The Million Dollar Quartet – COMPLETE PHOTOGRAPHY (December 4, 1956)
By Bob Pakes
The legendary photo of Elvis, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash is almost as iconic as the jam session that took place at Sun in late 1956!
In this article you will find the most complete collection of photos that were taken on that historic day, in their best possible quality.
We’ll start this topic off with the article that appeared in next day’s newspaper (on December 5, 1956) which actually gave the session it’s now famous name after reporter Robert Johnson introduced the words “Million Dollar Quartet” for the very first time.
The place: SUN RECORDS, MEMPHIS, TN
The date: TUESDAY, DECEMBER 4, 1956
PHOTO Nr. 1
First up is the only solo photo of Elvis on this day that exists.
When looking at this image, one wonders if photographer George Pierce has also taken solo shots of the other artists. Even though Elvis was the main attraction, it would make sense that he also took portrait-shots of Carl, Jerry Lee and Johnny.
PHOTO Nr. 2
The most famous of all Million Dollar Quartet photos:
The original Fab Four!
PHOTO Nr. 3
Often mistaken as one and the same image with the photo above, here we have the four in a slightly different pose. Elvis’ ladyfriend (Marilyn Evans) is now also in the frame.
Please scroll down to the “Million Dollar Quartette” article, for a much less cropped version of this photo.
PHOTO Nr. 4
To the right we have an image of Elvis with Johnny Cash behind him and Carl Perkins to his right. Below we see a differently cropped (and much blurrier) version of the same photo, without Perkins, but including Marilyn Evans. The uncropped photo that includes both Perkins and Evans in the same frame has not yet surfaced.
PHOTO Nr. 5
An interesting one. At first glance this photo appears to be heavily cropped, but the ‘damage’ could be much less than it seems to be when going by the dimensions of the photo (apart from the ‘whites’ of course).
We can see that Johnny Cash is standing behind Elvis, and he is now playing (probably Carl Perkins’) guitar.
PHOTO Nr. 6
PHOTO Nr. 7
In this photo we can see Sam Phillips and Elvis with the man who gave the session it’s name: Memphis Press-Scimitar reporter Robert Johnson, standing to the left. And to the right we have Leo Soroca, a representative of United Press International.
PHOTO Nr. 8
Soroca and Elvis seem to be shaken hands in the photo to the right, but a closer inspection learns us that Soroca is probably trying out some chords on Elvis’ guitar, much to the amusement of the bystanders.
PHOTO Nr. 9
Sam Phillips and Elvis in the control room, with what looks a lot like the same guitar that Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash were holding in the previous photos.
PHOTO Nr. 10
Sam and Elvis on the same spot as in the previous photo, but this time without the guitar. Strike the pose gentlemen!
Elvis, at this point of his career, was riding high on the charts with his 2nd album currently in the number 1 spot and a seemingly unendless string of number 1 singles for RCA Victor. And while his first movie had broken all sorts of records for 20th Century Fox, the Elvis Presley Enterprises merchandise train broke even more records since the sale of Elvis socks, Elvis handkerchiefs, Elvis wallets, Elvis shoes, Elvis diaries, Elvis belts, Elvis mittens (Elvis mittens??), Elvis e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g, had gone completely through the roof.
MILLION DOLLAR QUARTETTE
(Sun Records) Publicity Photos
To the right we have an original publicity photo, from 1955. This wellknown image of Elvis (from December 27, 1954) popped up all the time in newspaper articles, advertisements and flyers in 1955.
Below we see original Sun Records publicity photos of Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins. Notice that Bob Neal (Elvis’ second manager) gets a mention as Cash’ manager. These kind of promo shots of Jerry Lee Lewis appear not to be existence.
In 1994, I had the honor of meeting Carl Perkins after a concert. Carl hung around to meet the fans and sign autographs. I’m still amazed at how humble and down to earth this man was. After our talk, I asked him to sign the MDQ album. Carl had no idea that the session had been released officially by RCA, even though it had been on the market for 5 years. He joked that he could’ve made a million bucks on it if he had been clever enough to tape the session himself. He then went on to say “That session was so nice, I’m gonna sign it twice!”. Carl Perkins was a real cool cat!
THANKS & CREDITS:
* The 10 photographs at Sun were taken by George Pierce.
* Thanks to Ger Rijff for his help in compiling this article.
* To Kari Paju (Finland) for the May ’57 article from ’16’.
* To James V. Roy (USA) for the Memphis Press-Scimitar (December 5, 1956) scan.
* And to Josep Rulló (Spain) for sharing a high-rez image of the first Fab Four.
* The image from Texas (March 4, 1955) is scanned from the amazing A Boy From Tupelo.
* The image of Sun Studio at the top of this article, courtesy of The Memphis Public Library And The Shelby County Archives, with thanks to Mike Freeman.
(To the right: Sam Pillips and Dewey Phillips in front of Sun Studio.)