The 1950’s heralded a well documented musical revolution in America when Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash & Jerry Lee Lewis became the bad boys of Rock & Roll & icons of the British Teddy Biy Brigade.
I was a teenager in the early 60’s & my musical interests, along with 90% of all other British teenagers at the time, was stirred by the likes of The Beatles & The Rolling Stones. It was the era of the Group Culture.
The Million Dollar Quartet portrays a meeting that took place in December 1956 at the Sun Recording Studio in Memphis. It was owned by Sam Phillips (Jason Donovan) who was credited with discovering the mentioned artist & setting them on the road to fame and fortune.
The show has a rousing start, with Jerry Lee Lewis played by Ashley Carruthers rocking, rocking his keyboard with both fingers and feet.
He was still unknown at the time of the meeting but Carruthers really brings his character to life with his irrepressible & irascible behaviour & his exciting & unique style of performing.
Carl Perkins, played by Matthew Wycliffe is irritated & resentful of this newcomer, feeling anxious as his own career flounders, unable to recreate his phenomenal rise to fame, with a new number one record.
He also feels animosity towards Elvis, who poached one of Carls own sons, ‘Blue Suede Shoes’. His mood, however, does not diminish his ability to play his guitar. There were whoops & whistles of appreciation from the audience after his impressive performance.
Johnny Cash appears as a more composed & sober figure, who yearns to sing gospel songs but was rejected for recording until agreeing to play the Rock Music favoured by Sam Phillips. Johnny is played by Robbie Durham, whose fabulous baritone makes the knees shake!
Hip Swivelling & lip quivering is, of course, the order of the say from Elvis, whist Dyanne, played by Katie Ray, also a singer gives an amazing rendition of ‘Fever’.
This whole event is hosted by Sam Phillips, in his tiny shop front recording studio, from where the four first progressed to become hugely successful artists.
Though they ultimately decide to leave Sam for more lucrative companies. there are no downers in the show. Sam goes on to make a fortune and the audience is treated to a boisterous rare up!
Almost everyone was on their feet clapping, singing & immersed in the fabulous stomping rock music of the fifties.
I was born in the wrong decade!
Written by Barbara Unsworth for About Manchester.