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Good Rockin' Tonight

FOUNDED BY an Alabama farmer’s son, Sun Records boasted a rebellious cast of rockabilly stars. Sam Phillips opened his tiny brick-front recording company with the promise: “We record anything, anywhere, anytime.” First releasing blues records from African-American singers who migrated north from Mississippi cotton fields, he then switched to recording primarily rockabilly, which appealed to a growing audience of teenagers. On this program, we visit Memphis in the segregated Fifties and discover how white artists crossed racial lines to create the rockabilly sound. We’ll profile two of Sun’s first rockabilly stars, Elvis and Carl Perkins.

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Carl Perkins
Carl Perkins performs at Overton Park Shell in Memphis, Tennessee, on June 1, 1956. Some 5,000 teenagers turned out for two hours of rockabilly by various artists. Elvis Presley made a surprise appearance at the show. (Robert Williams / The Commercial Appeal)