W.C. Handy, the “father of the blues,” wrote the first commercially successful blues songs. Sleepy John Estes, BB King, Aretha Franklin and the creators of the blues sounds that later became soul music are all deeply embedded in Tennessee’s music history.
Jim Stewart and his sister Estelle Axton brought a mainstream sound to the blues when they launched Stax Records in the late 1950s and brought Sam and Dave, Isaac Hayes and other soul music greats to the world’s attention.
Not far away, Sam Phillips, a self-taught producer, had already started setting the music world on its ear at Sun Studio, where he and a group of talented young musicians named Elvis, Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins cooked up a blend of country, blues and gospel that became rock ‘n’ roll.
In more recent years, Tennessee has produced a lot of greats. You can’t think of Tennessee without thinking of the legendary Dolly Parton. The Academy Award winning Three 6 Mafia, as well as superstar Justin Timberlake and rapper Yo Gotti all hail from Memphis. Kings of Leon give a nod to their Tennessee roots in their documentary Talihina Sky.