Million Dollar Quartet – From the Director

Welcome to the kick-off production of the Clarence Brown Theatre’s. 49th Season!

This happened. On December 4, 1956 Carl Perkins and his band were starting a recording session at Sun Studios in Memphis owned by Sam Phillips, one of the most influential producers of Rock n’ Roll. He brought in a hot-shot piano player, Jerry Lee Lewis, for the session. Johnny Cash dropped by talk to Phillips, then Elvis and his girlfriend, who were visiting the Presley family for Christmas, stopped by say hello. The musicians began an impromptu jam session and musical history was created when Phillips flipped the recording switch.

Million Dollar Quartet isn’t just a juke-box review. It is the story of Sam Phillips making decisions about saving the studio when his stars were signing contracts with other producers. This is an insider’s story about the business, their relationships, their strengths and vulnerabilities. It is a story which illustrates the chemistry between four musicians and the man who gave each of them their big break.

No doubt you will enjoy the music as you see familiar characters come to life, however you will not see impersonators but a cast of great musicians recreating the time, the music, and one day in American musical history. They are spirited, passionate and filled with youthful optimistic energy as they fight and find individual successes at the beginning of their careers.

Elvis, 21, originally from Mississippi, is already a big star but unhappy with the direction RCA Records (the label to whom cash-poor Phillips sold Presley’s contract) is pushing him toward – Hollywood stardom. The brilliant bass-singer Johnny Cash, 24, from Arkansas, tells Phillips that he’s leaving Sun Studio for a bigger label. Genius Carl Perkins, 24, from Jackson Tennessee, bitter that Elvis covered Perkins’ “Blue Suede Shoes” on Ed Sullivan’s show, struggles to find another chart-topper, backed by his brother Jay, and drummer Fluke. Jerry Lee Lewis, 21, the ‘killer’ from Louisiana, slightly star-struck, never tires of telling the other guys how great he is. Phillips, from Alabama, is proud of the musical genre he’s helped birth but is pulled by the moralists who are against all the shaking going on and the larger corporations invading his territory.

They all deeply respected gospel, country, rhythm & blues and the black musical roots which came before them. They were all born poor southern country boys, each suffering personal losses before they ever recorded. But this isn’t a history lesson. What is inspirational is that they all became innovators of a new musical style. After this night in ‘56, they never all played together again, but you now have the opportunity to experience them in their early years and over sixty-years later the influence on generations that followed.

Celebrate them tonight and have a great time!!!

Kate Buckley