Peter Guralnick on Sam Phillips

The writer interviewed Phillips many times before his death in 2002.

PeterGuralnick_SAMPHILLIPS (1) Peter Guralnick. Photo courtesy Little, Brown and Company.

Early in Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock ‘n’ Roll, Peter Guralnick describes his eventful first meeting with his subject. The sprinkler system at Phillips’ radio station had malfunctioned and flooded the building, and the writer spent eight hours bailing out water and mopping up.

“I watched him command this army of family members and employees, and in his quiet way he inspired them to keep going and do their best,” Guralnick tells American Songwriter. “It was the one opportunity I had to watch him produce a session, and it wasn’t even music.”

Guralnick interviewed Phillips many times before his death in 2002, and those conversations form the foundation for this thorough and relentlessly compelling biography of the man who founded Sun Records, recorded Elvis and Jerry Lee, and revolutionized popular music.

You’ve written biographies of Elvis Presley and Sam Cooke, neither of whom you actually met or interviewed. What was it like writing about someone you knew and worked with for 25 years.

I don’t know about “worked with.” The first time I met him, I carried buckets of water and squeegeed the floor. That’s how I worked with him. In all the writing I’ve done I’ve always tried to write from the inside out. I’m not interested in the external story — what drugs the artist was doing or what awards they won. I’m... Sign In to Keep Reading

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