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Elvis will be in the building (Sumter Opera House) on Saturday

Show pays tribute to recording session with Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins

BY KAYLA GREEN
kayla@theitem.com
Posted 2/4/20

It started as a simple recording session and ended up being the now-famous night that tabbed four of American music's most iconic 1950s-1970s artists "The Million Dollar Quartet."

The Sumter Opera House will present a show on Saturday that pays …

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Elvis will be in the building (Sumter Opera House) on Saturday

Show pays tribute to recording session with Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins

Posted

It started as a simple recording session and ended up being the now-famous night that tabbed four of American music's most iconic 1950s-1970s artists "The Million Dollar Quartet."

The Sumter Opera House will present a show on Saturday that pays tribute to the December 1956 night Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley recorded at Sun Records, the only time all four artists would be in a studio together. "One Night in Memphis" will take the audience back in time to experience the rock 'n' roll royalty jam session at 7:30 p.m.

Patrons will see authentic rockabilly, country, gospel and 1950s rock 'n' roll performed live by nationally acclaimed artists who have an uncanny sound, look and feel of the original legends. The production also features an authentic and energetic rockabilly backup band.

"Simply put, this is going to be a fun show," said Seth Reimer, Sumter Opera House cultural manager.

Reimer said the show gives audiences a "peek at a magical night in music history."

That history began when Carl Perkins went into the Sun Records studio in Memphis, Tennessee, on Dec. 4, 1956, to try to duplicate another hit song. He was recording the song "Matchbox," and Sam Phillips had booked a 21-year-old piano player for the session. Perkins had never met Jerry Lee Lewis, but they started playing different songs and jamming.

The two musicians took a break after recording a couple songs. Then, Johnny Cash dropped in followed a short time later by Elvis.

By this time, Presley had already left Sun Records to sign with RCA. This was reportedly the first time Presley and Lewis met.

Once all four were together, the jam session that ensued featured each artist taking a turn leading the group. Suddenly, the studio was filled with different genres of music, from gospel to country to rock 'n' roll.

Phillips, realizing he might never again have all four artists in the studio together, kept recording and called the local newspaper. A reporter and photographer showed up, and the story that ran the next day labeled the four "The Million Dollar Quartet."

Phillips was correct that they would never all record together again. Because he had the foresight to record the entire session, we all can now attend the show, close our eyes and travel back to that December night.

Reimer said tickets are selling fast but that there are still seats available for Saturday's show.