The Southern Agenda

A Roots-of-Rock Primer

Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum curator Michael Gray shares five essential Sam Phillips–produced tracks

Illustration: Illustrations by Tim Bower

“Rocket 88”
Jackie Brenston and His Delta Cats
“This was Sam’s first big success as a producer, with Ike Turner’s band.”

“Moanin’ at Midnight” 
Howlin’ Wolf
“This is among the truly seminal blues recordings.”

“Just Walkin’ in the Rain”
The Prisonaires
“The band was in the Tennessee State Penitentiary. It got a lot of press.”

“Mystery Train”
Elvis Presley
“Originally a blues song, but Sam and Elvis made it into a totally different record.”

“Whole Lot of Shakin’ Going On”
Jerry Lee Lewis
“Jerry Lee was one of the most naturally talented musicians Sam ever recorded.”