Founded by Sam Phillips in 1952, Sun Records was the first label to sign and record artists such as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison and Jerry Lee Lewis. “It's an incredible story,” says David Cosma, who plays guitar and sings in the ‘Sun Rising’ show.
“All these big names who not only started their careers their but also went on to have incredible careers and become household names, and they all started from that one, little studio.”
‘Sun Rising – The Songs That Made Memphis’ features David, along with Adam Coad on drums, Trent McKenzie on bass, Damon Smith on piano and guitar, and Adrian Whyte on guitar, with all of them performing vocal duties.
While a tribute to Elvis and the greats of rock & roll may conjure up cringeworthy images of overstuffed, sequined-lycra-clad impersonators, David assures us that’s not the case with ‘Sun Rising’. “The word ‘tribute’, people tend to think of dress-up, but we don't do that,” he says.
“It's more of an homage, and we pay respect to these guys by performing the songs as close to the original renditions as we can.
"We present them in a chronological order starting from when the studio opened in 1950, and we cover the first five or six years which was when all those big names came about. It was a very fertile period in music history, and in particular in Memphis and at Sun Records.
“One element that really ties the show together is the narration. There's a narrative that goes with the show and it gives people an insight into the stories of how Elvis came to the studio, and people walk away with a knowledge they didn’t have before they walked in.”
David is a self-confessed Elvis fanatic, despite the fact he was born long after The King and his Sun Records colleagues had made their indelible mark on rock & roll. “As a kid, obviously though I wasn't born in the era and it happened a long time before I came along, I just fell in love with Elvis,” David says.
“I grew up in the ‘80s still listening to records and tapes, and most households would at least have an Elvis or ‘best of’ Elvis record in their collection, and my house was no different. I just clued on to him, and I was also fanatical about The Beatles; it was that ‘50s/ ’60s music that really grabbed my attention.”
For their shows in Adelaide, David says audiences can expect a highly-polished and honest performance that he hopes will strike a three-note chord with the crowd. “From our perspective, we're telling a story and playing songs that have existed for 60-plus years,” he says.
“It’s not like we're doing anything that's cutting-edge, or new, or hasn't been done before, but I think when you present it in such a way where you're so passionate about it and take a lot of care in what you do, it bounces off people.”
‘Sun Rising – The Songs That Made Memphis’ is on at Adelaide Festival Centre 24, 25 (2.30pm & 7.30pm shows) February.