Son of Legendary Music Producer Reacts to Oscar-Winning Actor Set To Play His Dad

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) - The man who took home the hardware for Best Actor at last year's Academy Awards Show is set to take on the role of the man behind Sun Studio and rock 'n' roll. Leonardo DiCaprio has signed on to star in and produce a film based on the biography of Sam Phillips, and the record producer's youngest son says he can't think of a better actor to take on the role of his dad.

"My dad called the studio a laboratory," Jerry Phillips, son of Sam Phillips, says his dad was meticulous and a genius when it came to mixing sound. "Like building a Frankenstein. You get in there and you work on this thing until it starts walking."

Jerry Phillips says he's proud of the Phillips heritage. He currently writes and records his own music, helping to run Sam Phillips Recording on Madison Avenue in Memphis. He wears respect and love for his dad's legacy right on his sleeve, with a tattoo of the Sun Records logo and Howlin' Wolf, "because not only was it my father's favorite artist, it's also my favorite artist."

But the man who helped catapult Sam's studio into fame ain't nothing but a hound dog, who became king. It was Elvis Presley's different look at sound that got Sam's attention. "He had no interest in doing anything that had already been done," explains Phillips. He says his dad's love of different started back as a boy in Alabama. "When he got out of church on Sundays, he'd go by the black church and sit out and listen to the music."

In the late 1940's Sam Phillips had made it to Memphis. He was mixing bands at the Peabody and working as a radio engineer for WREC, but his eyes and ears were on Beale. Jerry Phillips says his dad wanted to record the blues with black artists, giving those without a shot a place to shine. On his own he opened what was then Memphis Recording Service on Union Avenue and through his doors walked a white man, who Sam felt could showcase black rhythm.

Amid a segregated country, in Elvis Presley, the record producer saw his ticket to reaching the masses with rock 'n' roll. "It blew the racial barriers in radio and music out the window, man!" Jerry Phillips says it also sparked a special relationship between the pair. Phillips was like a second father to Presley. "My parents were so cool. They would wake my brother and I up and say 'Elvis is coming over, you guys want to get up and miss school tomorrow?'" 

George Klein was often with Presley for those late night visits (to avoid the fans and photographers). The two met at Humes High and became best friends. "I was there from day one when it happened. I was with a guy who turned the world around," says Klein. He adds that Phillips' opinion was always important to Presley, "Whatever he said, worked out for Elvis." Including the pair's decision to part ways on paper.

Sam sold Elvis' contract to RCA Records for $35,000. It was record at the time and both men parlayed the move into huge successes. "It put him back on top financially to where he could do Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, Charlie Rich. All these guys," says Jerry Phillips about his dad. 

DiCaprio has purchased rights to Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock 'n' Roll by Peter Guralnick. A date for filming hasn't been set but Jerry Phillips says his dad worked with Guralnick to put together the pages and that honesty was paramount. "He says, I don't want you to make me look good. I don't care what you say about me. Just be true to the music and the history about how all of this happened."

Jerry says if DiCaprio's other roles are any indication, he expects the actor will transform into his dad. The keys to pulling of Sam? Jerry says, a handsome look, "'ladies liked him, ya know?" DiCaprio will also have to pull off Sam's charisma. "He could have been a very great preacher. He could save your soul!" says Jerry with a laugh.

His father's legacy, a testament to his thoughts on his favorite artist. "He said about Howling Wolf, that's where the soul of a man never dies." 

 

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