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Interview: Getting to talk with 'Million Dollar Quartet' = Priceless

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The Million Dollar Quartet; no, it's not another boy band - well, at least not exactly. How about a Man Band of such huge proportions that a musical has been made to tell the story? A story of happenstance, serendipity, fortuitousness... fate? It happened on a winter's day in 1956, in Memphis, Tennessee, at a little recording studio which had been repurposed from a little roadside auto shop, and was founded by Mr. Sam Phillips.This unintentionally spectacular Tuesday night began one December about three weeks before Christmas when four legends; Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and the king himself, Elvis Presley just happened to all gather at Sun Records studio.

All four of the men had begun their musical careers with Sun and of course, by this time Elvis Presley was a worldwide phenomenon - and had moved on to RCA records, after recording the song "Blue Suede Shoes", a song Carl Perkins wrote and had planned on recording himself, when on the way to perform on TV in NYC, he and his band were injured in an auto accident, leaving Phillips to pass the song on to Elvis, a record that sold 1 million copies, making the country, pop and rhythm and blues stations, not to mention history. With that hit went Perkins' dream of matching Presley's success.

Anyhow, on this night, the studio was recording Perkins' single, "Matchbox" when the now famous Presley returned to the tiny studio to check out Perkins' new tune and hang out with his friends. Jerry Lee Lewis was at this time still an unknown, having just released his record, "Crazy Arms" and was making a little extra change playing backup on Perkins' new song. Soon three guys became four when Phillips called Johnny Cash's house to invite him to join the little impromptu reunion.

Soon, word had leaked out about this unplanned jam session and a newspaper man, who came by to check it out, wrote, "This quartet could sell a million." And there it was. The one and only session of the "Million Dollar Quartet." What would you give to have been there? I know, right?

Now, here is where it gets interesting - though the four never got together again in this capacity, a fantastical story was born, some people calling it an urban legend, believing this could never have happened in real life. But it did happen indeed - and it's happening again, in the form of a musical with what I'm going to call the "best-matched cast ever to star in a musical production." There it is, I said it.

So, after seeing this incredible musical on Tuesday night, I was most definitely more than a bit star-struck when I was so very honored to get to speak to these incredible four actors/musicians/entertainers at the new Johnny Cash Museum on Second Ave. right here in downtown Nashville. I also got to take several photos. Just keep scrolling for my interview and the pics. And please, please see this show at TPAC, it's playing through the 11th, and really should have been booked for a month here in Music City.

I mean, really ... go see it this weekend. Just as a hint to how good this production is, imagine hearing all these songs played by this impromptu quartet that night: "Blue Suede Shoes," "Fever," "That's All Right," "Sixteen Tons," "Great Balls of Fire," "Walk the Line," "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On," "Who Do You Love?," "Matchbox," "Folsom Prison Blues," "Hound Dog" and more. Then imagine hearing all their talk; disagreements, bitterness, fame, success, plans, even a bit of gossip and fear of failure - and know that this show is the next best thing to having witness this night in musical history yourself.

Million Dollar Quartet at TPAC
Million Dollar Quartet at TPAC Linda Talbott Brewer

Million Dollar Quartet at TPAC

When we first got to the new Johnny Cash Museum right there a couple doors down from Schermerhorn Symphony Center, the four actors were happily checking out the new museum. When we all gathered in a little spot in the back, ABC News was the first to interview them while we got to listen in. 

Million Dollar Quartet Until May 11
Million Dollar Quartet Until May 11 Linda Talbott Brewer

Million Dollar Quartet Until May 11

Here are all the guys, posing for me. I know you can easily recognize the one on the far right, that's Cody Ray Slaughter who plays Elvis, of course. And I'm going to tell you right now that he slays that part. He is so true to the character, it's like you have crawled through a time tunnel right into Elvis' time.

From Elvis' right;  John Countryman, starring as Jerry Lee Lewis and who plays piano JUST Like Lewis, Scott Moreau, who portrays and vocally sounds almost identical to Johnny Cash and James Berry, playing Carl Perkins, someone you may not know now, but will know pretty darn well after the show. 

Scott Moreau, playing Johnny Cash
Scott Moreau, playing Johnny Cash Linda Talbott Brewer

Scott Moreau, playing Johnny Cash

Scott Moreau (Johnny Cash): "I sought out the show because I've been such a huge Johnny Cash fan for so long, I've actually come to Nashville for the last three years before a tour just to kind of pay my respects."

James Berry, playing Carl Perkins
James Berry, playing Carl Perkins Linda Talbott Brewer

James Berry, playing Carl Perkins

James Berry (Carl Perkins): About playing the only one of the original group still living: "Yea, NO PRESSURE at all - for me, it's just easy breezy," he says jokingly, then looks straight into the camera to say, "Dear Nashville, a lot of other places in the country don't know who Carl Perkins is. It's really nice to be here."

John Countryman, playing Jerry Lee Lewis
John Countryman, playing Jerry Lee Lewis Linda Talbott Brewer

John Countryman, playing Jerry Lee Lewis

John Countryman (Jerry Lee Lewis): "I've been playing (piano) for about 10 years and I've been listening to Jerry from the beginning. I've done some theatre and things like that but I was playing in bands; that's how I got my foot in the door (to play Lewis), (it was) a somebody knew somebody kind of thing." 

Cody Ray Slaughter, playing Elvis Presley
Cody Ray Slaughter, playing Elvis Presley Linda Talbott Brewer

Cody Ray Slaughter, playing Elvis Presley

Cody Ray Slaughter (Elvis Presley): "You know, I'm from Arkansas... my father was a big fan of Elvis, he had cassette tapes and I remember every day listening to those, Johnny Cash, Carl, Jerry Lee and other old school music, it's just something that's in my blood." 

 

Elvis Presley live statue
Elvis Presley live statue Linda Talbott Brewer

Elvis Presley live statue

Cody is a cutie, full of fun, very reminiscent of Elvis. He was joking that he tells people something different every time they ask about his Elvis look, like it's all plastic surgery.

Having been part of other shows representing Elvis, he says he was in a good spot to get the part, "It's great. I'm blessed," he said.

In this picture, he's a real look-a-like to one of the Elvis statues scattered around downtown Nashville. 

One more look at Elvis look-a-like
One more look at Elvis look-a-like Linda Talbott Brewer

One more look at Elvis look-a-like

Okay, I know you are as fascinated with this young man's appearance as I am. So here's another look. He's a gorgeous man in his own right, then that Elvis grin he has down pat pops up, he crosses his legs, and you can't help but feel like one of those teenagers screaming at a glimpse of the King back in the day.

TPAC presents Million Dollar Quarter, a musical
TPAC presents Million Dollar Quarter, a musical Linda Talbott Brewer

TPAC presents Million Dollar Quarter, a musical

"The show has such strong Tennessee ties. There's only one city with stronger ties to it. To do what we do and honor these four guys, in a town where their memories are still so alive... it's just, its a blessing, it's such a pleasure." 

"Something in the air here is just so invigorating. We are just so happy to be here."  

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