December 4th 1956 was a wonderful occasion for rock and roll. Wonderful because it was a night that was to see four large music talents, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash all sharing a microphone, jamming in a studio and leaving behind unbeknownst to them a live recording of it for posterity.
This is the basis for the show ‘One Night in Memphis,’ presented by the Central Lakes Community Performing Arts Center’s Cultural Arts Series. The show plays for one night only on October 19 at 7:30 p.m. in the Tornstrom Auditorium.
Created and directed by John Mueller, “One Night in Memphis” is the number one and official tribute to legendary Sun Records recording artists Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley performed live and starring former cast members of the Broadway smash, “Million Dollar Quartet.” The show features over 90 minutes of rockabilly, country, gospel and pure 1950’s rock and roll music. The San Francisco Examiner raves, “An Amazing Show!” It has an ever growing list of sold out shows and a great social media presence and fan base.
The actual event on which the show is based began innocently enough with a simple recording session booked by Carl Perkins at Sam Phillip’s Sun Studios. He brought with him his brothers Clayton and Jay. Buck Perkins, Carl’s father was also there and in the booth watching. A twenty one year old Jerry Lee Lewis was booked by Phillips to play piano on Carl’s session. Jerry was not a star as of yet but sure acted like one, cocky and confident.
There was horsing around in the studio while everyone took a break. Johnny Cash dropped in at some point during this and then a little later Elvis Presley arrived to the studio with a Las Vegas dancer he’d met by the name of Marilyn Evans. Elvis was with RCA records by this time and no longer a Sun Records recording artist and he was already signed to shoot his very first Hollywood movie. Elvis sat at the piano for a bit and this was to be the very first time Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis had ever met.
The jam session that ensued include gospel, country, and of course rock and roll, all mixed together, and reflected the camaraderie and the common background of gospel music they all had. Sam Phillips was wise enough to know he might not never get all these guys in the studio at the same time so he called the local paper and a reporter by the name of Robert Johnson came by with a photographer. The next day Johnson referred to everyone in the article as “The Million Dollar Quartet.”
The recording stands as a monument to four American legends in their prime and as a living testament to how talented they all were. Imagine four of today’s current top 40 artists getting together without having met before and jamming out songs. Would they even know any other songs other than their own and would they all be able to play an instrument? Hard to say but this group of guys were truly at the right place at the right time.
Tickets for ‘One Night in Memphis’ are available from the CLC Theatre Box Office at (218) 855-8199 or online at www.clcmn.edu/arts
The show is sponsored by A Woman’s Choice, and by LaVonne Danzl and Family. The entire CLC Performing Arts Center season is made possible in part by an operating grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.