Music Monday: The Million Dollar Quartet
On Dec. 4, 1956, a gathering of music greats took place in a 20′ x 30′ room at 706 Union Street, Memphis, Tennessee. That is the address of the legendary Sun Studios. Fifty-nine years ago today, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis Presley had a jam session that engineer Jack Clement was wise enough to record. Because Elvis was under contract to RCA, releasing any of the material would have voided his contract. Sam Phillips, owner of Sun, promised not to release the material … and it was not released until long after Elvis’ death.
Carl and Jerry Lee were there for a recording session; Carl was recording “Matchbox,” and Jerry Lee, whose first record (“Crazy Arms”) was released three days previously, was there as a side man to earn a little extra money. Elvis had stopped by to drop off some Christmas presents, and Johnny Cash came by to get an advance on his royalties to buy Christmas presents for his wife and daughter. Sam Phillips shrewdly rang up a friend who worked across the street for the Memphis Press-Scimitar newspaper, and he came over to take some photos of the momentous occasion. Johnny left not too long after that, but the other three guys jammed for quite a while.
In honor of this momentous occasion, I’ll be using my Blogmas posts for the next five days to share seasonal material from the members of the Million Dollar Quartet. This jam session is the main event in It Happened in Memphis, so it’s likewise a tie-in to my current work-in-progress.
Please enjoy this recording of 23-year-old Carl Perkins and 21-year-old Jerry Lee Lewis, with drummer “Fluke” Holland, noodling around with “Jingle Bells” 59 years ago today. Jerry Lee is playing the very piano you see in the photo above.