Blues

"Thats All Right" 60 Years of Rock 'N Roll!

July 5th, 2014 was a big day at Sun Studio.

Its the 60th anniversary of the musical "big bang". On July 5th 1954, a young Elvis Presley got together with Scotty Moore and Bill Black and auditioned for Sam Phillips at Sun Studio. Elvis had been to Sun a few times before but never with the band who Sam had contacted and put in touch with Elvis. After a few hours of running down gospel and country numbers that had been covered hundreds of times before, the boys took a break almost ready to give up. It was during this down time that Elvis jumped up and with a bunch of nervous energy launched into Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup's "Thats All Right". Bill Black followed suit and started slapping his bass and hootin' and hollerin' motivating Elvis even more. Scotty fell in with his jazz inspired guitar licks. Sam Phillips' ears immediately perked up from the control room and he scrambled to get the tape machine and sound levels just right.  Fast forward a few months later and the world had changed completely off this one late night in the studio.

To celebrate this momentous day, Phil Critchcrow and the BBC hosted an all day radio show with live music streamed from the little studio back home to the UK (and all across the world via the internet).  We loaded in the night before and had a little sound check,slept about 4 hours and met back at the studio at 6a.m. Another quick round of soundchecks and satellite tests and we were off. Sam Palladio of the hit TV show Nashville was the host and in between interviews with George Klein, Jerry Phillips, the artists, and myself , we recorded and broadcasted about 10 acts.

My notes had an addendum

" *pronounced shed-yule. always. every time."

Set List:

Dermot O'Leary Show

10:20: Striking Matches

11:10: Sam Palladio

11:30: The Pierces

Noon: Live BBC Event starts

12:10: Laura Bell Bundy

12:30: Candi Staton

12:50: Brian Free & The Assurance

1:10: Sugar & The Hi Lows

1:30: Lucie Silvas

1:55: Candi Staton, Sam Palladio and Laura Bell Bundy

Link to the BBC here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b048p6tn

Matt Ross-Spang and the amazing Candi Staton!! 

Matt Ross-Spang and the amazing Candi Staton!! 

The host of the day was Musician/ Actor Sam Palladio . Photo by Matt Ross-Spang.

The host of the day was Musician/ Actor Sam Palladio . Photo by Matt Ross-Spang.

NPR "All Thing's Considered"

Many thanks to Christopher Blank for a wonderful piece on recording at Sun Studio featuring Jerry Phillips, The Bluff City Backsliders and myself.

Check it out here!

http://wknofm.org/post/sun-studios-matt-ross-spang-rediscovers-vintage-sound

Christopher Blank snapped a good shot of the Ampex 351 used for tape echo getting a fresh (old) reel loaded!

Christopher Blank snapped a good shot of the Ampex 351 used for tape echo getting a fresh (old) reel loaded!

Down at the Crossroads

New Years Eve

 Curry Weber and myself were hired for some field recording in Clarksdale, MS. The artist was Justin Johnson who plays cigar box guitars. Cigar box guitars have been around since about 1840 and can range from 1-6 strings.  Justin was able to borrow a few 150 year old cigar box guitars from a museum and use them on the record. One was especially intriguing, ranging between 130-150 years old it originated from Haiti and used an IV tube as a strap. It had dried blood and scars all over it.  As you can imagine these instruments are very delicate and there were a few luthiers on site monitoring the guitars.

Justin set up the crew in a few of the small shacks at the Shack Up Inn in Clarksdale, which is a must see for anyone visiting Clarksdale. That night was New Years and the plan was to head to the original crossroads (Robert Johnson fame) and record some traditional songs on the two Cigar Box guitars at midnight. My friend and amazing engineer Jeff Powell had some creepy handwritten directions to the real crossroads from local VooDoo legend Tater Red. The real crossroads is not in Clarksdale but actually near Cleveland,MS. Located down a dirty road near the Dockery Plantation where Charlie Patton and many other famous blues musicians worked. We arrived at the crossroads as it was getting dark and just before we found it we came across  a very old cemetery... Curry and I jumped out and investigated with only our cell phones for light. The ground was moist from a quick southern rain and the ground was so soft if you stayed still you would sink rather quickly!

We set up the makeshift portable studio and just as Justin finished the first take, fireworks went off which are audible on the fade out. Surreal timing! 

Matt Ross-Spang at the Shack Up Inn Clarksdale, MS . 12/31/13 . Photo by Nikki Johnson.

Matt Ross-Spang at the Shack Up Inn Clarksdale, MS . 12/31/13 . Photo by Nikki Johnson.

Hard to say where the tree ends and the cemetery begins. Photo by Matt Ross-Spang

Hard to say where the tree ends and the cemetery begins. Photo by Matt Ross-Spang

Engineers Curry Weber (right) and Matt Ross-Spang (left) delicately attach a microphone to a turn of the century  cigar box guitar for the field recording session at the Shack Up Inn. Photo by Nikki Johnson.

Engineers Curry Weber (right) and Matt Ross-Spang (left) delicately attach a microphone to a turn of the century  cigar box guitar for the field recording session at the Shack Up Inn. Photo by Nikki Johnson.