WLAY – They were Dee Jays – Then they became music legends – Sam Phillips & Quin Ivey

By  | March 20, 2023 | Filed under: News

MUSCLE SHOALS – In this edition, Kevin Self of WLAY FM 100.1, continues his narrative of the radio station’s history and the impact it has had over our community for nearly 90 years. Last time, he told us about how two of our most recognized Broadcasters of The Shoals, Dick Biddle and jack Voorhhies, got their start at WLAY AM 1450. This week’s article will feature two more people, Sam Phillips and Quin Ivey. These two men helped shape Broadcasting and then catapulted themselves from area radio disk jockeys to world-renowned music producers. The Muscle Shoals music scene is rich in its history for famous recording artists who have traveled here since the 1950’s to record their music. They came from all over the world to get knee-deep in the waters of the Singing River and to record and produce some of the most enduring hit records in the world.

Sam Phillips

Yes, most of these recording legends traveled here to create their magic. And some moved away to pursue their careers. One of the most notable to leave and set up shop in another city was Sam Phillips, the founder of Sun Records and the man who discovered Elvis Presley.

What many people do not know, however, is that Sam Phillips got his start at WLAY AM 1450. And yes, Phillips worked at the station at the same time as Jack Voorhies and Dick Biddle.

Kevin Self, continued his narrative on the history of WLAY with his story about Sam Phillips. “Yeah, so we’re in the same time frame. Out of the same era as Dick Biddle, and Jack Voorhies, Sam Phillips was an announcer here at this radio station. And as a launching pad, I don’t think you could have launched anybody much bigger than Sam Phillips. Sam Phillips had dreams beyond what people thought in this town of what could what could be,“ Kevin explained. “And what music was and what music would be popular and those sorts of things. And I think he had those notions, but I don’t think he was able to live it out here and to and to get totally immersed in what was going on musically in his head until he got to Memphis.”

We asked him, ‘Why start at a radio station?’

“You know, when when you look at what early radio was all about, it was a lot of live performances and the gear that you would have used in a recording studio and the gear that you had at the radio station would have been very, very similar at that time. Not a lot of differences. So I think that Sam was inspire., I imagine probably told himself, ‘I can do this. I’m going to do this. I’m going to have my own recording studio one of these days,’ Kevin said.

So Sam Phillips moved to Memphis, discovered Elvis and Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis and others. And, as it is often said, the rest is history. But Phillips, who was born in Florence, never lost his love for the Shoals, and years later returned here to Broadcasting when he bought an AM-FM radio station in Florence, and founded his own very successful radio station group, Big River Broadcasting.

Kevin finished up, “And it’s it it just shows the impact that this radio station WLAY  had in this market and even nationally and internationally in the music world, we didn’t know it at the time, but it ended up turning out that way. That’s kind of nice and kind of cool to think that some of these people that ended up doing so much in their career actually got their start right here.”

Kevin Self – Singing river Media Group, L.L.C.

Kevin then pivoted over to Quin Ivey, “Quin Ivey graduated from University High School in Oxford, Mississippi, and enrolled at Ole Miss. And during his freshman year at Ole Miss, he worked for a radio station in town called WSUH.

And at that time in 1957, my daddy was working as a sales manager at WSUH. And so they worked together there and became friends there. Quin moved away from Oxford, Mississippi, and ended up in Memphis for a little bit and then went to Nashville to a radio station there and worked a morning show.

In the meantime, my father moved away from Oxford and ended up moving to Muscle Shoals, Alabama to work here on-air and in management at WLAY.





Quin Ivey at Pronto Quinvy Studio

So that that friendship that that Quin had with my daddy starting in Oxford, Mississippi, carried over to Muscle Shoals, Alabama, when my dad contacted Quin to ask him if he would be interested in working here. And obviously he did come to work here and was very popular. He had a really great radio voice, and was a very popular disc jockey.

And that popularity, the time, the era, the music era and the lack of record stores all came together at the same time. At that time, the late fifties and early sixties. Rock and roll, as people called it then, was basically just the contemporary music of the time and was extremely popular. Of course, radio was the number one source of entertainment anybody had. And if you were a radio disc jockey, you were pretty much royalty.”

So Quin, who was really insightful, realizing that this new 45 rpm record craze was growing by leaps and bounds, saw the logic in opening a record shop where radio listeners could purchase the discs for themselves. Thus was born, “Quin Ivey’s Tune Town”.

There was a change in the way people bought music, Kevin said, “So if you went to to to an appliance store to buy your your console stereo, well, that’s where you bought the 78 that you would play on it. There were no standalone record stores. Records were sold at the place where you bought your stereos. And the music that was available on 78 RPM records was very limited in the kinds of music that you could buy. I guarantee you you wouldn’t find an Elvis record on a 78 RPM. But when 45s became the standard, record sales just skyrocketed. It exploded. You could get two songs on each record, you know,and they weren’t expensive.

They weren’t too expensive to make and they weren’t expensive to buy. And you put it together at that particular time and it was easy and convenient for kids to go get the music at a record store, which had been previously not an option. Quin, I think, was just forward looking. And so he opened up Tune Town in Sheffield and it was extremely popular and that kind of catapulted him into the music recording business.

But Quin wanted more. He wanted to be in the recording industry, and so he opened Norala Studio which later was called Quinvy Pronto Studios in Sheffield, and that’s where he produced and recorded probably the the biggest song to ever come out of Muscle Shoals.

Quin Ivey and Percy Sledge with John Paul White and Eddie Floyd

And that was “When A Man Loves a Woman” by Percy Sledge. And there’s no argument in that is the biggest song to ever come out of here. Maybe one of the biggest songs of the 20th century, and is still a huge, huge song today. Still royalties being paid out left and right on that song. You still hear that song on TV, sometimes in commercials or in movies.

It’s it’s just one of those songs that’ll never lose its popularity. And so he was in the recording business for about five years maybe. And in 1972, I think he felt like that the recording industry or the kind of music that he was recording was not going to be enough for him. And he went back to school and went back to get a degree in accounting, which he got at Florence State University, now The University of North Alabama. He sold his studio, and left the music business.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

TD Wash P&K Western Wear Hooey Tire Giant Coldwater Inn Team Defender Andy Brown Visionary Aquatic Designs Dynamic Staffing