FOLSOM — As a child spinning his parents 45s in their Stockton home, Chris Isaak was obsessed with the glory days of Memphis’ Sun Studio and the visionary artists who got their starts there — Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis — all of them discovered and nurtured by the late, great Sun Records founder Sam Phillips.
In his Harris Center debut on Dec. 3, performing in the intimacy of Stage One, Isaak will perform many of these great Sun Studio songs from his “Beyond the Sun” CD.
Isaak ruled the charts in the 80s and 90s with hits such as “Wicked Game,” “Baby Did a Bad, Bad Thing,” Somebody’s Crying” and “Forever Blue.” He has released 16 albums, been nominated twice for Grammy Awards, appeared in numerous films, including “Married to the Mob,” “The Informers” and “The Silence of the Lambs” and even starred in his own critically acclaimed TV series, “The Chris Isaak Show.”
Isaak grew up in the blue-collar town of Stockton as the son of a forklift operator. Borrowing his brother’s guitar, Isaak taught himself how to play and started writing songs as a teenager. He found early inspiration in country musicians such as Hank Williams, who his father liked to listen to on the radio.
Frequenting second-hand stores with his mother, Isaak continued his musical education by buying used records and discovering first-hand the power of early rock ‘n’ roll — especially Elvis Presley’s recordings for Sun Records. This life-changing experience helped to shape Isaak’s enduring sound.
Isaak attended college at the University of the Pacific in Stockton. Outside of his academic studies, he spent much of his time training at a boxing gym and fighting as a light heavyweight. Isaak later spent some time in Japan as an exchange student, and it was there that he first considered a career in music. Graduating in 1980 with a bachelor’s degree in English and communications, Isaak moved to San Francisco.
After more than a quarter of a century into his career, Chris Isaak has finally created the album he’s always wanted to make. “Beyond the Sun,” Isaak’s first Vanguard Records recent release is truly a labor of love.
“I did this because I love this music; that’s the entire reason,” Isaak explains. “You gotta listen to the original ones — they’re classics. These guys discovered this music for us and we had to rediscover it. There’s no way to do it exactly like they did it, so you’ve gotta give a little bit of your own take on it.”
The late Phillips once said, “I love to listen to Chris Isaak. He’s very talented and his music is so damned honest. It’s incredible.”
Isaak was joined on the record by his longtime band — bass player Rowland Salley and drummer Kenney Dale Johnson, who’ve been with him from the start, guitarist Hershel Yatovitz, pianist Scott Plunkett and percussionist Rafael Padilla.
Chris Isaak Live in Concert performs at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 3. Tickets are $49 to $69 with premium seats available for $79. Purchase them online at harriscenter.net or from Harris Center ticket office at (916) 608-6888 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and two hours before show time. Parking is included in the price of the ticket. Harris Center is located on the west side of Folsom Lake College campus in Folsom, facing East Bidwell Street.