Sun Records was the little Memphis recording studio that made history launching the careers of iconic rhythm and blues stars. It was also the cradle of rock and roll.
Sam Phillips started Sun Records on February 1, 1952. Sun was the first label to record Elvis Presley, Charlie Rich, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash. Prior to that, Sun had concentrated mainly on African-American musicians because Phillips loved rhythm and blues and wanted to bring it to a white audience.
So, on December 4, 1956, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis all gathered in one of the studios at Sun and jammed together. The episode, and others that followed over the years, became known as The Million Dollar Quartet.
Sun Records joined Mercury Records label producer Shelby Singleton in 1969. Singleton merged his operations into Sun International Corporation, which re-released and re-packaged compilations of Sun’s early artists in the early 1970s.
Later, it introduced rockabilly tribute singer Jimmy “Orion” Ellis in 1979, with Orion taking on the persona of Elvis Presley. The “Sun” name still appears as Sun Entertainment Corporation, and currently licenses its brand and classic hit recordings (many of which have appeared in CD boxed sets and other compilations) to independent reissue labels.
Preserving the Name
Sun Records was one of the most important record labels in music history. So, the Sun name still caries so much weight today.
In January 2021, Primary Wave bought Sun Records for $30 million. Primary Wave is a music company that specializes in acquiring and managing the copyrights of music artists. Therefore, the acquisition of Sun Records is a significant move for Primary Wave, as it gives them control over the recordings of some of the most influential musicians in history.
Chain of Ownership
Here is a history of ownership of Sun Records:
Sam Phillips (1952-1969)
Sam Phillips founded Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee in 1952. He was a visionary producer who had a knack for finding and recording talented musicians. So, these artists helped to shape the sound of rock and roll, and Sun Records became one of the most important record labels in music history.
Shelby Singleton (1969-2009)
In 1969, Phillips sold Sun Records to Shelby Singleton, a Mercury Records label producer. Singleton merged Sun Records with his own label, Plantation Records, and renamed the company Sun International Corporation. Sun International continued to release new recordings, but it also focused on re-releasing and re-packaging compilations of Sun’s early artists.
Sun Entertainment Corporation (2009-2021)
After Singleton’s death in 2009, Sun International Corporation was renamed Sun Entertainment Corporation. The company is still in business today, and it licenses its brand and classic hit recordings to independent reissue labels.
Primary Wave (2021-present)
In January 2021, Primary Wave acquires Sun Entertainment Corporation.
- Year Started: 1952
- Year Ended: 2099
- Origin Of Name: Upbeat – Fresh as the Sunrise
- Location Sales: Worldwide
- Brand Name Predecessor: N/A
- Brand Name Successor: N/A
- Owner Original: Sam Phillips
- Owner While In Use: Sun Entertainment Corporation
- Owner Successor: Primary Wave
- Year Resurrected: N/A
- What’s Popular Today: Streaming Music
- Naics Code: 512240
- Location Headquarters: Memphis, Tennessee USA