WHEN Bill Culp performs in Newcastle on Friday, a certain demographic in the audience will already know his voice.
The Canadian musician, who sings songs like Memphis Connection and Merry Christmas (Wherever You Are) as a solo act, is appearing as part of the Sun Records All-Stars, a tribute to the record company that spurred the careers of iconic artists like Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison.
Culp sings the songs of Perkins, famed for iconic song Blue Suede Shoes, as he tells Weekender from Niagara Falls.
But his job with the most exposure has been narrating documentaries and movies including The Avengers and Iron Man 2 for people who are visually impaired.
"If you've ever seen any Godzilla movies where there's Japanese and then they have these English voices, I've done that kind of stuff, and I also do what's called describe to video, which is something that's done for people who are visually impaired," Culp says.
"You describe the action. I've done that for major movies like The Avengers and a whole bunch of big titles . . . it keeps me busy."
When Culp answers the phone, it takes a minute for the interview to get going - he strums a guitar as he's introduced by an operator. Then he seemingly puts the instrument down, ready to answer questions, until he's betrayed by stray notes that occasionally leak down the line while he's speaking.
It's clear Culp is well acquainted with show business.
He grew up hearing stories from his mother of the time Jerry Lee Lewis played a show at her high school, and Culp had his first paying gig when he was seven years old - when he won $15 singing Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head in a contest.
He was drawn to portraying Perkins in The Sun Records All-Stars because it captures such an interesting and crucial part of music history - and allows him to travel around the world as he performs.
"It's a celebration of a really unique musical era in American musical history," Culp says.
"It was really a period of time when music started to blend together to create something new: you had a crossroads that sort of happened in Memphis of rhythm and blues music, which was traditionally played by coloured folks, and hillbilly music, played by a bunch of poor white kids.
"Those two styles came together in a musical fusion . . . that led to a new style that nobody knew what to call at first. We would call it rockabilly today, I think, and that became a predecessor to rock'n'roll.
The Sun Records label, which became a birthplace of sorts for rock'n'roll, Culp says, focused on passion in music as opposed to technical prowess. This brought together a diverse listening audience including people of different races, astounding at a time in the US where racial segregation was still routine.
"Sam Phillips, the owner of Sun Records, was a real musical visionary," Culp says.
"He couldn't tell you a quarter note from an eighth note from a sixteenth note, but he knew feel, he knew passion, he knew integrity in music - so he discovered artists like Johnny Cash, like Elvis Presley, young guys who even today are unique."
Culp says playing Perkins, whom he considers one of the unheralded stars of the bunch, is an honour.
"Carl wrote songs that were covered by Elvis Presley, by the Beatles, by Johnny Cash, by Patsy Cline, by some of the biggest names in music history. So his success was far beyond Blue Suede Shoes."
At the end of the phone call, Culp gives a taste of what the crowd can expect at Wests: he makes up a song on the spot and asks for help with lyrics. We're in for a supremely entertaining show.
The Sun Records All-Stars play Wests New Lambton on December 5.
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