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Rock & Roll Pioneer Sam Phillips Dies

Record producer Sam Phillips, the man credited with discovering Elvis Presley and creating rock and roll, is dead at the age of 80.

A family spokesman says Phillips died late Wednesday in a Memphis, Tennessee Hospital after suffering from a respiratory illness.

Phillips is not only credited with launching the career of Elvis Presley in the 1950's, but also the careers of Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis.

Phillips founded Sun Records in Memphis in 1952. He and his recording studio are credited with forging a sound that combined the more ethnic sounds of Rhythm and Blues with traditional Country music of the time. It featured a pronounced beat and more active rhythm that became known as Rock-a-billy and later, rock and roll.

Elvis Presley came to his studio about a year after it opened and was signed to a contract. Presley recorded his first record - That's All Right Mama in 1954. Two years later, Phillips sold Presley's contract to another studio for $35,000.

A native of Alabama, Phillips was a member of both the Country and Rock and Roll Halls of Fame.