You might already know that the Million Dollar Quartet is a Tony Award winning musical that is one of Branson’s most popular shows, but did you know that it is based on an actual, one time impromptu, event involving four young performers, Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis, in the early stages of their career?
How many of these 12 questions about that event and the musical Million Dollar Quartet do you know the answers to?
1.When did it take place?
Answer: On December 4, 1956.
2. In what city did it take place?
Answer: Memphis, TN.
3. Where did it take place?
Answer: In the storefront recording studio of Sun Records.
4.Who was there?
Answer: Sam Phillips; the owner of Sun Records; Carl Perkins, Sun recording artist, who was in the studio along his brother Jay on bass, and drummer, WS “Fluke” Holland to record “Matchbox;” Sun recording artist Jerry Lee Lewis, who was there to play piano for the Perkins recording; Sun recording artist, Johnny Cash, who came in to observe the recording session and talk with Sam Phillips; RCA and ex-Sun Recording artist Elvis Presley, who just dropped by with a girl he was seeing at the time, Marilyn Evans; and sound technician Jack Clement, who was there to record the session. Bob Johnson, the entertainment editor of the “Memphis Press-Scimitar,” who was invited over by Phillips after the jam session had started, and was accompanied by a photographer.
5. What happened?
Answer: After Elvis showed up, near the end of Perkins recording session, they just started talking, playing, and singing. The resulting impromptu jam session was a unique one-time event that would have gone unrecorded, but for the foresight of the sound technician Jack Clement.
6. What part did Jack Clement play in the event?
Answer: According to Clement, as the jam session got underway, Sam Phillips was in a nearby restaurant, and he decided that he would be remiss if he did not record the session, so, without anyone’s knowledge, he did.
7. If everything was so informal how did the session get the name, “Million Dollar Quartet?”
Answer: When Phillips discovered the jam session going on he called Bob Johnson, the entertainment editor of the “Memphis Press-Scimitar,” who came by with a photographer. The next day he published an article entitled, “The Million Dollar Quartet,” along with a picture of the foursome gathered around the piano which included Marilyn Evans sitting on the end of the piano.
8. What happened to the recording?
Answer: Because no one knew that Clement had recorded the session and in spite of “The Million Dollar Quartet” news story, the recording went, unnoticed, into the Sun Records “library,” where it remained for decades until discovered by a new owner of Sun Records as they worked through the contents of the library. It was recorded and released in Europe in 1981 and in the United States in 1990.
9. When and how was the musical The Million Dollar Quartet created?
Answer: In 2007, the stage musical Million Dollar Quartet, written by Floyd Mutrux and Colin Escott, and based on the music and events of the original “Million Dollar Quartet” jam session, premiered. Since then, this smash hit musical, has played in Chicago, Broadway, Las Vegas, toured extensively in the US and internationally, and has a production in Branson, Missouri, at the Welk Resort Theatre.
10. Why is the name of the girlfriend of Elvis in the show named “Dyanne,” instead of Marilyn?
Answer: Marilyn Evans, literally disappeared “in plain sight” for over 52 years and, although “Dyanne” sings in the show, in real life, Marilyn did not and, except for being the date of Elvis, did not play a significant role in the events of that night. At the time the show was developed no one knew where she was so the fictitious “Dyanne” was developed to fill her expanded role in the show.
11. What happened to the real Marilyn Evens?
Answer: Marilyn Evans, now Marilyn Knowles-Riehl, was one of the few women associated with Elvis Presley who did not seek any fame or advantage from it. She placed no big significance on the event and, when the relationship with Elvis was over within a few weeks, moved on with her life, enrolled in the University of Utah within the year, got married, raised a family, and among other things was the director of the Fresno Ballet for 13 years. For over 52 years she gave the event very little thought until 2008 when she read a story about why the Million Dollar Quartet show had to create a fictitious girl-friend, named “Dyanne,” for Elvis in the show.
12. What can someone attending the Million Dollar Quartet expect?
Answer: An awesome entertainment experience! When I first saw the show I wrote, “Over the last three decades, I have seen many Branson shows of all types, but never one like the Million Dollar Quartet! An outstanding cast, timeless music that everyone knows, and a great storyline combine with the show’s unique set and great production to create an incredible entertainment experience for the whole family that should not be missed.
“Obviously, with the recording icons being portrayed and the music being sung it takes some special entertainers to pull it off, and the cast of Million Dollar Quartet does just that and then some. Tyler K. Hunter as Elvis Presley, Cliff Wright as Johnny Cash, David Brooks as Jerry Lee Lewis, and Brad Waters as Carl Perkins do an exceptional job with hits such as Matchbox “That’s All right, I Walk the Line Ghost Riders in the Sky, Hound Dog, Peace in the Valley Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On, Blue Suede Shoes, Who Do You Love, and many more. From among many, two of my personal favorite musical highlights were Ghost Riders in the Sky, sung by Johnny Cash, and Peace in the Valley, not only because of the way it was sung, but how the storyline beautifully brought each of those in the jam session personally into its performance.
“As timeless and wonderful as the music is, it is the storyline, the historical moment it describes, and the way it is artfully woven into the musical tapestry surrounding it that makes this such an entertaining show. Derek Garza as Sam Phillips, the founder of Sun Records, the man some call the “Father of “rock n’ roll,” and the person who actually set the circumstances in motion that resulted in the jam session, does a superb job of dramatically narrating the story and tying its diverse elements together in a manner that kept me keenly invested throughout the entire performance.”
For additional information or tickets for Million Dollar Quartet please contact the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services, by calling 1-800-785-1550, or by visiting www.BransonTourismCenter.com http://www.bransontourismcenter.com/