Sun Studios recording studio Memphis Tenn

One of the best things to do in Memphis, Tennessee is to take the tour of Sun Studio. This legendary recording studio introduced rock and roll to the world and launched the careers of many stars. Sun Studio discovered Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and so many more. While my visit was hosted by Memphis Travel and Sun Studio, opinions are my own. And my opinion is that everyone should tour Sun Studio in Memphis.

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Top things to do in Memphis, Tennessee: Sun Studio Tour

Sun Studio Memphis Tennessee interior lobby

One of my top things to do in Memphis, Tenn., is to tour Sun Studio. The birthplace of rock and roll provides a look inside where many musical legends got their start. Along with Elvis, the Man in Black, and Jerry Lee Lewis, many other stars launched their careers or recorded at this studio.

And Sun Studio is still making its mark in music history. A museum of rock legends and stories by day, Sun Studio still serves as a recording studio for artists at night.

While small, the intimate Sun Studio museum packs in a lot of great music history. A tour guide provides behind-the-scenes stories and transports you back to the 1950s where music legends like Johnny Cash, B.B. King, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Ray Orbison, and more made history. In fact, you can stand in the very same spot where Elvis Presley recorded.

That’s not the only cool fun fact I’ve learned. Come take a virtual tour of Sun Studio – one of the best things to do in Memphis.

What you need to know before you go: Sun Studio in Memphis

Roy Orbison chair at Sun Studio

Here are a few things to know as you plan your visit to Sun Studio in Memphis.

When is Sun Studio in Memphis open? What are their hours?

Sun Studio in Memphis is open for tours every day: Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. and Friday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6:15 p.m. Tours take place on the bottom of each hour. Please check their holiday hours during Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s.

How do I order tickets for Sun Studio online? Can I buy tickets in person?

Sun Studio in Memphis Tennessee Exterior

Please note that tickets are only sold in person the day of the tour, which are once an hour at the bottom of the hour (e.g., 10:30 a.m.). And because of its size, tours are limited to 25 guests. So I highly recommend arriving at Sun Studio early to get your tickets. You can always purchase and then come back. Although I spent quite a bit of time in the gift shop area. You can also find some seating inside and outside (although limited).

Also note that children only five and older are allowed to take the Sun Studio tour.

While my ticket was complimentary courtesy of Memphis Travel and Sun Studio, my opinion is always my own. And my opinion is that you must visit Sun Studio.

How long is the Sun Studio tour? How much time should I allow to visit Sun Studio in Memphis?

The guided tour portion of the Sun Studio is 40 to 50 minutes. They recommend allowing at least 90 minutes during your visit.

How many people can go on a Sun Studio tour? Are face masks required?

Sun Studio in Memphis tour

Tours at Sun Studio are limited to 25 guests. As of this original publishing date, face masks are required to tour Sun Studio. See their website for the latest health and safety protocols.

Elvis social distancing sign at Sun Studio

What’s the address of Sun Studio? Where is Sun Studio located? Is parking available at Sun Studio?

Sam Phillips Avenue sign at Sun Studio Memphis Tennessee

Sun Studio is located at 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tenn. – at the corner of Union and Marshall. You can find free parking behind the building.

Does Sun Studio have restrooms?

Yes, Sun Studio offers restrooms for visitors.

Is there a restaurant at Sun Studio?

Sun Studio Memphis Tennessee Counter

You may order beverages in the Sun Studio lobby/gift shop; however, no beverages are allowed during your tour.

Does Sun Studio have a gift shop? Can I purchase Sun Studio souvenirs online?

Sun Studio gift shop in Memphis, Tenn.

Yes, you can find the gift shop right as you enter Sun Studio. You may also order Sun Studio souvenirs online – anything from clothing to accessories to music.

Is the Sun Studio tour ADA-accessible?

While the lobby, gift shop/record store, and second half of the Sun Studio tour is ADA-accessible, the first half of the tour is not. That’s because of this flight of stairs. Sun Studio does not charge if you are unable to take the full tour due to accessibility.

Take a virtual tour of Sun Studio – one of the best things to do in Memphis, Tenn.

I learned quite a few things about Sun Studio’s history and why it is famous. Here are a few of my favorite fun facts about the birthplace of rock and roll. And what you can expect during your tour of Sun Studio.

Why is Sun Studio called the birthplace of rock and roll?

Microphone Sun Studios Memphis Tennessee

For one, that’s where record producer Sam Phillips discovered music legends such as Elvis Presley, BB King, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and more. During your tour, you’ll get to listen to several recordings. And stand in the very same place where Elvis recorded at Sun Studio.

Fun fact: Elvis recorded at least 24 songs at Sun Studio in Memphis between 1953 and 1955.

Broken records at Sun Studio Museum Memphis Tenn

During your tour, you’ll be able to listen to several recording outtakes before songs became record-breaking hits. And why is this record physically broken? Apparently, due to the hijinks of the unpredictable and popular DJ Daddy-O Dewey Phillips.

Famed broadcasting studio of popular DJ Daddy-O Dewey Phillips part of Sun Studio exhibit

Control Room C WHBQ Radio Station in Memphis Sun Studio

You’ll find the original and restored Control Room C where DJ Daddy-O Dewey Phillips broadcast his radio show at Hotel Chisca on your tour at Sun Studio. Phillips (unrelated to Sam Phillips) was the first DJ to broadcast Elvis Presley’s first record, “That’s All Right” and “Blue Moon of Kentucky.” And he didn’t just play it once that night. Phillips played it more than a dozen times after receiving nearly 50 phone calls and 14 telegrams. He then called Elvis in for a live on-air interview.

Sun Studios recording studio Memphis Tenn

Graceland tour of Elvis Presley's home ind Memphis, Tennessee Sun Records
Pictured is Elvis’ first recorded hit, which is on display at one of the exhibits at Graceland – the home of Elvis Presley.

Fun fact about Johnny Cash at Sun Studio

Sun Studio Memphis Tennessee guitar with dollar bill

Fun fact: Johnny Cash used a dollar bill/paper under his strings to replicate the sound of a snare drum while recording his first #1 hit at Sun Studio, “I Walk the Line.” Apparently, they didn’t have access to a snare drum while recording.

Sun Studio Memphis Tennessee guitar with dollar bill

While Sun Studio is small, you’ll find it jam-packed with lots of rock and roll memorabilia.

Sun Studio Lobby Memphis Studio
Check out the 45s in the lobby/gift shop area before your tour begins. Fun fact: Why are 45s called 45s? Because these vinyl single records spun at 45 revolutions per minute.
Sun Studio recording studio in Memphis Tenn

Million Dollar Quartet fun fact

Million Dollar Quartet, drum set and piano at Sun Studio

Are you familiar with that iconic photo of Elvis Presley surrounded by Jerry Lee Lewis (unknown outside of Memphis at the time), Carl Perkins (Blue Suede Shoes fame) and Johnny Cash? Apparently, this jam session was unplanned. In fact, Elvis was contracted with a different recording studio at the time (Dec. 4, 1956). And all four musicians just happened to drop by Sun Studio that day. Sam Phillips recorded the impromptu session as a souvenir.

According to the Sun Studio website, “The following day, an article, written by Memphis newspaperman Bob Johnson about the session, was published in the Memphis Press-Scimitar under the title, ‘Million Dollar Quartet.’”

BB King fun fact

Memphis Recording Service sign at Sun Studio

BB King’s real name was Riley King. He earned the nickname BB as it stood for Blues Boy or Beale Street Boy. Many of his recordings were made at Memphis Recording Service. He found success on Amateur Night at Club Paradise on Beale Street. Later he worked at Memphis radio station WDIA – the first radio station in America to feature all Black programming.

Joe Hill Lewis exhibit at Sun Studio in Memphis

Joe Hill Louis, aka The Be-Bop-Boy and his One Man Band, also worked at WDIA radio and later became a session musician at Sun Studio.

Johnny Cash wasn’t the only one with music ties to prisons

The Prisonaires at Sun Studio

Sun Studio founder, Sam Phillips, worked with the Tennessee State Penitentiary to record “Just Walking in the Rain” by The Prisonaires quartet. They became a favorite musical group of Governor Frank G. Clement, who eventually pardoned them.

And many more exhibits featuring iconic memorabilia

Howlin' Wolf exhibit Sun Studio

Fun fact: Rocket 88 by Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats is considered the first rock and roll record by most music historians. This number one hit in 1951 prompted Sam Phillips to quit his day job, according to Sun Studio.

Recommend Sun Studio to my family and friends

Sun City Studio in Memphis

Both my husband and son are huge audiophiles and music-loving historians. I know they would love touring Sun Studio in Memphis, Tenn. The entire time I was wishing they were on the tour with me. Next time! And there will be a next time as there are so many more cool things to do in Memphis, Tenn. See more of my favorite recommendations in my related posts.

Pin it for later: Best things to do in Memphis – Sun Studio tour

Visit Sun Studio Top Thing to do in Memphis

Sun Studios recording studio Memphis Tenn


Twin Cities-based blogger sharing memorable emptynester, solo, family and girlfriend-getaway adventures, as well as my day hiking adventures (including all 66 Minnesota state parks), latest book reviews, and updates on my quest for the best adult mac and cheese. Also two WIPs: historical fiction and psychological thriller


  1. Sun studio looks like a pretty cool place to visit! My Hubby would absolutely love to go there! Its been added to the list!

    1. Awesome! The Sun Studio tour in Memphis is pretty cool! Definitely one of the top things to do and plan to return with my husband.

  2. Love the passion you put in this article! You can clearly see the love for the rock ‘n roll! I expecially liked the fun facts about Johnny Cash and the bill on the guitar! Great job!

  3. Wow this looks like a must visit for music lovers! I love the fact about the snare drum replication with Johnny Cash. Definitely adding this destination to my list.

    1. Thank you! I thought that was a cool fun fact about Johnny Cash. I learned so much about rock and roll history at Sun Studio in Memphis.

    1. I’m so happy to hear that! I loved Memphis and touring Sun Studio – the birthplace of rock and roll – was one of my favorite experiences.

  4. We looked into visiting Sun Studios on our last visit to Memphis. We didn’t have time. Thanks for sharing. Sun Studios in on our “Must See” list for our next trip to Memphis.

    1. Thank you and my pleasure! There are so many cool things to do in Memphis like the Sun Studio tour. So hard yo fit everything in.

  5. This looks like a fun, nostalgic tour. I love how they have preserved so many rooms and objects! Thanks for sharing. I will definitely be saving this for future reference.

    1. Thank you and my pleasure! I love how the birthplace of rock and roll preserved all this music history. Loved taking the Sun Studio tour in Memphis.

  6. Memphis has been on my bucket list for a while and Sun Studio is definitely one of the top places I’d like to see there!

  7. The birth place of rock and roll! It’s always seemed like such a cool stop to me. Thanks for making it so easy to plan my trip the next time I’m in the area! 🙂

    1. Thank you and my pleasure! I highly recommend taking the Sun Studio tour when you get the opportunity to visit Memphis. It is one of the top things to do!

  8. I’ve been to Nashville but never Memphis. Sounds like there is a strong music history there too! Must have been cool to stand in the studio where so many legends recorded!

    1. I’ve been to Nashville also. This was my first trip to Memphis and loved all the cool music history especially Sun Studio – the birthplace of rock and roll. Loved learning about all the musical legends.

    1. Thanks! I thought that Elvis sign was pretty clever also. I know my husband would love the Sun Studio tour also. It was one of my favorite things to do in Memphis.

  9. Memphis looks fun, but the Sun Studios tour looks incredible! I love seeing all those instruments and photos – it must have felt like you were wandering around musical history!

    1. Memphis was such a fun city to explore! And the Sun Studio was one of the best things to do. I loved learning about all the rock and roll history.

  10. The Sun Studio tour in Memphis looks like such an incredible experience! My brother is a sound engineer and this would be right up his street! Thanks for the great guide!

    1. Thank you and my pleasure! I loved taking the Sun Studio tour – one of the best things to do in Memphis. Your brother would absolutely love this tour.

    1. Awesome! I hope you enjoy Memphis and Sun Studio as much as I did. Definitely one of the top things to do especially if you are a music lover.

  11. Visiting Sun Studio sounds like so much fun. I’ve never been to Memphis, but when I do finally visit this is definitely on my list! What a fun way to learn about music + musical history!

  12. Wow this looks awesome! Was it a long tour? Sometimes I can’t handle tours when I just want to go off and read stuff myself

    1. Sun Studio is a small museum with lots of rock and roll memorabilia. The guided tour in Memphis takes about 40 to 50 minutes and they recommend allowing at least 90 minutes when you visit.

  13. I loved reading your article it sounds like a great experience. I hope I can visit Sun Studio too when I book a trip to Memphis.

  14. Love all the detail in this post. Whenever I’m looking for things to see when traveling, I really prefer to learn as much as possible about the attraction to help me decide if it’s worth my time. Your post does that for me. I will definitely go to Sun Studio in Memphis. Big BB King fan here 🙂

  15. Interesting historical museum of Memphis famous singers. Elvis took the rock n roll genre from an African-American gospel singer, Rosetta Tharpe. His peers of the era – Johnny Cash, Chuck Berry etc – were also influenced by her. Very interesting hidden history that is not widely known by those outside the music world.

    1. I really enjoyed touring Sun Studio and several other museums in Memphis to learn more about musical history. I read that Sister Rosetta Tharpe was one of his influencers. The Godmother of Rock and Roll was so amazingly talented. They pay tribute to her at the Blues Hall of Fame Museum and Stax Museum of American Soul Music also so will definitely highlight her in those posts (coming up soon in my Memphis series). And I want to read more about her fascinating history.

  16. I hope to visit Memphis one day and Sun Studios will be on the top of my list. I grew up with rock n roll music so it would be amazing to see where its birthplace.

    1. I hope you get the opportunity to visit Memphis and Sun Studio. I absolutely loved this tour to learn more about the birthplace and evolution of rock and roll.

  17. We visited Sun Studio on our trip to Memphis years ago and I remember it as a highlight of the trip. Actually, the whole trip was awesome! What a fun city to visit.

    1. I thought that was very clever and fun fact about the dollar bill also. It would have been so cool to see and hear the Million Dollar Quartet jam session at Sun Studio. Such a fun tour to learn about rock and roll history.

  18. Guess I’m heading back to Memphis! Such history here and I love it. When we visited Memphis, we were on a tight schedule and only had time to visit Graceland, but this looks every bit as interesting.

    1. I highly recommend returning to Memphis to take the Sun Studio tour. I would love to take it again with my husband. I learned so much!

  19. Wowww super complete guide! It defenitely make you dream about visiting this fantastic place. On top of it all the awesome things to discover in Memphis!
    Thanks for sharing this amazing article!

    1. I found the dollar bill story intriguing – just one of the fun facts I learned about during my tour of Sun Studio. Highly recommend as a top thing to do in Memphis.

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