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The ‘Million Dollar Quartet’ Was a Spontaneous Meeting of Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash AP Photo
AP Photo

The Million Dollar Quartet is the name of a spontaneous jam session between some of the music industry’s most famous names. These names included Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and rockabilly singer-songwriter, Carl Perkins.

Sun Records Studio

The jam sesh took place on December 4, 1956, in Memphis, Tennessee at the Sun Record Studios and is considered a peak moment in rock and roll music. The story goes that the meeting started with Carl Perkins, singer of “Blue Suede Shoes”, went to the studio to do a little work with his brothers. The owner of Sun Records, Sam Phillips brought in Jerry Lee Lewis to the session to play the keys on a Wurlitzer piano. His first single was set to release on Sun Records in a matter of days.

Shortly during the session, a young, former Sun Records artist, recently signed to RCA Victor dropped by the studio for a quick visit. This artist was 21-year-old Elvis Presley. Johnny Cash came to the session after that by happenstance and wanted to join the session. The impromptu jam session quickly turned into an unforgettable night of recording sessions as the four heavy hitters ran through old Gospel songs and Country hit songs.

Million Dollar Quartet, the Musical

With such a momentous moment happening in rock’n’roll history Sam Phillips called the MemphisPress. A photographer snapped some photos and wrote a piece on the true story of how history was made by the Million Dollar Quartet in the Sun Studios on that legendary December night.

The Million-Dollar Quartet was subsequently the name of the recording session when it was sold in stores as a gospel recording in the eighties. There are 47 tracks that are mostly incomplete, lo-fi and feature dispersed chatter throughout. In 2007 a smash-hit musical named after the quartet was released. It broke box office records and opened at the GoodmanTheatre in Chicago, the Nederland Theatre, and opened Off-Broadway. It was nominated for multiple Tony Awards including Best Musical and Best Book of a Musical. Levi Kreis won the Tony Ward for the Best Featured Actor in a Musical.

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