I just got off the air. It was a nice, sunny Saturday afternoon. I walked into the lobby and saw the Father of Rock and Roll standing there. “Hello, Mr. Phillips,” I said in a voice that was at least three octaves higher than minutes ago on the air. I was so nervous and trying desperately to hide it. I had wanted to meet him since I arrived at the station. I found out in short order that he prefers Sam rather than Mr. Phillips. He turned around, and with a smile, said, “It’s Sam, just Sam.” He sat down with me, and we talked about a lot of things. He told me that Radio was his first love, not recording. In fact, the recording started as a sound effects library for radio production, and it grew from there. Sun Studios was originally called The Memphis Recording Studio with the slogan "We Record Anything, Anywhere, Anytime."
I just had to ask Sam about selling Elvis' contract for $40,000. Sam corrected me, "Well, first of all, it was $35,000. Elvis got $5,000 for back royalties. Secondly, that was a lot of money back in 1955, especially for an artist that had never had a hit. Money I could use to promote Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, and Carl Perkins."
Sam told me that Elvis would have never had a million-seller on Sun. I couldn’t believe that. “Why,” I asked. He looked at me with a sly smirk and explained, “In order to sell a million, you have to buy a million, and I couldn’t.”
With the money he got from selling Elvis’ contract, Sam could buy a million and did. Carl Perkins gave Sam his first million-seller with “Blue Suede Shoes.” I asked how Carl felt about Elvis recording "Blue Suede Shoes," a song Perkins wrote. "Well, back then,” as Sam remembered it, “the best way to sell records was by touring. Carl had been in a serious car crash and couldn't tour. The Elvis version also became a hit bringing in money Carl would have never seen from royalties."
After two hours or so, Sam said, "You know, I usually get paid for these interviews." "Well, considering what you pay me, let's just call it even," I said with a chuckle. We both laughed and walked out to the parking lot together. As we did, Sam asked, “What do I pay you anyway?” “Not enough” was my only reply. Sam was a living legend, yet he was so down to earth, a really great man. It was a pleasure to meet and to work for him.
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