Too narrow, especially at the beginning of the tour
The Memphis Recording Service, Sun Studio or Sun Records (however you like to call it) is one of the most magical historic places of rock music. Elvis recorded his first song here and it is called to be the birthplace of Rock’n’Roll with the first-ever recording of that genre. The list of people who used the studio is massive. Thus, being in Memphis for my CMA Fest Trip 2019, there was no doubt to visit Sun Studio.
Sun Studio – Location & Admission
The studio is located on the East side of Memphis city center. You may walk if you are around the Beale Street attractions, but you will likely end up using a transport service.
The exhibition is only available by guided tours, which are 14 USD adult admission. The place has own parking lots, which you may use for free. If it is too buzy, you may end up using one of the quite pricey paid parking sites around.
Sun Studio – The Museum
The tour is in fact split into two parts. First of all, you go upstairs and see the museum part. There are a lot of different exhibits and memorabilia telling the history of the studio.
The guide tells you a lot of stories about the place. After that, there is some time (I would not call it sufficient, though) to explore the exhibits, which are all presented in huge cabinets. The beginnings of the studio are dated of 1950, when Sam Phillips decided to found the Memphis Recording Studios. You will see a lot of historic equipment and instruments here, but also early recordings. The most important one is definitely Rocket 88 by Jackie Brenston and the Delta Cats, which is named to be the first Rock’n’Roll record.
The guide is telling you stories about the place and the exhibits for twenty minutes easily – so it is just impossible to tell you all the stories to the pictures. Of course, Elvis is also part of the history of that place. During Perkins’ absence, his receptionist and assistant Marion Keisker recorded Elvis Presley’s first-ever record. My Happiness was thereby thought to be a gift for his mother.
A bit of separate part of the museum exhibition is on the other side of the cabinets. The exhibition also hosts the historic studio of the WHBQ radio station, which used to be located in the historic Hotel Claridge in the heart of Memphis. Due to renovation, the studio should be removed from the historic building, but has been conserved in the Sun Studio premises.
Sun Studio – The Studio
The second part of your visit is downstairs, next to the entrance and cafe, back on ground floor level. Here, you visit the original studio including the room where receptionist Marion Keisker used to work. There are a lot of historic pictures and items on the walls and around. The highlight is likely the microphone, which Carl Perkins used to record the original version of Blue Suede Shoes, which you likely know from Elvis Presley. It has been handed over to the studios under the explicit condition that visitors are able to explore and touch it – amazing!
Sun Studio – Cafe and Souvenirs
This review finishes with the part of the visit you definitely will have first: the Sun Studio Cafe is not only a cozy place for a drink, but also the place, where you can buy tickets or take some souvenirs with you. I loved the atmosphere in the cafe a lot – however, it can be quite crowded and less cozy every half an hour, when the next tour is starting and people are gathering around.
Sun Studio – My View
Sun Studio is a magical place, definitely worth visiting. In my point of view, they accept slightly too many people so that you feel quite stressed during that part of the tour. However, there is plenty of time in the studio then. Feeling the spirit of Rock’n’Roll and listening to the story at the beginnings of Rock Music is definitely a must do in Memphis.