Home of the Million Dollar Quartet – Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash
As a music history geek, there are many sites on my must-do list. I’ve been to the original home of the blues, Clarksdale, Mississippi. I’ve recorded a song at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, the original home of the Grand Ole Opry. I’ve stood at Elvis’ grave while he sings gospel through my headset.
I’ve held the microphone at Sun Studio in Memphis – the same microphone used while some of the pioneers of rock and roll recorded their groundbreaking hits. Sam Phillips’ Sun Studio is considered the Birthplace of Rock and Roll and was responsible for the early careers of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis. Years later, U2 would record portions of their Rattle & Hum album at Sun.
The memorabilia on display at Sun Studio can bring giggles to teens that are only familiar with monster amplifiers and digital recording, while bringing knowing nods from older visitors. Our tour guide was entertaining, mixing fact and lore. One of the items we saw was a battered guitar amp that once belonged to Ike Turner. The story told of a too-fast trip up Highway 69 from Clarksdale to a show in Memphis and the amp falling on the road.
The final stop on the Sun Studio tour is the recording studio. Dozens of photos line the walls, many taken during recording sessions. The old piano was hammered by Jerry Lee Lewis as he cut such hits as “Great Balls of Fire”. We heard the story of Elvis dropping in while Carl Perkins was recording with Jerry Lee Lewis sitting in. They called Johnny Cash and the impromptu jam session became known as the “Million Dollar Quartet”. As Presley was by then under contract with RCA, Sam Phillips held onto those masters and the album “Million Dollar Quartet” was originally released in 1990.
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