Pascagoula native J. Thomas Bailey has landed a key role in the new CMT series “Sun Records,” about the Memphis recording studio that helped launch Elvis Presley.
He will play Johnny Cash’s father in the drama about the birth of rock and roll in Memphis during the civil rights era. Sun Studio is where hillbilly country met rhythm and blues as rock and roll emerged, and stars such as Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and others spread their wings.
The series springs from the Tony Award-winning musical “The Million Dollar Quartet,” about an impromptu jam session involving Presley, Lewis, Cash and Carl Perkins in December 1956 at the studio.
Filmed in Memphis, where the legends walked, the series focuses on Sun Records and Sun Studio founder and producer Sam Phillips, played by Chad Michael Murray (“One Hill Tree”), according to Rolling Stone, and explores the sound created by artists Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Fats Domino and Ike Turner during times of social unrest.
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All eight episodes are directed by two-time Academy Award nominee Roland Joffe (“The Mission” and “The Killing Fields”) and Bailey is in two of them.
Bailey’s Ray Cash — Johnny’s stubborn blue-collar dad — will be in the season premiere at 9 p.m. Feb. 23.
“Sun Records” follows new episodes of the popular “Nashville” in the CMT lineup.
The cast includes Drake Milligan as Presley, Christian Lees as Lewis, Jonah Lees as Jimmy Swaggart and Kevin Fonteyne as Johnny Cash. It promises to be a romp through the lives of the young stars when Memphis was a hotbed for new music.
Bailey, born in Pascagoula in 1974, caught the acting bug in high school, when he lived in Virginia Beach. His mother, Helen Wilson, and sister Christy Maxwell now live in Gautier.
Wilson said her son has been living and working in Nashville for more than a decade, auditioning and landing small parts.
This is his biggest role to date.