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This article contains information that could be considered too revealing according to our spoiler policy. Proceed with caution. You can't unsee it!

Reason The show doesn't premiere until the day after this post's publication; we got screeners.

Kevin Lynch / CMT

Should You Take A Spin With Sun Records?

Or will this look at the history of rock n' roll hit your ear kind of funny?

What is this thing?

Sun Records is an eight-part hour-long drama on CMT -- yes, that's right, Country Music Television -- telling the history of Memphis's legendary Sun Records, the upstart label that launched the careers of, and was the scene of a historic impromptu jam session between, some guys...I forget their names. Oh, that's right, it was Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, and...ELVIS.

When is it on?

Thursdays at 10 PM ET on CMT, starting February 23.

Why was it made now?

CMT, hot off its successful decision to pick up Nashville when it needed a new home, must have figured it was time to get all the way in the game.

Mark Levine / CMT

Mark Levine / CMT

What's It's Pedigree?

The series is loosely based on the musical Million Dollar Quartet, said quartet being those founders of country rock listed above. It's been sixty years since the boys competed for Mr. Phillips's Cadillac, but of course, interest in their exploits and adoration of their songs never wanes. It's executive produced by Leslie Greif (Married By Mom & Dad) and Gil Grant (NCIS, Army Wives).

Mark Levine / CMT

Mark Levine / CMT


Despite being asked to fill some absolutely enormous shoes, there are several in Sun Records who manage to charm.
It takes guts to play Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash, truly larger-than-life figures whose lives became larger than they could handle. It was particularly nice to see Kevin Fonteyne and Anna Grace Stewart as Cash and his first wife (and mother of Roseanne Cash) Vivian Liberto. That relationship has been historically overshadowed by Cash's marriage to June Carter, but their early romance is a story that deserves to be told.

I was all set to turn up my nose at Drake Milligan, as Sun Records's most beloved son, Elvis, but he also captures at least enough of The King's spirit to get past me, possibly aided by the presence of Billy Gardell in a great turn as Colonel Tom Parker. And, though they swerve maniacally into and out of cartoonism, Christian and Jonah Lees, identical twins as cousins Jerry Lee Lewis and Jimmy Swaggart, were, I will admit, pretty delightful. The Killer, in fact, is the last of the million dollar quartet still living (possibly on evil, alone) and even graces the show with a few voiceovers.


I mean, Chad Michael Murray as Sam Phillips? Naw, son. I'll give him this: he tries. He looks good. In fact, everybody looks great. And Murray's got that squinty-eyed, shit-kicking hustler vibe working pretty well, all hunched over on the prowl, but he ain't from around here. Neither are some of these other jokers, but Murray's accent, while a brave attempt, wouldn't fool a deaf man. Bless his heart.

Phillips was a savvy, shrewd guy. His contributions to the music industry really cannot be measured, and certainly not in eight episodes when the biggest names in rock-and-roll history are meandering through their own stories. The actual story of the so-called million dollar quartet sounds like a tale as tall as tales get: these guys showed up at the studio one day for an impromptu jam session and basically reinvented music? It happened, and it's fascinating, but maybe y'all won't be fascinated by it for eight episodes, most of which bounce around in the back stories of the four legends in question with appearances by other players with equally major stories. Guys like Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Eddie Arnold, Ike Turner...a lot was happening in Memphis.


This was kind of a big move on the part of CMT and, though it has significant pacing problems, I intend to see Sun Records through. If you're a music nerd, you're sort of obliged to tough it out until they finally get to that fateful jam session. Anyway, the music (where you can get it) and costumes alone make it worth the watch, as does, even in a watered-down fictional form (swoon) that Presley boy!

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