Million Dollar Quartet

Million Greenback Quartet” is a recording of an impromptu jam session involving Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Money made on December 4, 1956, on the Solar File Studios in Memphis, Tennessee. An article in regards to the session was printed within the Memphis Press-Scimitar below the title “Million Greenback Quartet”. The recording was first launched in Europe in 1981 as The Million Greenback Quartet with 17 tracks. Just a few years later extra tracks had been found and launched as The Full Million Greenback Session. In 1990, the recordings had been launched in the USA as Elvis Presley – The Million Greenback Quartet. This session is taken into account a seminal second in rock and roll.

Recording session

The jam session appears to have occurred by pure likelihood. Perkins, who by this time had already met success with “Blue Suede Footwear”, had come into the studios that day[1] accompanied by his brothers Clayton and Jay and by drummer W.S. Holland, their goal being to file some new materials, together with a revamped model of an outdated blues track, “Matchbox”. Sam Phillips, the proprietor of Solar Data, who wished to attempt to fatten this sparse rockabilly instrumentation, had introduced in his newest acquisition, Jerry Lee Lewis, nonetheless unknown exterior Memphis, to play piano (on the time, a Wurlitzer Spinet) on the Perkins session. Lewis’s first Solar single can be launched just a few days later. Someday within the early afternoon, 21-year-old Elvis Presley, a former Solar artist now with RCA Victor, arrived to pay an off-the-cuff go to accompanied by a girlfriend, Marilyn Evans.[2]

After chatting with Phillips within the management room, Presley listened to the playback of Perkins’s session, which he pronounced to be good. Then he went into the studio and a while later, the jam session started. Sooner or later in the course of the session, Solar artist Johnny Money, who had lately loved just a few hit information on the nation charts, arrived as properly. (Money wrote in his autobiography Money that he had been first to reach on the Solar Studio that day, desirous to pay attention to the Perkins recording session.) Jack Clement was engineering that day and remembers saying to himself “I believe I might be remiss to not file this,” and so he did. After working by numerous songs, Elvis and girlfriend Evans slipped out as Jerry Lee pounded away on the piano. Money wrote in Money that “nobody wished to observe Jerry Lee, not even Elvis.” No matter Elvis’s emotions might or might not have been in regard to “following” Lewis, Presley was clearly the “star” of the impromptu jam session, which consisted largely of snippets of gospel songs that the 4 artists had all grown up singing. The recordings present Elvis, probably the most nationally and internationally well-known of the 4 on the time, to be the point of interest of what was an off-the-cuff, spur-of-the-moment gathering of 4 artists who would every go on to contribute significantly to the seismic shift in in style music within the late Nineteen Fifties.

In the course of the session, Phillips referred to as an area newspaper, the Memphis Press-Scimitar. Bob Johnson, the newspaper’s leisure editor, came visiting to the studios with UPI consultant Leo Sora with photographer George Pierce. Johnson wrote an article in regards to the session, which appeared the next day within the Press-Scimitar below the headline “Million Greenback Quartet”. The article contained the now-famous {photograph} of Presley seated on the piano surrounded by Lewis, Perkins and Money (the uncropped model of the picture additionally contains Evans, proven seated atop the piano).


Skilled scores
Assessment scores
Supply Ranking
AllMusic [3]
MusicHound Rock 5/5[4]
Tough Guides [5]
The Village Voice B+[6]

In 1969, Shelby Singleton purchased Solar Data. He started an extended search of the Solar catalogue, searching by greater than 10,000 hours of tape. On the similar time, Singleton licensed a lot, if not all, of the Solar catalogue to the British Charly label for reissue in Europe. Because of Singleton’s and Charly’s searches, a portion of the session got here to gentle. This was issued in Europe in 1981 as “Charly/Solar” LP #1006 The Million Greenback Quartet, and it contained 17 tracks, specializing in gospel/religious music from the session.

A number of years later, further materials was found. This resulted within the launch of the 1987 “Charly/Solar” 2-LP set #CDX 20 The Full Million Greenback Session, along with their simultaneous difficulty in CD format in Europe. In 1990, they had been replicated by RCA for US distribution as a CD and LP, titled, Elvis Presley – The Million Greenback Quartet (RCA CD # 2023-2-R), the sleeve notes of which had been written by Colin Escott of Showtime Music, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

In 2006, RCA used a replica of the session recordings owned by Presley to create a Fiftieth-anniversary difficulty of the session. The brand new launch positioned the titles within the unique recorded sequence and contained about twelve minutes of beforehand unavailable materials.

In line with Ernst Jorgensen, an authority on Elvis who consults for RCA, the printed materials accommodates about 95 p.c of the grasp recordings. “We discovered three reels”, he says, “You would all the time argue that there have been extra. However within the first you possibly can hear Elvis arriving and within the final you possibly can hear him leaving. I doubt that there are extra.”[7]

In his liner notes to The Survivors Stay, a 1982 album that reunited Money, Lewis and Perkins, Money claims that Elvis carried out “This Practice is Certain for Glory” and “Trip in Heaven” in the course of the 1956 session, however neither observe has surfaced.[8]

The launched albums include 46 musical tracks, most of that are incomplete and are interspersed with chatter between the individuals. They don’t seem to be pristine, properly rehearsed studio recordings, which had been meant for industrial launch, however somewhat the sound of a gaggle of mates gathered to play outdated favorites and share the pleasure of creating music. Bob Johnson described it as “an quaint barrel-house session with barber store harmonies ensuing.”


Nation music and nation gospel loom giant within the alternative of songs. The songs of such nation and Western legends as Invoice Monroe, Ernest Tubb, Hank Snow and Gene Autry are amongst these featured. Lewis performed many of the piano and Presley took practically all the lead vocals. The opposite individuals simply observe Presley’s lead with what appears an in depth familiarity together with his alternative of songs. Critics have remarked on the irony of this as rock & roll was branded as satanic music on the time.

Carl Perkins took the lead on solely “Keeper Of The Key” and appeared content material to play guitar and provide concord vocals. He had, nonetheless, been singing all afternoon. Clayton Perkins and Jay Perkins and drummer W. S. Holland could be heard on the earliest titles. The rhythm guitar on the sooner songs was performed by Charles Underwood, who was a author for Phillips’s publishing firms. Presley additionally introduced with him one other aspiring singer, Cliff Gleaves, who may be taking part on among the ensemble elements.

Jerry Lee Lewis could be heard extra incessantly, typically singing in duet with Presley and on the finish of the session, when Presley bought as much as depart, he swiftly took over the piano and whipped off 5 piano ravers in speedy succession, together with a rousing “Loopy Arms” (his debut Solar single) and a soulful make-over of Gene Autry’s “You are the Solely Star in My Blue Heaven”.

Colin Escott, writer of the sleeve notes for Elvis Presley – The Million Greenback Quartet, reported that in line with Solar worker and session participant Charles Underwood, Presley and Phillips went into the management room whereas Lewis was taking part in and Presley commented to Bob Johnson that “[Lewis] might go. I believe he has an amazing future forward of him. He had a unique type and the way in which he performs piano will get inside me.”[9]

Johnny Money’s voice doesn’t appear to look on any of the launched tracks. Since his voice just isn’t apparent on the tracks, the purpose at which Money arrived on the studio has been a matter of dialogue. Carl Perkins and others[10][11][12] have acknowledged that Money was already on the studios when Presley arrived, with Perkins including that Money had stopped into the studios to “get some cash”.

Colin Escott experiences that in line with attendee Bob Johnson (whose article was printed within the Memphis Press-Scimitar the day after the session), Money joined Presley, Perkins and Lewis on “Blueberry Hill” and “Isle Of Golden Goals”. This was confirmed by Carl Perkins in a 1972 interview, when he acknowledged that “we did issues like ‘Blueberry Hill’, ‘Island Of Golden Goals’, ‘I Will not Have To Cross The Jordan Alone’, ‘The Previous Rugged Cross’, ‘Peace within the Valley’, ‘Tutti Frutti’, and ‘Huge Boss Man’.”[citation needed] Of those, solely “Peace within the Valley” has been launched.

Money himself, in his 1997 e-book Money: The Autobiography commented, “I used to be there – I used to be the primary to reach and the final to go away, opposite to what has been written – however I used to be simply there to look at Carl file, which he did till mid-afternoon, when Elvis got here in together with his girlfriend. At that time the session stopped and all of us began laughing and reducing up collectively. Then Elvis sat down on the piano, and we began singing gospel songs all of us knew, then some Invoice Monroe songs. Elvis wished to listen to songs Invoice had written in addition to “Blue Moon of Kentucky”, and I knew the entire repertoire. So, once more opposite to what some folks have written, my voice is on the tape. It is not apparent, as a result of I used to be farthest away from the mic and I used to be singing loads greater than I often did as a way to keep in key with Elvis, however I assure you, I am there.”[13]

Different experiences, together with one in a really detailed account in Peter Guralnick’s e-book, Final Practice To Memphis – The Rise of Elvis Presley, counsel that Money stayed for under a short while after which left, presumably to do some Christmas procuring. Colin Escott additionally experiences that Money might need been introduced in for the final a part of the session, after Sam Phillips had determined to name the Memphis Press Scimitar.

Money’s presence for your entire session may be confirmed, or denied, by 4 items of “chatter” caught on the tapes. Within the first, one other Solar artist, Smokey Joe Baugh, got here by and his gravelly voice could be heard after “I Shall Not Be Moved”, saying “You oughta stand up a quartet”, which might both imply that they need to add a fourth, or might additionally imply that the 4 of them ought to change into an official quartet. Within the second, a feminine voice could be heard asking if “This Rover Boys Trio can sing ‘Farther Alongside’?”, which might indicate that solely three (trio) had been current at that time. (Elvis’ then girlfriend, Marilyn Evans, confirmed in 2008 that the voice was not hers, although she is later heard requesting the track “Finish of the Street”.)[14] But on the observe previous to this Elvis could be heard saying “take it straightforward, boy” as somebody exits the session. Within the third piece of chatter, Elvis is plainly heard mentioning Money by identify on the observe “As We Journey Alongside The Jericho Street”, on the 0:07 mark, though the type of the reference leaves it ambiguous as as to if Money was on premises at that time. Lastly, Elvis will also be heard saying goodbye to somebody named Johnny in the course of the “Elvis Says Goodbye” observe that closes the Fiftieth anniversary launch which appears to point that Presley was current when Money left the session.

Nation music was not the one alternative of the individuals; they carried out “Residence! Candy Residence!”, a sentimental ballad as an lively rockabilly clip. They will also be heard turning their consideration to the hit parade of the day. Presley led the session with “Out Of Sight, Out Of Thoughts”, an R & B track popularized by the 5 Keys. In the meantime, Lewis sings one line of Chuck Berry’s “Too A lot Monkey Enterprise” which leads into Lewis and Presley experimenting with snippets of Berry’s “Brown Eyed Good-looking Man”. Elvis will also be heard singing a snippet of Little Richard’s “Rip It Up” (with a ribald change within the lyric) and Pat Boone’s hit of the day, “Do not Forbid Me” which Elvis on the tape claims was first provided to him however the demo “sat round my home” with out being performed.

As well as, Presley previewed materials that he was contemplating for up-coming RCA Victor classes in January and February 1957. He sang “Is It So Unusual”, “Peace In The Valley”, and “That is When Your Heartaches Start”, which he acknowledges on the tape as having been one of many songs he recorded for Solar throughout his demo session a few years earlier, and which he would file once more for RCA Victor a month later. Within the case of “Is It So Unusual”, he feedback, “Ol’ Faron Younger wrote this track despatched to me to file.”

The title which most critics appear to spotlight is Presley’s rendition of “Do not Be Merciless”, certainly one of his main hits of 1956 (see 1956 in music). This isn’t Presley singing Presley, however his imitation of Jackie Wilson, then the lead singer with Billy Ward and His Dominoes, imitating him. It seems as if the Presley entourage spent just a few days in Las Vegas (most probably throughout Presley’s short-lived tenure earlier within the yr on the Frontier Lodge) and went to look at Wilson, who had clearly constructed an impersonation of Presley into his act.

Presley describes Jackie Wilson tearing up Las Vegas audiences with a house-on-fire rendition of “Do not Be Merciless”. He goes on to say that, “He tried so laborious till he bought significantly better, boy, significantly better than that file of mine…. I went again 4 nights straight and heard that man try this,” he says, imitating Wilson’s bluesy smolder and large end.

“He sung the hell out of the track,” Elvis could be heard saying with admiration, including with amusing, “I used to be on the desk lookin’ at him, ‘Get ‘im off, get ‘im off!'” Clearly on a roll, Presley, then ripped right into a slower, sassier model of “Paralyzed”, a track recorded for his second album and likewise launched on an prolonged play 45. He was backed up by Perkins and his trio.

In line with the Rolling Stone assessment of the album, “‘The Full Million Greenback Session’ gives a uncommon post-Solar glimpse of Elvis Presley momentarily freed from the golden shackles of stardom and the manipulative grasp of his supervisor, Colonel Tom Parker. His singing, particularly on the gospel numbers, is pure and relaxed, minus among the trademark mannerisms of his official RCA releases.”[11]

Colin Escott has stated, “They combined and matched their disparate kinds – and their innate musicality ensured that what emerged had the rarest of all musical qualities: originality.”[citation needed]

The surviving members of the Quartet session would reunite a number of instances in years to come back, with Money, Lewis and Perkins uniting in 1982 for the live performance album The Survivors Stay and once more, in 1985, Perkins, Lewis, Money and Roy Orbison, additionally a Solar recording artist in 1956, went again into the Solar Studios to file the album Class of ’55.


  • The Survivors Stay – a 1982 dwell album that includes Johnny Money, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins throughout Johnny Money’s 1981 tour of Europe.
  • Class of ’55 – a 1986 reunion of the surviving members of the “Million Greenback Quartet”, this time including one other Solar Data alumnus, Roy Orbison; this was truly recorded on the unique Memphis Recording Service constructing.
  • Interviews from the Class of ’55 Recording Classes – an album that includes interviews and chatter in the course of the recording of Class of ’55, which received the Grammy for Finest Spoken Phrase Album in 1987.


The stage musical Million Greenback Quartet, with a e-book by Floyd Mutrux and Colin Escott, dramatizes the Million Greenback Quartet session. It premiered at Florida’s Seaside Music Theatre and was then staged at Village Theatre in Issaquah, Washington (a Seattle suburb) in 2007,[15] breaking field workplace information. The musical opened for a restricted run at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre on September 27, 2008.[16] Mutrux co-directed the Chicago manufacturing with Eric D. Schaeffer, of Virginia’s Signature Theatre. The present transferred to Chicago’s Apollo Theater the place it opened on October 31, 2008.[17]

The Broadway manufacturing opened on the Nederlander Theatre on April 11, 2010.[18] The Broadway manufacturing closed on June 12, 2011 after 489 performances and 34 previews, after which re-opened Off-Broadway at New World Phases.[19] Million Greenback Quartet then opened within the West Finish on the Noël Coward Theatre on February 28, 2011, with previews from February 8.[20][21]

The Broadway play was nominated for 3 Tony Awards in 2010: Finest Musical, Finest E-book of a Musical for Escott and Mutrux, and Finest Featured Actor in a Musical for Levi Kreis. Kreis received, marking the present’s sole Tony win.[22]

Tracks, writers and period

  1. “Instrumental” (Unknown) – 1:44
  2. “Love Me Tender – Instrumental” (Presley/Matson) – 1:02
  3. “Jingle Bells – Instrumental” (James Lord Pierpont) – 1:57
  4. “White Christmas – Instrumental” (Berlin) – 2:05
  5. “Rethink Child” (Fulsom) – 2:45
  6. “Do not Be Merciless” (Presley/Blackwell) – 2:20
  7. “Do not Be Merciless” (Presley/Blackwell) – 2:12
  8. “Paralyzed” (Presley/Blackwell) – 3:00
  9. “Do not Be Merciless” (Presley/Blackwell) – 0:36
  10. “There’s No Place Like Residence” (Payne/Bishop) – 3:36
  11. “When The Saints Go Marchin´ In” (Conventional) – 2:18
  12. “Softly and Tenderly” (Will Lamartine Thompson) – 2:42
  13. “When God Dips His Love in My Coronary heart” (Derricks) – 0:23
  14. “Only a Little Discuss with Jesus” (Derricks) – 4:09
  15. “Jesus Walked That Lonesome Valley” (Conventional) – 3:28
  16. “I Shall Not Be Moved” (Conventional) – 3:49
  17. “Peace In The Valley” (Dorsey) – 1:33
  18. “Down By the Riverside” (Conventional) – 2:26
  19. “I am with a Crowd However So Alone” (Tubb/Story) – 1:16
  20. “Farther Alongside” (Fletcher/Baxter) – 2:08
  21. “Blessed Jesus (Maintain My Hand)” (Conventional) – 1:26
  22. “On the Jericho Street” (Conventional) – 0:52
  23. “I Simply Cannot Make It By Myself” (Clara Ward) – 1:04
  24. “Little Cabin Residence on the Hill” (Invoice Monroe/Lester Flatt) – 0:46
  25. “Summertime Is Previous and Gone” (Monroe) – 0:14
  26. “I Hear a Candy Voice Calling” (Monroe) – 0:36
  27. “Sweetheart You Completed Me Flawed” (Monroe) – 0:28
  28. “Keeper of the Key (Carl Lead)” (Stewart/Howard/Devine/Guynes) – 2:08
  29. “Loopy Arms” (Mooney/Seals) – 0:17
  30. “Do not Forbid Me” (Singleton) – 1:19
  31. “Too A lot Monkey Enterprise” (Berry) – 0:05
  32. “Brown Eyed Good-looking Man” (Berry) – 1:14
  33. “Out of Sight, Out of Thoughts” (Hunter/Otis) – 0:37
  34. “Brown Eyed Good-looking Man” (Berry) – 1:53
  35. “Do not Forbid Me” (Singleton) – 0:50
  36. “You Belong to My Coronary heart” (Gilbert/Lara) – 1:10
  37. “Is It So Unusual” (Younger) – 1:21
  38. “That is When Your Heartaches Start” (Hill/Fisher/Raskin) – 4:58
  39. “Brown Eyed Good-looking Man” (Berry) – 0:17
  40. “Rip It Up” (Blackwell/Marascalco) – 0:23
  41. “I am Gonna Bid My Blues Goodbye” (Snow) – 0:55
  42. “Loopy Arms” (Mooney/Seals) – 3:36
  43. “That is My Need” (Loveday/Kresa) – 2:02
  44. “Finish of the Street” (Lewis) – 1:44
  45. “Black Backside Stomp” (Morton) – 1:11
  46. “You are the Solely Star in My Blue Heaven” (Autry) – 1:12
  47. Elvis Says Goodbye – 0:40

See additionally

  • Elvis Presley’s Solar recordings
  • Listing of musicians of the Nineteen Fifties

Additional studying

  • Elvis Presley – The Million Greenback Quartet (RCA CD # 2023-2-R), Sleeve notes by Colin Escott of Showtime Music, Toronto

  • Million Greenback Quartet: official web site of the stage manufacturing

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