Sunday, August 17, 2008

Remembering the King (and the man who crowned him)

Elvis passed away 31 years ago yesterday. This photograph was taken in 1974 in Memorial Coliseum (now Coleman Coliseum) on The University of Alabama campus and is part of our vast holdings of University photographs, a component of The University of Alabama's archives which as housed at the Hoole Library. These photographs range in scope to include campus buildings and scenes, specific events, and everything in between.  We have made some of the photographs available in our digital collections, and are continuously adding more.  This group of digital materials is called The University of Alabama Encyclopedia

Elvis Presley played at UA twice in the 1970s -- and he wasn't alone. The campus attracted huge acts, especially in the 1950s through the 1970s including the Rolling Stones, the Who, Jimi Hendrix, Ray Charles, and many, many more.  In the earlier years, concerts were held in Foster Auditorium, and later at the Coluseum. Tuscaloosa's spot between Atlanta and New Orleans made it an ideal venue for these kinds of performances. 

While we remember the King, it's not a bad idea to think about the man who made him what he was. That man was Sam Phillips. He moved from his native Florence, Alabama to Memphis, and opened a recording studio where he worked with Blues pioneers and made some of the very first Rock and Roll recordings.  The image of this current historic marker which stands in Florence, Alabama is courtesy of biologist and Florence native, Stuart McGregor. 

Phillips got his start as a DJ in Muscle Shoals, Alabama and relocated to Memphis in 1950 where he opened the Memphis Recording Service.  He also launched his own record label, Sun Records, where he recorded Elvis and many others. 

Phillips is credited by many as not only with discovering Elvis Presley, but also recording the first Rock and Roll record,  "Rocket 88" by a band called Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats. That band was led by none other than Clarksville, Mississippi native Ike Turner. 

Materials about Sam Phillips, Elvis Presley, Memphis blues, music, and much more are available in the Hoole Library's Wade Hall Collection of Southern History and Culture.

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