Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Mystery Train

For the last couple of weeks I have been listening to Peter Guralnick's new biography of Sam Phillips. I was familiar with a lot of the recordings Sam Phillips made. I had heard the Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Howlin' Wolf and Jerry Lee Lewis stuff. I was unfamiliar with the large number of blues artists other than Howlin' Wolf that Sam Phillips had recorded. I didn't know that he started his recording service and eventual record label exclusively to record the black musicians in the Memphis area because he thought they were not being given the deserved opportunity to express themselves as artists. He was sure that through recording this beautiful music that the music could break down the barriers between black and white Americans.

I have been pausing my listening to the audio book a lot to listen to music I had not heard before. My Google Music account has come in handy in the last couple of weeks. One track that really stands out is the original version of Mystery Train by Little Junior's Blue Flames, a song recorded by Elvis late in his Sun stint and part of the last Presley single released by Sun. According to Guralnick, Sam Phillips considered Mystery Train to be the best work Elvis recorded at Sun but he asserted that Elvis' version of the song was not as good as the original. Little Junior is Junior Parker. There is so much music out there to discover.

Give Mystery Train by Little Junior's Blue Flames A listen, it is a perfect song. I have been continually impressed over the last couple of weeks while revisiting and discovering the recordings made by Sam Phillips, by just how great these sound. He built his studio with only the assistance of one other person, his assistant Marion Keisker and was barely getting by but recorded songs that will be listened to hundreds of years from now. I think he may have accomplished his goal.

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