Sun Records sells its storied early rock ’n’ roll music catalog

There is a whole lotta shakeup at venerable Sun Records.

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The assets of the music label, which released its first record in 1952 out of Memphis, Tennessee, were sold to Primary Wave Music, an independent music company in New York, according to The New York Times.

The price of the overall deal was not revealed but is estimated at about $30 million, the newspaper reported.

The deal includes every recording made by Sun, with the exception of Elvis Presley’s catalog, which is owned by Sony, the Times reported.

Included in the sale are catalogs of Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and the Dixie Cups.

That means Primary Wave now owns rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll classics such as Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” and “I Walk the Line,” Lewis’ “Great Balls of Fire” and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” Carl Perkins’ “Blue Suede Shoes” and the Dixie Cups’ “Chapel of Love.”

“Sun is as iconic a record label as there is,” Larry Mestel, the founder of Primary Wave, told the Times. “Its legacy needs to be nurtured.”

The label was founded by Sam Phillips in February 1952, according to the Sun Records website. He sold the company to music entrepreneur Shelby Singleton in 1969, the Times reported. Singleton formed the Sun Entertainment Corporation and moved the company to Nashville.

The purchase by Primary Wave continues the company’s aggressive purchase of music catalogs. The company’s portfolio includes songs by Smokey Robinson, Burt Bacharach, Stevie Nicks and Bob Marley, the Times reported. The company also owns half of Whitney Houston’s estate.

Singleton, 80, told the Times that he decided to sell because “we don’t have a succession in the family after I’m no longer around.”

“It’s one of those bubbles that might eventually burst,” Singleton told the newspaper. “So we thought, well, let’s get in before that happens.”

Singleton will continue with Sun as a consultant.

Primary Wave’s deal also includes the rights to Sun Diner, a comfort-food restaurant that opened in downtown Nashville in 2016.

“I can envision a Sun Diner in every major city in America,” Mestel told the Times.

But the deal primarily is about the music.

“Historically great music does not really go out of vogue,” Mestel said.

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