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The Museum Announces Exhibition About Legendary Producer Sam Phillips

June 18, 2015
Exterior of Country Music Hall of Fame taken from a drone.

Flyin’ Saucers Rock & Roll: The Cosmic Genius of Sam Phillips
Opens August 28, 2015

NASHVILLE, Tenn., – June 18, 2015 – 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. The Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum will explore Phillips’s life and career with the exhibition Flyin’ Saucers Rock & Roll: The Cosmic Genius of Sam Phillips, which opens August 28, 2015.

Co-curated by Presley biographer Peter Guralnick, author of the forthcoming biography Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock and Roll, the exhibition will take an in-depth look at Phillips and the social and cultural impact of the music he captured on such revolutionary recordings as Jackie Brenston’s “Rocket 88,” Elvis Presley’s “That’s All Right,” and Johnny Cash’s “I Walk the Line.”

More than merely creating a sound, Phillips initiated a sensibility. Working in Memphis in the 1950s, he preached the value of self-belief and “individualism in the extreme” to both country and blues performers, encouraging artists not to polish their sound. “I have one real gift,” he told David Halberstam, “and that gift is to look another person in the eye and be able to tell if he has anything to contribute, and if he does, I have the additional gift to free him from whatever is restraining him.”

With Sun Records and the recording studios he owned, Phillips created a progressive oasis in heavily segregated Memphis. He worked to challenge the cultural assumptions of the day, blur class and color lines, and instigate needed social change. The result was a straightforward and soulful sound that helped develop rock & roll out of a country-blues mix. Through musical integration, Phillips set out to undermine barriers of racial segregation and discrimination as the Civil Rights movement gathered force.

“Country Music Hall of Fame member Sam Phillips not only was instrumental in the careers of fellow Hall of Famers Johnny Cash, Cowboy Jack Clement, and Elvis Presley,” said museum CEO Kyle Young. “He broke the music world wide open with records that changed the way America, and later the world, thought about popular music. We are thrilled to shine a spotlight on Phillips’s incredible career and on the continued impact his work has across musical genres.”

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

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. 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 CMF Records, the museum’s Frist Library and Archive, CMF Press, Historic RCA Studio B and Hatch Show Print®.

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.

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


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