Thursday, February 6, 2014

Ask Mr. Music by Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: It seems that Sun Records from Memphis is regarded as one of the most significant and collectible labels of the rock era.

Truth is, off the top of my head I can only name three artists who had hits while recording for Sun: Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, and Elvis. Who are the others that got their start with Sun, and made one or more of the three main charts for singles?
—Adam Hutch, Covington, Ky.

DEAR ADAM: The impact and significance of Sun Records far outstrips whatever number of hit records they had.

However, as you're about to discover, Sun also shined in that department.

Of Sun's 226 singles (1952-1967), 36 appeared on the Pop & Rock (P&R), Country & Western (C&W), or Rhythm & Blues (R&B) charts.

Of those, 15 were simultaneously ranked on two surveys, and six turned up on all three, a very rare trifecta.

With all the crossover hits added, the total number of chart appearances jump up to 63.

Ergo, Sun's percentage of charted singles is about 28% of their total output, making them one of the leaders in this category, among all companies with 200 or more releases.

Any record label would be thrilled if roughly two out of every seven releases charted.

Not part of our equation, but impressive nonetheless, is that 15 of those 36 singles were double-sided hits.

Sun's singles began with number 174 (1952), and ended with 407 (1967), though there are eight numbers that were either mastered but not pressed, or simply an unused number. They are: 174; 176; 235; 252; 357; 383; 385; and 388.

Here are Sun's chart makers, in order of release with both sides shown for double-sided hits, followed by the artist's name and charts on which they appeared:

181 "(The Answer to Hound Dog) Bear Cat" (Rufus "Hound Dog" Thomas Jr.) (R&B)
187 "Feelin' Good" (Little Junior's Blue Flames) (R&B)

217 "Baby Let's Play House"/"I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone" (Elvis Presley) (C&W)
221 "Cry! Cry! Cry!" (Johnny Cash) (C&W)
223 "I Forgot to Remember to Forget"/"Mystery Train" (Elvis Presley) (C&W)

232 "Folsom Prison Blues"/"So Doggone Lonesome" (Johnny Cash) (C&W)
234 "Blue Suede Shoes" (Carl Perkins) (C&W/P&R/R&B)
241 "I Walk the Line"/"Get Rhythm" (Johnny Cash) (C&W/P&R)
242 "Ooby Dooby" (Roy Orbison and the Teen Kings) (C&W/P&R)
243 "Boppin' the Blues" (Carl Perkins) (C&W/P&R)
249 "Dixie Fried"/"I'm Sorry, I'm Not Sorry" (Carl Perkins) (C&W)
258 "There You Go"/"Train of Love" (Johnny Cash) (C&W)

261 "Your True Love" (Carl Perkins) (C&W/P&R)
266 "Next in Line"/"Don't Make Me Go" (Johnny Cash) (C&W/P&R)
267 "Whole Lot of Shakin' Going On" (Jerry Lee Lewis) (C&W/P&R/R&B)
268 "So Long I'm Gone" (Warren Smith) (P&R)
279 "Home of the Blues"/"Give My Love to Rose" (Johnny Cash) (C&W/P&R)
281 "Great Balls of Fire"/"You Win Again" (Jerry Lee Lewis) (P&R/C&W/R&B)

283 "Ballad of a Teenage Queen"/"Big River" (Johnny Cash) (C&W/P&R)
288 "Breathless" (Jerry Lee Lewis) (P&R/C&W/R&B)
295 "Guess Things Happen That Way"/"Come in Stranger" (Johnny Cash) (C&W/P&R)
296 "High School Confidential" (Jerry Lee Lewis) (P&R/C&W/R&B)
302 "The Ways of a Woman in Love"/"You're the Nearest Thing to Heaven" (Johnny Cash) (C&W/P&R)
303 "Break-Up"/"I'll Make It All Up to You (Jerry Lee Lewis) (P&R/C&W)
309 "It's Just About Time" (Johnny Cash) (P&R/C&W)

312 "I'll Sail My Ship Alone" (Jerry Lee Lewis) (P&R)
316 "Thanks a Lot" (Johnny Cash) (C&W)
321 "Katy Too" (Johnny Cash) (P&R/C&W)
331 "Goodbye Little Darlin'" (Johnny Cash) (C&W)

334 "Straight A's in Love"/"I Love You Because" (Johnny Cash) (C&W/P&R)
343 "Down the Street to 301" (Johnny Cash) (P&R)
347 "Mean Eyed Cat" (Johnny Cash) (C&W)
355 "Oh Lonesome Me" (Johnny Cash) (P&R/C&W)

356 "What'd I Say" (Jerry Lee Lewis) (P&R/C&W/R&B)
364 "Cold Cold Heart" (Jerry Lee Lewis) (C&W)

379 "Sweet Little Sixteen"/"How's My Ex Treating You" (Jerry Lee Lewis) (P&R)

Here are the individual artist totals: Johnny Cash (17); Jerry Lee Lewis (9); Carl Perkins (4); Elvis Presley (2); and one each for Rufus Thomas Jr.; Little Junior's Blue Flames (Junior Parker); Roy Orbison and the Teen Kings; and Warren Smith.

IZ ZAT SO? Among the performers who began at 706 Union Ave. in Memphis, at the "Cradle of the Stars," but did not have a hit while with Sun Records, yet forged successful careers elsewhere are: Ray Smith; Dickie Lee; Ed Bruce; Roscoe Gordon; Little Milton; David Houston; Gene Simmons; Charlie Feathers; Billy Lee Riley; Sonny Burgess; Billy Adams; Bobby Wood; and David Wilkins.

Jerry Osborne answers as many questions as possible through this column.  Write Jerry at: Box 255, Port Townsend, WA 98368  E-mail:   Visit his Web site:

All values quoted in this column are for near-mint condition. 

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