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Flyin’ Saucers Rock & Roll: The Cosmic Genius Of Sam Phillips Opens Friday At The Museum

August 25, 2015
Exterior of Country Music Hall of Fame taken from a drone.

Flyin' Saucers Rock & Roll: The Cosmic Genius of Sam Phillips in the newly-remodeled exhibition space

NASHVILLE, Tenn., – August 25, 2015 – The Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum will unveil Flyin’ Saucers Rock & Roll: The Cosmic Genius of Sam Phillips this Friday, August 28, 2015. The exhibition will run through June 2016 and is the first to appear in the museum’s recently expanded East Gallery, which has almost doubled in size, to 1500 square feet.

One of the most innovative and inspiring figures in the history of American music, Sun Records founder Sam Phillips introduced the world to Johnny Cash, Howlin’ Wolf, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley, Charlie Rich, Rufus Thomas, Ike Turner and many more. Blurring class and color lines, Phillips set out to undermine barriers of racial segregation and discrimination, just as the Civil Rights movement gathered force. The exhibition will take an in-depth look at Phillips’ life and career, and the social and cultural impact of the music he created in heavily segregated Memphis.

Co-curated by Presley biographer Peter Guralnick, author of the forthcoming biography Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock ’n’ Roll, the exhibition includes dozens of artifacts and a generous overlay of audiovisual treasures, including hundreds of archival photos, audio and video clips and rare artifacts. Among them:

  • Tuxedo and music-note vest Phillips wore at his 2001 Country Music Hall of Fame induction.
  • RCA 76-D monaural radio mixing console and Ampex 350 console tape recorder Phillips used to create the classic “slapback” echo heard on Elvis Presley’s Sun Record sessions.
  • 78-rpm Acetate Disc of Elvis Presley hit “My Happiness” made at Memphis Recording Service.
  • American Federation of Musicians contract signed by Presley and Phillips. The local musicians’ union guaranteed Presley $82.50 for a three-hour session.
  • American Male leather and wool sweater with decorative stitching, worn by Presley at the 1957 WDIA Goodwill Revue at Memphis’ Ellis Auditorium.
  • Stage Costume worn by Johnny Cash with embroidered western tie and silver treble clef pin with rhinestones.
  • Kay K-161 Thin Twin semi-hollowbody electric guitar used by Howlin’ Wolf.
  • Howlin’ Wolf autographed 78-rpm disc recorded by Phillips at Memphis Recording Service in December 1951.
  • Test pressing of John Prine’s album Pink Cadillac recorded at Phillips Recording Service in 1979. Jerry and Knox Phillips produced the album with input from their father, Sam, who produced two songs.
  • Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Award. Phillips was inducted in 1986, the first year an induction ceremony was held.

The exhibit will be accompanied by an exhibit catalog, also titled Flyin’ Saucers Rock & Roll: The Cosmic Genius of Sam Phillips. Published by the museum’s Country Music Foundation Press, the volume will include dozens of archival photographs and beautiful color images of many of the artifacts in the exhibit. The book will be available in the Museum Store and at

For more information about the exhibit, click here. Follow @countrymusichof on Twitter and join the conversation using #CosmicSamPhillips.


Accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum is operated by the Country Music Foundation, a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) educational organization chartered by the state of Tennessee in 1964. The museum’s mission is the preservation of the history of country and related vernacular music rooted in southern culture.  With the same educational mission, the foundation also operates Historic RCA Studio B, Hatch Show PrintTM, CMF Records, the museum’s Frist Library and Archive and CMF Press. Museum programs are made possible, in part, by the Metropolitan Nashville Arts Commission, the Tennessee Arts Commission, and under agreements with the National Endowment for the Arts.

Flyin’ Saucers Rock & Roll: The Cosmic Genius of Sam Phillips is funded in part by a grant from Humanities Tennessee, an independent affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

More information about the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum is available at or by calling (615) 416-2001.


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