Today in Media History: In 1956 a reporter and a photo caption led to the ‘Million Dollar Quartet’

The afternoon jam session at Sun Records wasn’t planned.

But by the end of the day, and with a great deal of luck, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, and a writer from a small Memphis newspaper made music history.

On December 4, 1956, Sam Phillips, the owner of Sun Records, scheduled Perkins and Lewis to record a few songs at his studio, but after Presley and Cash happened to drop by, Phillips called the local newspaper for some free publicity.

Robert Johnson, a writer for the Memphis Press-Scimitar, came over with a photographer.

The session recordings were lost for years, but the newspaper story and photo appeared the next day. Johnson’s column ended with the line: “That quartet could sell a million.”

Next to his story, a small photo caption gave the group their name: the “Million Dollar Quartet.”

Here is the jam session’s recording of “I Shall Not Be Moved.”

Following is an excerpt from the Memphis Press-Scimitar‘s “Million Dollar Quartet” story. (The original column and photos have been posted online.)

By Robert Johnson
Press-Scimitar Staff Writer

“I never had a better time than yesterday afternoon when I dropped in at Sam Phillips’s Sun Record bedlam on Union at Marshall. It was what you might call a barrel-house of fun. Carl Perkins was in a recording session and he has one that’s going to hit as hard as ‘Blue Suede Shores.’

….Johnny Cash dropped in. Jerry Lee Lewis was there, too, and then Elvis stopped by.

Elvis headed for the piano and started to Fats Domino it on ‘Blueberry Hill.’ The joint was really rocking….I never saw the boy more likeable than he was just fooling around with these other fellows who have the same interests he does.

If Sam Phillips had been on his toes, he’d have turned the recorder on when that very unrehearsed but talented bunch got to cutting up on ‘Blueberry Hill’ and a lot of other songs. That quartet could sell a million.”

As the column shows, Robert Johnson didn’t know that Sam Phillips was recording the session. Many of the tapes were lost until the 1970s and the music wasn’t released until the 1980s. (By 2010 there would even be a Broadway musical.)

Listen to the original, unplanned jam session of the “Million Dollar Quartet,” the group named after probably the most famous photo caption in the history of music and journalism.

Read more

from Poynter. http://ift.tt/1vr2sk4



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