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Rock and Roll Saturday – The Million Dollar Quartet

May 7, 2011

The Date: Tuesday, December 4, 1956

The Place: Sun Records, Memphis, TN.

The Event: An unlikely gathering of legends

Sam Phillips, founder and owner/producer of Sun Records in Memphis has been referred to as the “Father of Rock N Roll.” I don’t know about all that. He was just a guy at the right place, at the right time, with a vision and a handful of talent at his disposal. He certainly provided an environment of rock creativity. Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison and Jerry Lee Lewis all started their careers in that little studio..

Sun Records was only four years old when December fourth of ’56 rolled around. Carl Perkins was in the studio with a young, newly discovered but unknown outside of Memphis, Jerry Lee Lewis banging the ivories. Early in the afternoon, Elvis Presley, already the biggest music star in the business dropped in to visit producer,Sam Phillips. Sometime later, Johnny Cash strolled through the door to complete the quartet of future superstars. Not quite understanding the historical significance of the session, but never one to miss a marketing opportunity, Phillips invited some of his press friends over to hear the impromptu jam. This iconic photo tells the story.

From Left to Right: Jerry L Lewis, Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley (seated), Johnny Cash

These four giants went on to redefine a whole generation of music and influenced countless others including the Beatles, Eric Clapton, and nearly everybody else who ever strummed a guitar or tickled the keys of a piano. You can even make the argument that this was the first supergroup.

You can find the complete session on CD at Amazon.com.

And then there is the Million Dollar Quartet, the Broadway production.

There are certain moments in Rock and Roll history that unfold as pivotal events in music. Artists through the years have left an indelible mark for those that follow in their footsteps and the Million Dollar Quartet defined a rockabilly generation that day with a mix of rock, gospel and country songs.

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