A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Sun Records is a docudrama about the real-life record label that recorded some of music's greatest legends. It reveals some of the attitudes and behaviors typical in the South during the 1950s and 60s, including racism. There is some strong language (including the N-word), gun fire, drinking, drunken behavior, smoking, and drug use. Sexuality includes an underage sexual relationship (by today's standards) and infidelity is also addressed. Lots of early rock and roll music is featured and performed, which should be fun for music-loving families. Mature teens should be able to handle it, but it's not meant for younger audiences.
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What's the story?
Loosely based on the Broadway musical Million Dollar Quartet, and inspired by actual events, SUN RECORDS is a dramatic series about the recording studio that gave birth to rock and roll, and the historic jam session that took place there. It’s 1952, and Sam Phillips (Chad Michael Murray) has opened a recording studio with the help of assistant Marion Keisker (Margaret Anne Florence) in Memphis, Tennessee. As they work at finding acts to record, young talented men like Elvis Presley (Drake Milligan), Johnny Cash (Kevin Fonteyne), and Jerry Lee Lewis (Christian Lees) are living their individual lives and developing their own sound -- until an unplanned jam session with musician Carl Perkins (Dustin Ingram) helps catapult them to stardom.
Is it any good?
This period drama is more entertaining than authentic, offering a stylized version of the historic events that led to the rise of rock music. It's organized as a series of vignettes telling the life stories of Sam Phillips, as well as Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Johnny Cash, while pointing to key moments and events that helped them evolve into music legends. It also showcases other figures in their professional lives, including Ike Turner (played by Kerry Holiday), Elvis’ hustling manager Colonel Tom Parker (Billy Gardell), and radio disc jockey Dewey Phillips (Keir O’Donnell).
There’s a lot of attention paid to recreating the overall look and feel of the era, which includes culturally integrated racism. It also consistently points to the influence of gospel and other African-American inspired-music on the genre. However, those looking for accuracy in the timeline will disagree with the creative license taken during the storytelling process. It also drags its feet when it comes to revealing how the trio comes together, and their actual launch towards stardom. No doubt that fans of early rock and roll will enjoy the overall viewing experience, but Sun Records needs a bit of fine tuning.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about rock and roll in Sun Records. Where does it come from and how has it evolved over the years? How did folks like Elvis become so famous, even though their music was unique for its time? Was it the controversies that surrounded the music and the people who performed it that mad so popular?
How did the racism of the 1950s and 60s influence early rock and roll? Do cultural and political issues of the time always influence music?
Sun Records offers an interpretation of what transpired during the years leading up to musical artists' successful careers. Should it be complete factual? If it isn't, should it be considered a work of fiction?