Primary Wave Music has acquired legendary recording company Sun Records.
Described by Primary Wave as a “multi-million deal”, the transaction encompasses master recordings for legendary artists including Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, The Dixie Cups, and more.
The buyout also includes all of the music publishing owned by Sun, as well as the iconic Sun Records logo and all other trademarks owned by Sun, including that of Nashville’s Sun Diner.
John Singleton, President of Sun Records, will remain at the label, and Primary Wave says he will now have additional resources provided by the company under the terms of the deal.
The New York Times reports that the deal “is estimated at about $30m”.
Primary Wave says it will help expand the Sun Records brand by providing access to its internal infrastructure which includes marketing, branding, digital strategy, licensing, synch opportunities, and film & TV production.
Sun was founded when Sam Phillips launched the record company in February of 1952. Phillips rented a small space at 706 Union Avenue for his own all-purpose studio.
Recordings included in the deal are some well-known tracks that came out of Sun Records such as the Jerry Lee Lewis classic In the Mood, as well his smash hits Whole Lot of Shaking Goin’ On and Great Balls of Fire.
Upon the release of Whole Lot of Shaking Goin’ On, the song soared to No.3 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and made Lewis an instant sensation.
Great Balls of Fire was a huge success for Sun and Jerry Lee Lewis, selling a million copies within a week of it being released.
“We are extremely pleased to pass the Sun Records baton to Primary Wave and are confident that they will continue to reach new heights for the crown jewel of the music business created by Sam Phillips, which my brother, Shelby, and I have kept alive and relevant for the past 50 years.”
John A. Singleton, Sun Entertainment Corporation
Multiple Johnny Cash recordings are also a part of the acquisition including I Walk the Line and Folsom Prison Blues.
Cash’s first No.1 in the United States was I Walk the Line. It remained on the charts for over 43 weeks and sold two million copies. After writing the song, a conversation with label-mate Carl Perkins, whose Platinum certified song Blue Suede Shoes is also included in the acquisition, steered Cash to name the then untitled song, I Walk the Line.
One of Johnny Cash’s signature songs, Folsom Prison Blues, appeared on his debut album.
A live version that was recorded in front of an audience of inmates at Folsom State Prison became a number one hit in 1968.
One of the most important figures in the history of rock, Sam Phillips has been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Country Music Hall of Fame, Blues Music Hall of Fame, Alabama Music Hall of Fame, R&B Foundation Hall of Fame, Rockabilly Hall of Fame, Radio Hall of Fame, and Memphis Music Hall of Fame.
The label was launched amid a growing number of independent labels. As a businessman, Phillips was patient and willing to listen to almost anyone who came in off the street to record. Memphis was a happy home to a diverse musical scene: gospel, blues, hillbilly, country, boogie, and western swing.
Taking advantage of this range of talent, there were no style limitations at the label. In one form or another Sun recorded them all. Then in 1954 Phillips found Elvis Presley, an artist who could perform with the excitement, unpredictability and energy of a blues artist but could reach across regional, musical and racial barriers. He helped form the beginnings of the Sun “sound” by infusing Country music with R&B.
Listed among his contemporaries and label mates were Johnny Cash, the inimitable Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins.
These four soon became known as the Million Dollar Quartet. Right behind them came Roy Orbison, Charlie Rich, Bill Justis, Harold Jenkins (a.k.a. Conway Twitty) and other equally memorable musical talents.
“Sun Records is the original home to some of the biggest legends in music.”
Larry Mestel, Primary Wave Music
All eventually sold on Pop, R&B and Country charts and grew to international fame. In early 1969, Phillips began negotiations with his good friend Shelby Singleton for a deal to purchase Sun. A successful music producer, Shelby had earned his stripes at Mercury Records. He started out in regional radio promotion and wound up as head of A&R before leaving in 1966 to start his own company.
In July of 1969, Phillips and Shelby finalized their deal and Sun Records was sold. Shelby would soon move the label to Nashville, joining Singleton’s already existing stable of labels – SSS International and Plantation.
Shelby and his partner/brother, John A. Singleton, managed the label group until Shelby passed in 2009. Singleton continues to guide the Sun legacy started by Sam Phillips.
“We are extremely pleased to pass the Sun Records baton to Primary Wave and are confident that they will continue to reach new heights for the crown jewel of the music business created by Sam Phillips, which my brother, Shelby, and I have kept alive and relevant for the past 50 years” said John A. Singleton, President of Sun Entertainment Corporation.
Larry Mestel, CEO & Founder of Primary Wave Music added: “Sun Records is the original home to some of the biggest legends in music.
“Sam Phillips treated all of his artists with the utmost respect and provided a space of creativity unlike no other.
“His vision for Sun aligns perfectly with the creative ethos of Primary Wave, and I am overjoyed that this historic label is now a part of our family.”
Today’s news follows Primary Wave’s acquisition earlier this month of a majority stake in the music publishing catalog of Jon Lind, an Award-winning songwriter, multi-platinum A&R and music publisher.
The company also announced its acquisition of a 50% stake in KT Tunstall’s music publishing catalog on January 13, which came a week after the news of Primary Wave’s acquisition of the music-publishing catalog of award-winning songwriter Dan Wilson.
Last month saw Primary Wave buy a stake in the music publishing catalog and master recordings of singer and songwriter Leo Sayer.
A week before that, the company acquired a majority stake in the publishing catalog of legendary singer, songwriter and Fleetwood Mac member, Stevie NicksMusic Business Worldwide