Though Jack White’s Third Man Records imprint is known for doing some wacky pressings of things on wax – take, for example, the opulent-even-for-the-jazz-age gold and platinum pressings of the soundtrack to the new film version of The Great Gasby – their latest series, just recently announced, should appeal to a wide swath of rock fans. Third Man is licensing material from the Sun Records discography to repress on vinyl.
Sam Phillips’ Memphis label was, of course, a hotbed of activity for some of the best country, rock and soul acts of the 1950s. Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison are just five of the legends who got their start at Sun with unique songs and recordings that remain essential to the canon of popular music.
Third Man’s first three single reissues (the first in a promised series) are:
Rufus Thomas, Bear Cat b/w Walking in the Rain (Sun Records 181, 1953 – reissued Third Man Records TMR-185, 2013) – though Thomas would have more success in the ’60s and ’70s as one of the first hitmakers signed to Stax Records, this was a notable release – and not just because the song, a sort-of rewrite of “Hound Dog,” was the subject of a costly lawsuit between Sun and songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. It’s an enduring set of R&B sides that did a fine job anticipating Thomas’ later works.
The Prisonaires, Baby Please b/w Just Walkin’ in the Rain (Sun Records 186, 1953 – reissued Third Man Records TMR-186, 2013) – one of Sun’s most unique acts was The Prisonaires, a doo-wop quintet so named for the prison sentences each man served in the state of Tennessee. “Just Walkin’ in the Rain” garnered enough local accolades to earn the group plenty of day passes away from jail to perform shows. (Elvis was a fan, and one of many who covered “Just Walkin’ in the Rain.”)
Johnny Cash, Get Rhythm b/w I Walk the Line (Sun Records 241, 1956 – reissued Third Man Records TMR-187, 2013) – “Get Rhythm” was a plucky little country tune that happened to have the terrible misfortune of sharing a vinyl platter with “I Walk the Line,” a country tune unlike any other, and the one that put The Man in Black on the map. Cash would record these songs anew when he signed to Columbia Records, but nothing surpasses the power of these original recordings.
All three can be ordered separately at the above links or together right here; the official release date is this Tuesday, May 21. Additionally, 150 copies of limited yellow and black “Sun Ray” vinyl will be made available; 50 copies of each will be randomly substituted for the standard editions on order, and the remainder will be sold through Third Man’s “Rolling Record Store” from May 28-30. Here’s where to find each:
- 5/28: Johnny Cash – Sun Records, Memphis, TN
- 5/29: Rufus Thomas – Please and Thank You, Louisville, KY
- 5/30: The Prisonaires – Sun Ray at Luna Records, Indianapolis, IN