Record Labels

Sun Records, Iconic Johnny Cash & Jerry Lee Lewis Recordings Sold to Primary Wave

Johnny Cash
Daily Herald/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images

Johnny Cash photographed at the Savoy Hotel in London on Sept. 17, 1959.

Primary Wave has bought the iconic Sun Records label, including its 6,000 song masters with such classic recordings as Carl Perkins “Blue Suede Shoes,” Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Great Balls of Fire,” Johnny Cash’s “I Walk The Line,” Roy Orbison’s “Ooby Dooby” and Billy Lee Riley’s “Red Hot” among them. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Sources say that the label does about $3.5 million to $4 million a year. According to The New York Times, Primary Wave paid about $30 million.

The deal also included the Sun Records trademark, which sources say is also a very profitable component, as well as the Sun Diner in Nashville and its merch business too. John Singleton -- brother of the late Shelby Singleton who purchased the Sun label back in 1969 from founder and industry legend Sam Phillips -- will stay on overseeing the Sun Records operation.

“We are extremely pleased to pass the Sun Records baton to Primary Wave and are confident that they will continue to reach new heights for the crown jewel of the music business created by Sam Phillips, which my brother, Shelby, and I have kept alive and relevant for the past 50 years” John Singleton, Sun Entertainment Corp. president, said in a statement.

Primary Wave will also provide additional resources to expand the Sun Records brand, which can now tap into the company’s marketing, branding, digital strategy and licensing and synch opportunities.

“Sun Records is the original home to some of the biggest legends in music,” said Larry Mestel, Primary Wave CEO & founder, in a statement. “Sam Phillips treated all of his artists with the utmost respect and provided a space of creativity [like] no other. His vision for Sun aligns perfectly with the creative ethos of Primary Wave, and I am overjoyed that this historic label is now a part of our family.”

Sun Records is currently distributed by the label itself through direct digital licensing deals and by licensing the masters to well-known established re-issue labels like Charly Records and Bear Family Records.