Million Dollar Quartet is here from 22-27 May, and it’s set to take audiences back to December 4, 1956, the night that four rock’n’roll legends met in the recording studio.
Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins all met by chance at the Sun Records studios. Led by Sam Phillips (played by Jason Donovan), they recorded some of the greatest rock’n’roll songs of all time, and changed music forever.
The show features over 20 of those solid-gold hits, and to get ready, we’ve been having a listen to some of our favourites:
I Walk The Line – Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash, or The Man In Black, originally intended this as a much slower ballad, and it was Sam Phillips who encouraged him to speed up the tempo.
West End performer Robbie Durham takes on the role of Johnny Cash in this production. That’s particularly impressive, given how instantly recognisable Cash’s gravelly voice is – from his rock’n’roll beginnings, to his later country, blues and folk music.
Blue Suede Shoes – Carl Perkins
It’s probably Elvis’ version of this that’s best remembered today, but it was Carl Perkins who wrote and first recorded Blue Suede Shoes.
Coming from a family that couldn’t afford to pay for instruments, Perkins started out playing a guitar fashioned from a broomstick and an old cigar box. He wouldn’t have a real guitar until age 14, when he and his brother Jay took to performing in pubs and taverns all around Jackson, Tennessee.
Blue Suede Shoes was inspired by Johnny Cash, who suggested that Perkins write a song about the footwear worn by US airmen at the time. When Perkins saw a young man complaining about the scuff marks that his dance partner had left on his shoes, a hit song was born.
Great Balls Of Fire – Jerry Lee Lewis
As a young man, Jerry Lee Lewis was a student at the Southwest Bible Institute, until a performance of a boogie-woogie version of ‘My God is Real’ led to him being expelled. After that, Lewis began playing in clubs all over southern America and recorded his first song in 1954.
Lewis was only there at Sun Studios that day as he had been hired to provide piano accompaniment for Carl Perkins’ recording session. But with songs like Great Balls Of Fire, we think it’s fair to say that he deserved his place at the mic.
Brown Eyed Handsome Man – Chuck Berry
The quartet didn’t just perform their own songs at Sun Records that day. Brown Eyed Handsome Man was a cover of a hit song by Chuck Berry, released earlier that year. Berry wrote it after seeing a policeman arrest a Hispanic man, while a woman shouted to let him go.
Listening to this song, you can hear the rock’n’roll and gospel influences that Perkins, Presley, Lewis and Cash would use to such great effect when they recorded together.
Long Tall Sally – Little Richard
Long Tall Sally was first performed by Little Richard, a forefather of rock’n’roll, soul and funk. As well as the Million Dollar Quartet’s version, Long Tall Sally would go on to be covered by the likes of The Beatles and The Kinks.
In our show, it’s performed by Ross William Wild as Elvis Presley. On the day of the recording, the world-famous Elvis happened to be wandering past the studio with his girlfriend, and decided to join in. With that, the quartet was complete, and musical history was about to be made…
Million Dollar Quartet is packed with over 20 hits, taking us back to the golden age of rock’n’roll. It’s here from 22-27 May, and tickets are available now.