Elvis Express Radio News
November 01,  2017   -  The Daily Telegraph  /   Elvis Express Radio
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If you’re a fan of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, B.B. King, Roy Orbison or Howlin’ Wolf, you probably know they all recorded at the legendary Sun Studio in Memphis, Tennessee,
founded in 1950 by visionary producer Sam Phillips and considered the birthplace of rock’n’roll.

What you might not know is the name of Phillips’ right-hand woman, Marion Keisker, who was the first person to record Presley when he came into the studio, ran the business with
a steady hand, and went on to manage the first all-female radio station, WHER, in 1955. To top it off, she joined the air force and became a captain.

Actor Victoria Beck, who lives in North Bondi, plays the remarkable Keisker in Sons of Sun, an inventive stage show that tells the Sun Studio story interwoven with live songs, on at
the Opera House this weekend.

Phillips and Keisker met at a Memphis radio station in 1947 before branching out on their own.

“I feel like she was very much the backbone of the recording studio,” said Beck. “She played a massive role and doesn’t get the credit.”

One of her favourite Keisker stories is when Elvis met her again in 1960.

“I don’t know whether to kiss you or salute you,” he said.

“In that order,” she replied.

“She had a great sense of humour, which you would have had to have around all those men,” Beck said.

Sons of Sun was originally the idea of singer-songwriter-guitarist John Kennedy, frontman for ’80s inner west band John Kennedy’s Love Gone Wrong, known for their track Miracle
in Marrickville. Kennedy, who lives in Erskineville, had recorded two CDs of Sun Records songs and wanted to play them live. He asked Melbourne playwright Kieran Carroll to
create a play about Sam Phillips that he would provide the soundtrack to.

“I realised while working on it that a lot of Melbourne independent music I listened to as a teenager was steeped in blues and country, and at that age you often don’t know the
source,” Carroll said. “Sons of Sun became like an enormous school-age project that I finally did all the work for with mature-age craft.”

The show premiered at Newtown’s Sandringham Hotel in 2012, and has played many venues since, from Marrickville’s Camelot Lounge to The Spotted Mallard in Melbourne. This is
its third time at the Sydney Opera House.

Matt Charleston, who has played Sam Phillips from the start, calls it a rock’n’roll play, as opposed to a musical, tribute show or concert.

“It was always a big experiment for us from the get go,” he said. “Fortunately even in our first shows, audiences embraced the format with gusto.”

Ben Maclaine is the third cast member, playing nine roles including Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis. The band is Kennedy on vocals and rhythm guitar, with former Wiggle
Murray Cook on lead guitar and Paul Scott on bass.

For Beck, sharing the stage with three musicians makes her job easier.

“It’s like being entertained while I’m on stage, I find the music relaxes me,” she said. “That’s exactly how it would have been in the recording studio. Their job was to listen to the
music and enjoy and develop it.”

She also loves the reaction from audiences.

“It’s great at the smaller venues when people get up and dance,” Beck said. Some also respond when certain artists or events at the studio are mentioned.

“People nod and go, ‘Oh yeah!’ They’re diehard fans and know all the facts,” Beck said. “But we’ve done our research, we’re solid.”

Sons of Sun, November 3 and 4, 8pm, Opera House,

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