The Million Dollar Quartet (December 4th, 1956)

Million Dollar Quartet
Million Dollar Quartet

“I think I’d be remiss not to record this”

-Jack Clement, an engineer at Sun Studios

On December 4th, 1956 history was made. On a routine visit to Sun Studios, Elvis runs into Carl Perkins (another singer of Blue Suede Shows) who happened to be recording a session with Jerry Lee Lewis on the piano. Johnny Cash just happened to be in the studio too. He was hoping to hear Carl Perkins’s recording session. Elvis was in the control room with Sam Phillips listening to a playback of Carl Perkin’s session and was impressed. Since they were all around, Elvis went into the studio with them. Johnny Cash made his way into the studio as well. The four artists got together for a legendary recording session. The engineer, Jack Clement, turned on the tape and began recording the blues and gospel recording.

Down By The Riverside – Million Dollar Quartet

The recording shows Elvis as the focal point because he was the most known of the four at the time. During the session, Sam Phillips contacted a local newspaper The Memphis Press-Scimitar. The call prompted reporters to visit the studio and take pictures of the session. An article was written and the title of Million Dollar Quartet was titled to the group of four. The iconic photo was of the four them but cropped to exclude Elvis’s at the time girlfriend, Marilyn Evans.

“No one wanted to follow Jerry Lee, not even Elvis”

-Johnny Cash

They play together for several hours and the result is dozens of songs. Elvis was the first to leave after hours of playing saying that no one could play after Jerry Lee.

The Million Dollar Quartet – Just A Little Talk With Jesus

The tapes to this session remained in Sam Phillips vault for so many years. Shelby Singleton bought Sun Records in 1969 and after searching through Sun’s catalog was this session discovered. There was a bootleg recording but was not released until 1977. There are legal issues surrounding this recording, for many reasons, but once those are resolved, an authorized version is released by RCA. In 2006, a 50th-anniversary album was released which had an additional twelve minutes of material that was previously unavailable. The session was completely unexpected and not rehearsed, but the talent of the four performers was absolutely incredible. This is the most famous recording session in musical history.

The jam session has inspired the production of Million Dollar Quartet, a musical which brings the audience into the studio to witness the four major artists that came from Sun Studios and created a new genre of music. The musical was written by Floyd Mutrux and Colin Escott which opened for a limited time on September 27th, 2008, but did not open until April 11th, 2011.

Until we meet again, 

TCB and TCE,


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