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Last Updated: Thursday, 31 July, 2003, 08:35 GMT 09:35 UK
Elvis producer Phillips dies
Elvis Presley, with bass player Bill Black, guitarist Scotty Moore and Sun Records and Memphis Recording studio head Sam Phillips
Elvis Presley (l) and Sam Phillips (r) worked out of Sun Studio
Sam Phillips, the US music producer who launched Elvis Presley's career, has died in Memphis at the age of 80.

Phillips founded the Sun Records label in Memphis, Tennessee, and produced Presley's first record in 1954.

Phillips was also credited with launching the careers of Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison and Jerry Lee Lewis, sparking the beginning of the rock and roll era.

He died at the St Francis Hospital but no other details of his death have been released.

Previously a radio announcer and music talent scout, Phillips started Sun Records in 1952 at the now legendary Sun Studio, where the motto was "We Record Anything, Anywhere, Anytime".

He was keen to take on musicians with no formal training, mainly working with black artists including BB King and Rufus Thomas.

Sun got its first national R'n' B hit in 1953 with Thomas' Bear Cat.


When a young Presley went to the studios to record two songs for his mother's birthday, Phillips recognised his raw talent and signed him up.

Realising the market already had enough crooners in the mould of Tony Bennett and Perry Como, Phillips wanted Presley to draw on their shared love of rhythm and blues and black music.

"He was a very unusual-sounding person so I had to make sure we didn't go down the beaten path", said Phillips.

Sam Phillips
Phillips was entered into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in 1986
Phillips produced Presley's first record, the 1954 single That's All Right.

But after four more singles Phillips sold his contract as Elvis' manager to major label RCA records for $35,000 (21,700) to help clear debts accumulated by Sun.

I Forgot to Remember to Forget - Elvis's last single for Sun and first for RCA - went to number one in the country charts.

Other artists who recorded on the Sun label were Carl Perkins, Conway Twitty and Charlie Rich.

Phillips sold Sun Records in 1969 and later oversaw operations at the WLVS radio station in Memphis, while Sun Studio exists as a tourist attraction.

Phillips was elected into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.

His sons Knox and Jerry are also record producers.

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