Daily Archives: March 21, 2012

Million Dollar Quartet!

Gary:  “On March 15, 2012, while in Texas, we traveled North to Dallas, 166 miles, to an extremely attractive and nice theatre to see Million Dollar Quartet.  This presentation will be in Toronto July 10 through 29th, so if you can, see it, great show. 

The show is based lightly on a historical fact, that on December 4, 1956, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash all where at 706 Union Avenue, in Memphis Tennessee.  That of course is the home of Sun Records and Sam Phillips was there too.

Million Dollar Quartet  Million Dollar Quartet - Jerry, Carl, Johnny, Elvis

MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET - The new musical based on the night Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Elvis Presley got together at Memphis’ Sun Records for a legendary jam session. Pictured the Original Broadway Cast (L to R): Levi Kreis (on microphone) as ‘Jerry Lee Lewis,’ Robert Britton Lyons (standing on top of bass) as ‘Carl Perkins,’ Corey Kaiser playing bass, Eddie Clendening (kneeling) as ‘Elvis Presley,’ and Lance Guest (standing) as ‘Johnny Cash.’ © 2010, Joan Marcus.

It had been a great year for little Sun Records, but they had huge financial and distribution problems, which led to the Sale of Elvis on November 15, 1955 for an estimated $40,000, which in 1955 was a huge amount. 

It was stated that they could fix the World Series for less than that, but it was agreed upon and completed.  It has been a controversy for over 50 years, but the fact was that Sun would not have been able to operate without that infusion of cash and Carl, Jerry Lee, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison and others may not have existed in the same way.

Let’s start by talking about the creator of Sun Records, Sam Phillips. 

Sam Phillips

Sam Phillips (January 5, 1923 – July 30, 2003)

Now Sam was far from my favourite person, because in later years, he became a little strange.  I will concede that he was an excellent Audio Engineer and had the ability to recognize and nurture talent. 

Sam knew in the early fifties that if he could get the black music to white audiences, he would be successful and of course eventually he found Elvis “Aron” Presley and the rest is Rock and Roll History.

It is a known fact that on that night in 1956, RCA was trying to get Sam Phillips to come to New York and work with Elvis; too bad, he could have helped, but it never happened. 

So to sum up, Rock and Roll would have existed without Sam, but in a different way.  In my opinion, that little, poorly distributed label in Memphis played a huge part in the History of Rock and Roll. 

Most of the big labels, like Columbia, Mitch Miller, bought Rock and Roll Artists, because they did not understand or like the new music.  I really disliked Mitch Miller, but he was a huge force and he thought Rock and Roll would last 12 to 24 months. 

Well, Mitch missed by about 40 years.  The music that I know as Rock and Roll lasted until the late Eighties, then the Roll was lost from the Rock.  We still have Rock Music, but the melodic Roll has gone, but 40 years, not a bad run. 

None of the large labels saw the market; only Sun, Chess, Specialty, Atlantic and labels like that saw the future.  Labels like RCA, Columbia, Decca all bought their way in, but did not have a clue what it was all about.

Personal Note:  I enjoyed the Sun Elvis, so much more that the RCA Elvis.  It was all about Sam Phillips and the Music. Baby Let’s Play House is still one my favourites, and really is what the raw energy and excitement of Rock and Roll was all about.


Elvis doing his thing

Elvis “Aron” Presley (January 8, 1935 – August 16, 1977) 

Music recorded by Elvis on Sun

That’s All Right  / July 1954

Blue Moon of Kentucky

Blue Moon / August 1954

Good Rockin’ Tonight / September 1954

Baby Let’s Play House / February 1955

I Got a Woman / February 1955 (tapes lost)

I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone / March 1955

I Forgot to Remember to Forget / July 1955

Mystery Train / July 1955


Carl Perkins would move to Columbia at the end of his contract in 1958, but his best music was recorded on Sun.  So Sam would lose another Big Artist. 

When Blue Suede Shoes was huge, Carl was signed to do the Perry Como Show in New York, while on his way there his driver fell asleep and there was a horrible crash.  The driver, Tom Phillips died, Carl was close, but his career really took off again, sad.

Carl Perkins Carl Perkins signing autogaphs


1956 / Blue Suede Shoes




1957 / Matchbox



1957 / True Love


Recorded by Carl on Sun:

Blue Suede Shoes / December 1955

Honey Don’t / (has been stated to be recorded in December 1955, but it was actually recorded in November of 55)

Boppin’ the Blues / May 1956

All Mama’s Children / May 1956

Dixie Fried / August 1956

I’m Sorry, I’m not Sorry / August 1956

Matchbox (My choice for the best Rockabilly Song recorded) / January 1957

Your True Love / January 1957

Carl went to Columbia Records in 1958, but his best work (my opinion) was done at Sun with Sam Phillips.  I read an article that stated that he never remembered not drinking during the Sun Sessions, remember he was the son of a Cotton Picker.  Most of the recordings where made with his brothers.


Johnny R Cash

John R. (Johnny) Cash (February 26, 1932 – September 12 2003)  “The Man in Black”

Even though Sam Phillips gave him his start when no one else would, it was just the music business and John moved to Columbia in 1958, one more gone.



1956 / Get Rhythm



1956 / I walk the Line



1968 / Johnny Cash & Carl Perkins / Folsom Prison Blues http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qoR9X6rTOcQ&feature=related

Sun Recordings by Johnny Cash:

(John joined Columbia in 1958, but Sun kept releasing till 1964)

June 1955 / Cry, Cry, Cry

December 1955 / Folsom Prison Blues

May 1956 / I walk the Line

August 1957 / Home of the Blues

December 1957 / Ballad of a Teenage Queen / B side Big River

May 1958 / I guess things happen that way


The Last member of the Million Dollar Quartet and the only one still alive today and the wildest of all of the artist’s Jerry Lee Lewis (the Killer).  He was the future for Sam along with another Texan named Roy Orbison.

Jerry Lee Lewis "The Killer" Jerry Lee Lewis into the moment


1957 / The Steve Allen show (the man who never liked and made fun of Rock and Roll) Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On



1957 / Great Balls of Fire



High School Confidential


Sun Recordings by Jerry Lee:

1956 / Crazy Arms

1957 / Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On

1957 / Great Balls of Fire

1957 / You Win Again

1958 / Breathless

1958 / Down the Line

1958 / High School Confidential

1958 / Lewis Boogie


That is my look at the Million Dollar Quartet,  while I am enjoying the people, weather and golf in  Texas.

Million Dollar Quartet [HD] – The Late Show with David Letterman

Million Dollar Quartet - with autographs

I hope that if it comes to your area you will get to see it, you will not be disappointed.   I also highly recommend the Show “Memphis” based lightly on the career of Dewey Phillips, who took the black music from Beale Street and introduced it to “White” audiences.  It has a great story, fantastic choreography and great original music.

See you in April