Originally, I was suppose to be taking HRH to her swimming lessons this evening but since her head is full of boogers and snot, she’s opting not to go; I can’t says that I can’t blame her. So, instead, where I would have been stuck in the humid pool gallery of the Ridley College Iggulden building like a hot house flower while she did her laps, I’m now spinning at the YMCA and trying to flush out a little of the stiffness in my legs. However, what’s not changing is the album that I had planned on listening to – a genuine Sun Records classic – ‘The Complete Million Dollar Quartet‘ sessions featuring Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins that I’ve just finished reading about in my ‘Sam Phillips: the Man Who Invented Rock n’ Roll‘ (Peter Guralnick) book.
This amazing impromptu session was recorded live in the Sun studio on December 4th, 1956 (which is evident by the odd Christmas carol that is thrown into the mix for good measure). The session is worlds away from the tight, well-produced rock & roll that Sam Phillips’ would become well known to record and release in the mid-50’s. More than half the material heard here consists of gospel music, but there are also versions of Chuck Berry’s ‘Brown-Eyed Handsome Man‘ and ‘Too Much Monkey Business‘, as well as some classic country songs penned by Hank Snow, Gene Autry, and Bill Monroe. The recording is definitely more relaxed and informal, and illuminates an snapshot of a very important moment in rock & roll history.
Regardless of how you might feel about Elvis, this album is the holy grail of modern music. Elvis sings everything from r&b to spiritual and Jerry Lee is great on the piano and holds his own against Carl, and Johnny. But, it’s Elvis who steals the show. Carl is the only other current star at this impromptu session as Jerry Lee and Johnny were still relative unknowns at this point in time outside of the South.
Elvis who had just returned to Memphis stops in to Sun Records studio to say hello to Sam and Carl, during their scheduled recording session because, hey, why not? Jerry Lee (who had only been signed with Sun for only two weeks at this point) is obviously in awe of Elvis and his fame and literally hangs on Elvis’s every word. Johnny (who, apparently, was Christmas shopping at the time with his wife and reluctant to drop everything to attend) was called in by Sam after the jam had already started so he only comes in towards the end of the session.
It’s definitely an interesting listen if/when you have the opportunity. Half the fun in the between banter between four incredible performers of the day (if, ever). The true magnificence of the session would have been completely lost on me between the usual huffing and puffing,not to mention the pounding of my accelerated heart rhythm beating in my ears, had I tried to listen to it during any other type of workout besides this one. Well, yoga aside maybe.