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|MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET 60 YEARS ON
December 02, 2016 - Elvis Express Radio
December 04, 2016 will mark the 60th Anniversary of the legendary jam session that took place at 706 Union Avenue, December 04, 1956, better known as SUN Studio, and in
1981, a portion of the jam session was first issued in Europe on the "Charly/Sun" LP SUN1006, and would be given the title, "The Million Dollar Quartet". That first LP contained 17
tracks, focusing on gospel/spiritual music from the session.
From Wikipedia - The jam session seems to have happened by pure chance. Perkins, who by this time had already met success with "Blue Suede Shoes", had come into the
studios that day, accompanied by his brothers Clayton and Jay and by drummer W.S. Holland, their aim being to record some new material, including a revamped version of an
old blues song, "Matchbox". Sam Phillips, the owner of Sun Records, who wanted to try to fatten this sparse rockabilly instrumentation, had brought in his latest acquisition, Jerry
Lee Lewis, still unknown outside Memphis, to play piano (at the time, a Wurlitzer Spinet) on the Perkins session. Lewis's first Sun single would be released a few days later.
Sometime in the early afternoon, 21-year-old Elvis Presley, a former Sun artist now with RCA Victor, arrived to pay a casual visit accompanied by a girlfriend, Marilyn Evans.
After chatting with Phillips in the control room, Presley listened to the playback of Perkins’ session, which he pronounced to be good. Then he went into the studio and some time
later, the jam session began. At some point during the session, Sun artist Johnny Cash, who had recently enjoyed a few hit records on the country charts, arrived as well. (Cash
wrote in his autobiography Cash that he had been first to arrive at the Sun Studio that day, wanting to listen in on the Perkins recording session.) Jack Clement was engineering
that day and remembers saying to himself "I think I'd be remiss not to record this," and so he did. After running through a number of songs, Elvis and girlfriend Evans slipped out as
Jerry Lee pounded away on the piano. Cash wrote in Cash that "no one wanted to follow Jerry Lee, not even Elvis." Whatever Elvis' feelings may or may not have been in regard to
"following" Lewis, Presley was clearly the "star" of the impromptu jam session, which consisted largely of snippets of gospel songs that the four artists had all grown up singing. The
recordings show Elvis, the most nationally and internationally famous of the four at the time, to be the focal point of what was a casual, spur-of-the-moment gathering of four artists
who would each go on to contribute greatly to the seismic shift in popular music in the late 1950s.
During the session, Phillips called a local newspaper, the Memphis Press-Scimitar. Bob Johnson, the newspaper’s entertainment editor, came over to the studios with UPI
representative Leo Soroca and a photographer. Johnson wrote an article about the session, which appeared the following day in the Press-Scimitar under the headline "Million
Dollar Quartet". The article contained the now-famous photograph of Presley seated at the piano surrounded by Lewis, Perkins and Cash (the uncropped version of the photo also
includes Evans, shown seated atop the piano...See below).