Sun Records TV Show Premieres Tonight!

Posted by Holly Whitfield | February 23rd 2017 13980 0

The latest TV show to feature Memphis premieres tonight! Here is everything you need to know about Sun Records, who’s in it, what it’s about, where Sun Records was filmed, and my thoughts on the first season.

If you want to read my recap and list of film locations for Episode 1, click here.

Note: I’ve seen the whole first season. This post is spoiler-free, except for general knowledge that anyone might know since it’s based on a true story.

Filming Sun Records at Earnestine & Hazel’s. Photo by Sean Davis. Used with permission.

1. Watch The Show
– Watch CMT’s Sun Records on CMT at 9 p.m. CST on Thursdays starting February 23.
– I think you can also watch it on after the initial episode airs. As for Hulu or Netflix, we’ll have to wait on that.
– Sun Records is an eight-part series.
– It used to be called Million Dollar Quartet and now it’s called Sun Records.
– Places that are having watch parties tonight:

  • Hard Rock Cafe
  • The Bluff (Highland Strip)
  • Rec Room,
  • Fox & Hound Sanderlin.

Where was Sun Records filmed?

Memphis! It’s nice to see a show about Memphis filmed mostly in Memphis, using Memphians as actors, extras, and production crew. I have a big list of Sun Records Memphis filming locations, and I’ll be posting them as the season goes along.

In the first few episodes, look for the Galloway Church in Cooper Young, the New and Old Daisy theaters, Beale Street in general, The Arcade, Humes High School, and more. Read the list for episode 1.

Filming Sun Records on location at the Malco Summer Drive-In. Photo by Sean Davis. Used by permission.

Here’s a quote from my friend and photographer Sean Davis about “Sun Records”.

“Every second/byte/card of the show went through my hands and computer during filming. It provided jobs for Memphis and Nashville people, let me get by financially for a year, buy film and go on vacation. Watch it so hopefully we can do it again soon for another season!” 

By watching the show, you’re supporting Memphis and Memphians. Also, as I’ll get to in a minute… it’s a pretty good show. So it’s a win-win.

What Is Sun Records About?

True to its name, Sun Records is about the tumultuous history of the Sun Records label and its founder Sam Phillips. He dreams of discovering the next big thing and getting rich, sure, but in the show he’s a man on a mission, seeking to find that certain sound… something he hasn’t heard before.

When he does find this elusive sound, it’s usually coming from the mouths, keys, or chords of black blues or R&B musicians; therefore, Sun Records has to address segregation and racism of the time throughout the show.

Sam has a family, a close friend and colleague, Marion, and plenty of associates in the recording industry, including DJ Dewey Phillips, aka my favorite character in the whole show, and someone called Colonel Tom Parker who gets a ton of screen time and is probably going to prompt some Google searches.

Then, we of course see plenty of the “Million Dollar Quartet “musicians – Elvis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis – in their teen years. They’re growing up, exploring their musical gifts, and inching ever slowly toward fame.

Who Plays Elvis In Sun Records?

Here’s a list of the cast:

Sam Phillips – Chad Michael Murray (One Tree Hill, A Cinderella Story, Gilmore Girls)

Elvis Presley – Drake Mulligan (Nobody) *Fun fact: he’s only ever played Elvis in a professional acting role

Johnny Cash – Kevin Fonteyne (Melissa and Joey)

Carl Perkins – Dustin Ingram (True Blood)

Jerry Lee Lewis: Christian Lees *Fun fact: his brother, Jonah Lees, is playing Jerry Lee’s cousin, Jimmy Swaggart, in the show!

Dewey Phillips: Keir O’Donnell (Fargo, Wedding Crashers)

Marion Keisker: Margaret Anne Florence

B.B. King: Castro Coleman *Famous Blues singer, won the International Blues Challenge in 2014!

Ike Turner: Kerry Holliday

L to R (characters): Johnny Cash, Ike Turner, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis. Photo provided by CMT

My Thoughts

I had the opportunity to binge watch (I do not recommend 8 hours straight of TV, ok?) Sun Records last week, and my overall impression is as follows: it’s a heartfelt show with a high production value and several standout performances from the actors.

CMT’s approach to the – let’s be honest – pretty overdone Elvis story is made fresh because of all the other characters and themes (i.e., the recording business, racism’s role in the spread of rock music) that Sun Records’ first season focuses on in addition to – and often instead of, Elvis.

There are a few actors that I really enjoyed and wanted more of, especially Christian Lees and Jonah Less, brothers-in-real-life who play Jerry Lee Lewis and Jimmy Swaggart, respectively. These two have a great chemistry that adds much needed action and humor.

The same goes for Keir O’Donnell, who plays DJ Dewey Phillips. He cracked me up multiple times, and I wanted more. He gives ZERO effs about authority or rules and it’s great.

It’s a solid show and I’m looking forward to watching it episodically. I plan to low-key live Tweet tonight’s premiere episode, and maybe do some episode recaps as the show goes on, mostly to provide info on the filming locations and ties to Memphis. TV coverage is pretty new for the I Love Memphis blog, so I’m not sure how much y’all are interested.

Thoughts? Should I do some quick recaps for episodes and/or live Tweet? What are you interested in learning about Sun Records as you follow the show on CMT?

Ed Note: New I Love Memphis Contributor Baylee Less contributed research for this post, including cast info. Thanks Baylee! Look for more of her work coming soon.

About The Contributor
A born and raised Memphian, Baylee Less recently returned to her roots after her four-year hiatus at the University of Maryland. A new contributor to ILoveMemphis and Memphis Travel, she is excited to share the reasons she’s always loved Memphis. She enjoys live music, Asian food, and being outdoors.Follow @bayleeless on Twitter for updates about being vegan in the land of barbecue.

Show Comments


  1. Kanch says:

    I think Live Tweeting and it would be cool if you can mention the locations where the filming is taking place at.

  2. Mark says:

    My suggestion would be for you to do a summary of each show the day before it airs. Maybe which scenes were recorded in what part of Memphis so we can be looking for it while watching. I noticed a lot of Beale street in the first episode but feel like I may have missed a lot trying to keep up with each new character they introduced and the story.

  3. Melissa says:

    So Excited about the new,show “Sun Records” I know he probably won’t be on there, but it would be so very awesome if my uncle Carl Mann (hit song Mona Lisa) had just a cameo , one minute ,glimpse on the show or at least his hit Single Mona Lisa played in the background…….how cool that would be. …………neice

  4. Jeffrey Boller says:

    This show is taking me back to my childhood. I arrived in Memphis as a wide eyed 6 year old in 1958 and moved to 81 S Mendenhal on the corner across from the Phillips family. I was certainly interested in them since Knox and Jerry had some really cool toys and a swimming pool. I got to know them some and will never forget going to the grand opening of Phillips Recording Studio with Becky. This was my first introduction to the music business which ended up being my life long passion. I was Ike & Tina’s stage manager and lighting director in the early 70’stages and did dozens of shows with BB over the years. Living in Memphis and meeting the Phillips family was one of the highlights of my life. I can never forget and feel like the luckiest guy in the world. This show is bringing back some of the best memories of my life . I am waiting to see if they filmed at the Mendenhall house.

  5. Daniel Bastardo Blanco says:

    This is so Cool! You should definitely do live tweet during the show.

  6. Beckii Lee says:

    Love the show! My husband was on set dressing. So I get told where everything is filmed. Also they used a lot of his music equipment. Saw Johnny Cash play his guitar!

    • Melissa says:

      That’s Awesome. How exciting! I wish i could find out if anyone knew if Carl Mann and all of the other Sun Records artists would be making any appearances at all in any future episodes down the road. Although he came along a little later to Sun Records, he has lots of great stories. I hope they will continue the show for many many many more seasons!

  7. Kelly (from the mitten) says:

    I absolutely loved visiting Memphis last July, other than the oppressive heat, but when we heard about this show we came home and yup binge watched it over 3 days lol.
    The only thing I can say is you forgot to mention the guitarist in Elvis back up band in the show. Memphis’ very own Will Tucker. We heard him at BB’s the first night we were in town and bought his CD before we left the following Wednesday. That young man is just amazing!! I can listen to him 24/7 and never get bored of him. That young man is just full of soul, I mean I feel him playing if that makes sense.
    Just my take. That young man is going places one day I promise that!!!

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