December 4, 1956: Million Dollar Quartet Convenes in Memphis
The modest storefront recording studio at 760 Union Avenue in Memphis, Tennessee, played an outsize role in rock-and-roll history. And One of the most famous, an impromptu jam session by four young rock-and-roll giants that took place – a session enshrined in rock-and-roll legend as the “Million Dollar Quartet.”
The studio at 760 Union was run by Sam Phillips the legendary producer who’s Sun Records had launched Elvis Presley on his path toward stardom two years earlier with the release of his first single, “It’s Alright Mama” (1954).
Among those stars was Carl Perkins, the rockabilly legend who was in the studio on December 4, 1956, to record a follow-up to his smash hit from earlier that year: “Blue Suede Shoes.”
Hanging out in the booth was Perkins’ good friend Johnny Cash, already a star in his own right after his breakthrough hits, “Folsom Prison Blues” (1955) and “I Walk The Line” (1956).
Playing piano for a $15 session fee was the brash, wild, but not-yet-famous Jerry Lee Lewis, who’s career-making Sun single “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” was set for release just a few weeks later.
Four songs into Perkins’ session, all work came to an end with the arrival of an unexpected drop-in guest …Elvis Presley!
While recording engineer Jack Clement ran a tape that would not be discovered for more than 20 years, Sam Phillips had the presence of mind to summon a photographer from the local paper to capture images of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins gathered around a piano singing the kind of music they’d all grown up on, gospel.
I Shall Not Be Moved - The video begins with a snippet interview of Sam Phillips and his photos with Elvis before the jam session.
The caption under the photo that ran in the next day’s Memphis Press-Scimitar was “Million Dollar Quartet.” The label quickly caught on among rock-and-roll fans who would not actually get the chance to hear the recording made on this day in 1956 until 1981, when the first portions of the lost tapes were discovered and released.
Million Dollar Quartet Full Album