All the singer of the Altanta Rhythm Section, Rodney Justo, needs to describe the legacy of Sam Phillips are five names.
Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison. Oh, and one more. Elvis Presley.
Those five musicians all got their break into the music industry, from unknown to superstars, courtesy of Florence-native Sam Phillips. Now the Shoals honors the man who founded Sun Studios in Memphis with an event named after him.
“We always try to have a lineup that is reflective of what Sam Phillips did in his career,” said Jerry Phillips, who is coordinator of the concert, owner of Big River Broadcasting and the son of Sam Phillips.
“We wanted to have a relatively unknown group in the show like Second Creek, and we wanted to have a representative of rhythm and blues with Atlanta Rhythm Section and Mac McAnnally as the story teller, ultimate musician guy,” Jerry Phillips said. “And Wet Willie is going to be the blues.”
Sam Phillips was always open to record anyone, so that keeps the types of bands that the concert series can bring in very open, he added.
It’s hard to be in the music industry and not have a connection to Sam Phillips, making him sort of the Kevin Bacon of the recording industry.
“Two of (from the Atlanta Rhythm section) played with Roy Orbison, who recorded on Sun Records for Sam Phillips,” Justo said.
He added that the influence of the artists Sam Phillips signed is one of the most wide reaching influences in the music industry.
“Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison. They influnenced, God knows how many other people,” Justo said. “That’s the genesis.”
For the concert itself, Justo said attendees can expect to hear all the hits that Atlanta Rhythm Section has made through the years. He also said people shouldn’t take their age for a lack of energy in their music.
“This version of the band has the most energy of any of the versions,” Justo said.
Jimmy Hall, of Wet Willie, said he’s toured with the Atlanta Rhythm section before and is excited to be playing with them again in Florence.
“It’ll be a reunion of kindred souls,” Hall said.
Hall said he expects to play plenty of recognizable music from their albums. He also said Wet Willie has retained a lot of their energy as the band has aged.
“Most of the time when people see us they are very impressed,” Hall said. “They always say, ‘you guys are still killing it, you’re still giving it all the enthusiasm and energy you gave it when you were 25.’ We’re moving a little more slowly but still rocking hard.”
Second Creek, the opening act, is an up-and-coming band from the Shoals looking to make an impression during the concert.
“We have a lot of fun on stage,” said Benjamin Phillips, no relation to Sam or Jerry, and the singer in Second Creek.
Phillips said they like to get people out of their seats and play an up-tempo show.
“We’ll have a few slow songs, but that’s to just let everybody catch their breath,” Phillips said.
The Sam Phillips Music Celebration will be Saturday in downtown Florence on a stage outside the SunTrust Building, which is on the corner of Alabama and Court streets. Gates open at 5 p.m., and the first band, Second Creek, starts at 6 p.m.
Atlanta Rhythm Section plays at 7 p.m., followed by Mac McAnnally at 8:45 p.m. and Wet Willie at 10:15 p.m.
Bobby Bozeman can be reached at 256-740-5722 or bobby.bozeman@TimesDaily.com.