It was almost certainly the most famous impromptu jam session in rock ’n’ roll history.
It happened 60 years ago, on Dec. 4, 1956. Four music trailblazers — Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley — all showed up, more or less coincidentally, at the Sun Music studios in Memphis and ended up playing together. A newspaper reporter dubbed the ad hoc band “The Million Dollar Quartet.” The recordings of the session leaked out over the next few decades.
A jukebox musical based on that day appeared on Broadway in 2010 and was an immediate hit. Besides a lot of great songs, it features some fascinating (and by most accounts, largely accurate) behind-the-scenes banter among the four music pioneers, in the days before they were legends.
It’s narrated by Sam Phillips, the founder of Sun records and a music legend in his own right. At the time of the show’s action, Phillips had sold Presley’s contract because Sun needed the money. Perkins had a hit with “Blue Suede Shoes,” but hadn’t had a follow-up hit. Cash was a star, and was coming to Sun to sign a contract. Newcomer Lewis came to the studio to add a keyboard part to a new Perkins record.
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Sarasota’s Florida Studio Theatre starts its 2016-17 mainstage season with a new production of “The Million Dollar Quartet.” It opens Friday and runs until the end of the year. That means there will be a performance on Dec. 4, the 60th anniversary of the event.
Details: Nov. 9-Jan. 1. Gompertz Theatre at Florida Studio Theatre, 1241 N. Palm Ave, Sarasota. 8 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday. $46. 941-366-9000, floridastudiotheatre.org.