Randy Haspel was a 16-year-old kid whose band the Radiants played dances and frat parties in Memphis, TN when one day, a fan at a show offered to introduce the band to his father. The fan was Knox Phillips, and his father, Sam Phillips, happened to run Sun Records, the legendary independent label that gave the world Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and many other trailblazing acts. Randy & the Radiants recorded for Sun during the label's waning days in the mid-'60s, with Sam Phillips producing most of their sessions, and Memphis Beat, which collects two dozen of the band's Sun sides, documents a curious time and place where the influences of the British Invasion and the garage rock explosion were being felt at the house that rockabilly built. On record, Randy & the Radiants sounded significantly tighter and more professional than the average teenage band of the era, and they had an outstanding songwriter in guitarist Bob Simon, though Phillips occasionally prodded them to cover the likes of "Boppin' the Blues" and "Blue Suede Shoes," and they also tackled a few blues numbers and British Invasion hits. Haspel and his bandmates had a strong knack for harmonies, and there are moments on Memphis Beat where the Radiants sound like the lost middle ground between blue-eyed soul and the Hollies, but oddly enough Phillips' production, for which the band is best remembered today, doesn't often suit the band especially well, making them sound looser and less disciplined than they really were and sometimes making the group vocals sound mushy. Still, as a document of Memphis' Anglophile underground in its infancy, this is fascinating stuff, and the best tunes -- the local hits "My Way of Thinking" and "Truth from My Eyes" -- suggest they could have matured into one of the great bands of the garage era if college and the draft hadn't stalled their progress in 1966.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming