There they were, right there on stage at Tennessee Performing Arts Center (TPAC) – The infamous Million Dollar Quartet – Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis, working on their craft under the direction and tutelage of one Sam Phillips, creator of the recording label Sun Records, the Father of Rock 'n Roll himself. The four greats, plus Elvis' girl-of-the-day, incredible torch singer Dyanne, were right there in front of us, in a reunion to beat all reunions, as the four Rock 'n Roll wonders talked, joked and argued, rock, rattled and rolled, recreating the one day in history that the Million Dollar Quartet was alive and well – and all together, a moment in time that we will never be blessed with again, a moment in time we never want to forget.
No, it wasn't Elvis, Johnny and Perkins back from the dead to visit Country Music USA again, and Jerry Lee Lewis wasn't actually pounding those 88 ivory keys right there on stage, but if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it must be a really good facsimile thereof. So there they were, Cody Ray Slaughter (Elvis), Scott Moreau (Johnny), James Berry (Carl) and John Countryman (Jerry Lee) blasting at us from the acoustically brilliant Andrew Jackson Hall at the Performing Arts Center, and they were most definitely walking – and quacking, like ducks.
What I was viewing was The Million Dollar Quartet, a Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, performing for one week only at TPAC, May 7-11. The whole experience, experience - because it's so much more than a show, feels like you are witnessing a recording studio in action or at least a reality show of the same (great idea for TV), as four unbelievably talented actors/singers/musicians and one incredible singer named Kelly Lamont, actually play and perform all the music and songs that make up the story of the night Sam Phillips, the “Father of Rock 'n Roll” hosted The Million Dollar Quartet in his repurposed auto shop that housed Sun Records in Memphis, TN. circa 1956.
That was the year serendipity stepped in to bring four now-legendary performers into one little recording studio on the same day and time for an unplanned, impromptu jam session like none other before, none since, and most likely none ever to come.
The studio belonged to one Sam Phillips, one of the few in the music business who didn't believe for a minute that Rock 'n Roll was simply a passing fad. This man's insight launched the careers of all four of these soon-to-be legendary musicians. On the day reenacted in the production, Mr. Elvis Presley was no sorrier than Sam Phillips that he had moved on to another recording label, while Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash, currently with Sun were planning to move on - to Columbia Records, all while Jerry Lee Lewis, a young, smart-mouthed start-up with big dreams and massively big talent, was begging to sign up under the Sun Records label. The past, present and future of Sun Records all in house, together, at one time.
Though the four musical geniuses weren't all moving in the same direction as far as labels were concerned, they were all unknowingly, though hopeful to be, headed for legendary status in the music industry, just as the genre itself was headed forward at warp speed, in spite of being labeled a “fad” by so many in the business. As time has passed, the fad never did and the world of Rock 'n Roll has always remembered the day the Million Dollar Quartet were of one mind, one soul and one sound, all four men on their individual journeys to make history in the world of Rock 'n Roll, Country Music and music in general.
The production takes you, heart and soul, into the time, minds and music of the day, giving you insight into what happens when four greats and one visionary get together for one magical moment. If you love Rock 'n Roll, if you love Country Music, if you love Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, music history or if you just simply love a good time – get your tickets before they are gone. The Million Dollar Quartet is only here through the 11th, so don't wait. For information and tickets for this and other theatre events, visit tpac.org.
Also, look for my next article (hit the subscribe button at mid-left under writer's profile photo) when this writer talks to the men who play The Million Dollar Quartet , along with a bunch of fabulous photos.