Beale Street had bars where Blacks performed to a mixed audience. In bars and on radio (Memphis radio broadcast Black music) was where Elvis listened and learnt. What made Elvis' Rock-n-Roll Different? Elvis made a greater impact because he was a White man that sounded Black.
Compared to Frank Sinatra who crooned his way into your heart, Elvis reflected the teenage sexual energy that made a connection with a whole generation. What made Elvis' stage act unique was attitude.
He was a rebel with a cause that parents loved to hate - enough reason for most teenagers to embrace Elvis. His music in context of middle American 50's values was a timely coincidence, and what his generated craved. An idol that reflected rebelliousness defied authority, while demanding we don't step on his blue suede shoes.
Jack Clements the guy who recorded the Million Dollar Quartet dies aged 82
Jack Clement got his first big break in the music business when Sam Phillips hired him to be the sound engineer at Sun Studio. Over the years, he's been a songwriter, producer, recording artist, disc jockey, and Arthur Murray dance instructor.
He presided over Jerry Lee Lewis' first sessions and recorded the "Million Dollar Quartet" at Sun in 1956: Lewis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Elvis Presley. Clement wrote "Ballad of a Teenage Queen" for Johnny Cash and "Someone I Used To Know," which became a hit for Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner. He introduced George Jones to Dickie Lee's "She Thinks I Still Care" and produced sessions for U2's Rattle and Hum.
The Million Dollar Quartet, Broadway musical seems to have left out at least one very important character.
Jack Clement: Oh really? Who is that?
I'm not in it? Don't they have somebody operating the board?
No, just Sam Phillips doing it all. Sam went next door to Taylor's restaurant. Carl Perkins was in the studio recording, but everything stopped when Elvis came in. Everybody just started swapping stories and picking out songs. And I remember thinking I would be remiss if I didn't record this. So I moved a few mics around and recorded what happened. Nobody paid any attention to the tapes for years and years. It was a long time before the record came out.
Maybe you can solve one of the great mysteries of the Million Dollar Quartet. In an autobiography, Johnny Cash swears he was hanging out for a long time and that he sang on the album. But it's impossible to hear his voice on any of the songs. So did he or didn't he sing on the recording?
You know, I really don't remember.
So it's going to have to remain a mystery?
I guess so. If I listened to it, I could probably tell if he was singing on it or not. He might not have been there for very long that day, but I can't really say.
The Million Dollars Quartet | Elvis Duets
Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash.
On December 4, 1956, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis & Johnny Cash got together in the Sun Records Studio in Memphis. The session pinpoints with unabashed accuracy where rock-n-roll got its energy. It proves that it wasn't simply something that exploded on an unsuspecting world one day in `55.
The roots were clearly borne and deeply rooted in country & gospel music. As Elvis, Perkins & Lewis mixed their unique styles, each performer's gifts emerge with the rarest musical qualities.
Elvis Interview: December 3, 1956... "I never had a better time than yesterday afternoon when I dropped into Sam Phillips' place."
"It was what you might call a barrelhouse of fun. Carl Perkins was in a recording session and he had one that's going to hit as hard as Blue Suede Shoes."
"Johnny Cash dropped in. Jerry Lee Lewis was there too, and then I stopped by..."
Elvis headed for the piano and did a Fats Domino impersonation of Blueberry Hill. The joint was really rocking before we got through. Elvis on Jerry Lee.
"That boy can go," he said. "I think he has a great future ahead of him."