Walk in the footsteps of Elvis and many other greats at this Memphis, Tennessee, recording studio where music is still made today. 

Visitors at Sun Studio in Memphis, Tennessee (photo by David Meany)

Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and the king of rock ’n’ roll himself, Elvis Presley, recorded at Sam Phillips’ small Memphis recording studio as they set out on careers that would make them music legends. Carl Perkins, B.B. King and Roy Orbison made early records here as well, and a by-then-world-famous U2 stopped in decades later to capture songs such as “Angel of Harlem” and “When Love Comes to Town” for the album that accompanied their 1988 documentary film “Rattle and Hum.” 

Today, travelers can take a guided tour of Sun Studio. Radio engineer Sam Phillips opened Sun Records on Memphis’ Union Avenue in 1952, operating under the slogan “We Record Anything-Anywhere-Anytime.” Anyone could walk in off the street and pay to record a single.  

During the summer of 1953, 18-year-old Elvis Presley strolled in, hoping to record “My Happiness” and “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin” onto a two-sided record. A year later, during yet another recording session, Presley launched into a rollicking “That’s All Right.” Phillips recorded the song, and it was an immediate hit on Memphis DJ Dewey Phillips’ “Red, Hot, and Blue” radio show, launching Elvis on his trip into the stratosphere of music history. 

Sun Studio offers 45-minute tours every day, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tours begin in the storefront next to the studio, where you can grab a soda or coffee and shop for souvenirs. Knowledgeable guides share the Sun Studio story as they lead guests upstairs past exhibits featuring vintage recording equipment and memorabilia. 

Then, visitors are ushered down into the studio where the magic happened: You can even stand where Elvis brought his musical vision into the world. Once tours end for the day, Sun Studio returns to its roots as a working recording studio. 706 Union Ave., Memphis, Tennessee 38103, 901/521-0664, sunstudio.com