Sam Phillips Memphis Recording Service

Sam Phillips Memphis Recording Service

Sam Phillips

Sam Phillips Memphis Recording Service

There are many dates offered for the birth of rock and roll, but certain dates unarguably made rock possible.

One: Sam Phillips opened the Memphis Recording Service on January 3, 1950.

Two: in April 1951, Phillips recorded “Rocket 88″ by  Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats, a song considered by many to be the first Rock and Roll song.

Three: on January 4, 1954 while still working as a truck driver, Elvis Presley went to the Sam Phillips to record a song for his mother’s birthday which was many months away. He recorded “It Wouldn’t Be The Same Without You” and “I’ll Never Stand In Your Way.” It was this recording that would lead Phillips to call Presley back to record for his Sun Records label. The receipt is dated Jan. 6, but the date of the recording was Jan. 4.

Sam Phillips Memphis Recording Service
Receipt (found at:
Sam Phillips Memphis Recording Service

Alabama kid

When growing up in Alabama, Sam Phillips had been exposed to all types of music, but he loved the blues sound he’d heard traveling through Memphis, Tennessee’ Beale Street. When he opened the Memphis Recording Service he followed that lead and recorded such Black performers as B.B. King, Junior Parker, and Howlin’ Wolf. Phillips then would sell their performances to larger record labels.

Sam Phillips Memphis Recording Service


According to the  the Kitchen Sisters, “Before Elvis walked through the door, before Sun Studios put Memphis on the map—Sam Phillips, a young man with a tape recorder, lived by the motto, “We Record Anything, Anywhere, Anytime.” Weddings, funerals, marching bands, the Miss Memphis Pageant—Sam recorded them all—anything to keep his fledgling Memphis Recording Service open to record Howlin’ Wolf, B.B. King, Little Junior, Ike Turner, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Elvis Presley. The raw and rocking, unrecorded music of the 1950s South. (to listen to the Kitchen Sisters’ excellent podcast on Phillips >>> Kitchen Sisters)

Sam Phillips Memphis Recording Service

Sun Records

Sam Phillips Memphis Recording Service

In 1952 Phillips started Sun Records. According to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame site his company released 226 singles during its 16 years and “…That figure doesn’t include the 71 singles released on Sun’s sister label, Phillips International!) Those 45s and 78s with the familiar Sun logo amount to a treasure of music whose greatest moments mark the spot where rock and roll originated and thrived in all its frantic, wild-eyed abandon. “We’re all crazy,” Phillips has said of himself and his charges at Sun. “But it’s a type of insanity that borders on genius. I really feel that. To be as free as you have to be for any kind of music, you almost have to be in another dimension. And to do the broad expanse of rock and roll takes an element of mind expansion that people less creative would term insanity.” (form more >>> Rock and Roll Hall of Fame site)

So important was Sam Phillips’s impact on the history or Rock and Roll, he was part of the inaugural class of inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.

For more about Phillips, the Memphis Recording Service, and Sun records, watch this excellent video history:

Sam Phillips Memphis Recording Service

Keyboardist Chick Churchill

Keyboardist Chick Churchill

Keyboardist Chick Churchill

Classical studies

Michael George “Chick” Churchill was born on January 2, 1946 in Ilkeston, Derbyshire.

Chick  began playing piano when he was six and was doing classical studies until he met the blues in 1961.

While part of the Sons of Adam, he met Alvin Lee whose band then was called the Jaybirds.

Churchill joined first as a road manager and then as a keyboardist.

Keyboardist Chick Churchill

Ten Years After

The band evolved into Ten Years After and concert promoter Bill Graham invited the band to tour America for the first time in the summer of 1968. Ten Years After would ultimately tour the USA 28 times in 7 years, more than any other U.K. band.

Keyboardist Chick Churchill
Ten Years After
Keyboardist Chick Churchill

Summer of 1969

During the summer of 1969, they performed at  6 major festivals, including  the Woodstock Music and Art Fair. Of course their performance of “Goin’ Home” at Woodstock and the song’s inclusion in both the film and on the album established their fame. (I wonder how many times the band performed that song that summer?)

I recently contact Chick and he generously responded with the following:  Woodstock seems so long ago now but I remember the huge audience and the helicopter journey. I think we went on after the rain storm. Everything was wet and I don’t think health and safety would allow it now but we survived. 

Keyboardist Chick Churchill

You and Me

In 1971, Chick released a solo album,  You and Me.

Keyboardist Chick Churchill

Post Ten Years After

When  Ten Years After disbanded in 1976 Chick Churchill became professional manager at Chrysalis Music.

In 1977 he began a partnership with Tim Whitsett as Whitsett Churchill Music Publishing. The company specialized in promoting American artists from southern states.

Neither Alvin Lee nor Ten Years After are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The band has reformed and does tour. Here’s what they did in 2018:

SHOWS PLAYED so far in 2018 
12.01.2018 Ger-OSNABRÜCK, Rosenhof
17.01.2018 Ger-LEVERKUSEN, Scala
18.01.2018 Ger-ASCHAFFENBURG, Colos-Saal
19.01.2018 Ger-KOBLENZ, Café Hahn
17.03.2018 F-COGNAC, WEST ROCK
24.03.2018 Ger-ERFURT, HsD
27.04.2018 CH-GLARUS, Gleis 2
21.05.2018 NL-RAALTE, Ribs & Blues Festival
09.06.2018 CH-WOLFHALDEN, Rock The Wolves Festival
29.06.2018 A-KLAM, Burg Clam Rock
30.06.2018 A-EISENSTADT, Lovely Days Festival
01.07.2018 Hungary-BUDAPEST, A38
13.07.2018 SE-AMAL, Amal‘s Blues Fest
26.07.2018 KUSEL, Fritz-Wunderlich-Halle with Canned Heat
27.07.2018 B-LESSINES, Cour de l’Hôpital Notre-Dame à la Rose with Canned Heat
28.07.2018 GREIFENSTEIN, Burg Open Air with Canned Heat
05.08.2018 UK-KENT, New Day Festival
10.08.2018 A-BILDEIN, Picture ON Festival
11.08.2018 CZ-ZLJIN, Route 66 Festival
17.08.2018 BE-WESPELAAR, Blues Festival
20.08.2018 IT-AGLIENTU, Aglientu Summer Festival
31.08.2018 CH-AARBURG, Riverside Open Air
16.09.2018 POLAND-KIELCE Kielce Rokuja Festival
22.09.2018 GB-EDINBURGH, Blues N Rock Festival

The band has a Facebook page.

Keyboardist Chick Churchill

Bio from TYA site >>> Churchill bio

Keyboardist Chick Churchill

Woodstock Wes Pomeroy

Woodstock Wes Pomeroy

Remembering Wes Pomeroy on his birthday
January 1, 1920 – May 4, 1998

Woodstock Wes Pomeroy

Peacefully muddy

The popular media image of the 1969 Woodstock Music and Art Fair is one of drugs, skinny dipping, mud, rain, and disorganization, but the reason behind that image is the general atmosphere of peace that prevailed the whole weekend.

As Max Yasgur said on Sunday to the hillside of young people, “… the important thing that you’ve proven to the world is that a half a million kids…can get together and have three days of fun and music and have nothing but fun and music….”

There is no one reason why, under such adverse circumstances, there was such peace. The lack of food, toilet facilities, overwhelming  numbers of people, and a transportation breakdown would seem a recipe for disaster, not tranquility. Then Governor Rockefeller thought there was a disaster and had readied the National Guard to take over the site.

Woodstock Wes Pomeroy

Wes Pomeroy

Wes Pomeroy, born in Berkeley, California on January 1, 1920, which means he was 49 when Woodstock Ventures hired him him to be the festival’s Director of Security. At a time when young people were warned not to trust anyone over the age of 30, Pomeroy’s age would seem to have automatically disqualified him, but at a time of extreme polarization, his philosophy to use communication and cooperation for crowd control, rather than  threats and force.

Woodstock Wes Pomeroy

Officer Pomeroy

Who was Wes Pomeroy before Woodstock? He had begun his adult life with the California Highway Patrol before joining the Marines and seeing action in World War II, including the Battle of Okinawa. After the war he earned a law degree while undersheriff in San Mateo County (CA). And at the same time he was working in law enforcement, he was also a member of the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association of Colored People.

Woodstock Wes Pomeroy

Practiced what he preached

  • an advocate of the decriminalization of marijuana
  • a law enforcement officer who viewed protesters as citizens, not criminals.

That CV is a recipe for calm control, not tumultuous dissatisfaction. And he had proof of the approach’s effectiveness:

  • his successful security operation at the 1964 Republican National Convention during which a number of protesters who managed to get inside the center were not dragged out forcibly, but carried out on stretchers.
  • Chicago Mayor Richard Daily rejected Pomeroy’s attempt to use the same approach at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago and resulted in the infamous chaotic riots and Chicago Eight trial circus.
Woodstock Wes Pomeroy

Post Woodstock

In 1974 he police chief in Berkeley, CA. Wavy Gravy remembers Pomeroy as “a good cop.” He later worked for the Carter Administration’s Office of Drug Abuse. In he early 1980s, he served as Deputy Director of the Michigan Department of Mental Health . In 1983, he was named head of the Dade County (Miami) police review board. He retired and retired in 1995.

He died on May 4, 1998. “The most important thing in his life,” said his wife, Lonna Pomeroy, “was his commitment to humanitarian issues.” His family asked that “…gifts in his memory be sent to the Unrepresented People’s Positive Action Council or the NAACP, Opa Locka, FL branch.” [NYT obit]

Thank you Wes Pomeroy. One of Woodstock’s unknown heroes.


Woodstock Wes Pomeroy