Samuel Cornelius Phillips
(January 5, 1923 – July 30, 2003), better known as Sam Phillips
, was an American businessman, record executive, record producer and DJ who played an important role in the emergence of rock and roll as the major form of popular music in the 1950s. He was a producer, label owner, and talent scout throughout the 1940s and 1950s. He most notably founded Sun Studios and Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee. Through Sun, Phillips discovered such recording talent as Howlin' Wolf, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash. The height of his success culminated in his launching of Elvis Presley's career in 1954. He is also associated with several other noteworthy rhythm and blues and rock and roll stars of the period. Phillips sold Sun in 1969. He was an early investor in the Holiday Inn chain of hotels. He also advocated racial equality and helped break down racial music industry barriers.Rock and Roll Hall of FameIn 1986 Sam Phillips was part of the first group inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and his pioneering contribution to the genre has been recognized by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. He was the first ever non-performer inducted. In 1987, he was inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame. He received a Grammy Trustees Award for his lifetime achievements in 1991. In 1998, he was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame, and in October 2001 he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.Phillips died of respiratory failure at St. Francis Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee on July 30, 2003, only one day before the original Sun Studio was designated a National Historic Landmark, and just weeks before the death of his former colleague, Johnny Cash, on September 12, 2003. He is interred in the Memorial Park Cemetery in Memphis.
He is portrayed by Charles Cyphers in the 1979 film Elvis
, Trey Wilson in the 1989 film Great Balls of Fire!
, Dallas Roberts in the 2005 film Walk the Line
and by Tim Guinee in the 2005 CBS miniseries Elvis
. He was portrayed by Gregory Itzin in a 1993 episode of Quantum Leap
entitled "Memphis Melody."He was also portrayed in the 1981 movie This Is Elvis
by son Knox Phillips.In 2000, a documentary about his life and involvement in the emergence of Rock and Roll called "Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock'n'Roll" was released by A&E Television Networks.He is portrayed in a documentary involving Johnny Cash "My Father and the Man in Black"