A perfect little snapshot of rock n’ roll’s budding poster-children, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis caught each other in Memphis, Tennessee’s Sun Studios on a whim on this day in 1956, the Memphis Press-Scimitar cleverly dubbing the gathering the next day, the “Million Dollar Quartet.”
Perkins was there to cut a session originally, with the owner of Sun, Sam Phillips, giving new signee Lewis a ring to fill out piano instrumentation, while Cash was in to dig on Perkins’ chops.
In came superstar Elvis just to shoot the shit with his old boss – he had just jumped ship to RCA – and on rolled the tape of the lax magic of the four just being themselves, going in and out of gospel and country numbers they all knew by heart, speckled with renditions of rock cuts they were all ‘check-this-out’ about.
There are many great moments like so, particularly Elvis wide-eying the gang with his southern drawl, “Did you ever hear old Hank Snow do a song called “I’m Gonna Bid My Blues Goodbye,” swaggering into the first verse about worries and sadness, asking, “Remember that?” But nothing beats Jerry Lee Lewis tearing into his own “End of the Road,” per Elvis’ girl’s off-mic request, ultimately scaring both she and Elvis away, Lee howlin’ its perfect post-war freedoms:
Oh the way is dark the night is long
I don’t care if I never get home
I’m waitin’, uh huh
At the and of the road