabama-Georgia border and died at 51. His widow would rebuff her grandchildren's questions about remarrying: "No, hon, I ain't gonna get me no man...I had me one."

The Los Angeles Times called Ava's Man "a big book, at once tough and sentimental," while The New York Times said, "It is hard to think of a writer who reminds us more forcefully and wonderfully of what people and families are all about."

Bragg acknowledges that his language is stolen -- plucked from the mouths of the family members he has interviewed, filling notebooks and jotting stories on whatever was at hand -- the back of airplane tickets, for example. The biggest challenge, he would later say, was finding an order in the mess of folksy storytelling. "Talking to my people is like herding cats," he told The Kansas City Star in 2002. "You can't rely on them to walk down the road and not run into the bushes."

And, then, there would be the recollection that would come along just a little too late.

"The most agonizing thing was to finish the manuscript, know that I had pleased [the family], then have one of them say, ‘Oh, yeah, hon, I just thought of something else' -- and it would be the best story you ever heard," he told the Star.

Good To Know

Bragg brought his mother, Margaret, to New York for the Pulitzer Prize ceremony. She had never been to the city, never been on an airplane, never ridden on an escalator, and hadn't bought a dress for herself in 18 years.

In an interview with Writer, Bragg describes life as a newspaper correspondent: "If I travel for the paper, that means I fly to a city I've probably never been to, get off a plane, rent a car, drive out in bumper-to-bumper traffic heading for a little town that nobody knows the name of and can't give me directions to, and it's not on the map. When I get there, I try to get information in 15 minutes for a story I have to write in 45."

He wrote Ava's Man because his fans wanted to know more about his mother's childhood.

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    1. Hometown:
      New Orleans, Louisiana
    1. Date of Birth:
      July 26, 1959
    2. Place of Birth:
      Possum Trot, Alabama
    1. Education:
      Attended Jacksonville State University for six months in 1970; attended Harvard University, 1992-1993

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