Transported to Memphis, early evening in December 1956, we walked straight into a recoding studio just waiting for something to happen and it did, big time.
This was Sun Records where the owner, Sam Philips (Jason Donovan) was proud of his stable of young male singers, Elvis Presley (Ross William Wild) was making it big with RCA Records thanks to Philips gentle coaching and canny knack of picking a winner. Johnny Cash (Robbie Durham) was on his way too as was Carl Perkins (Matthew Wycliffe) who was miffed that Presley had pinched the song he wrote and tuned it into his all time hit Blue Suede Shoes! Into this emotional get together came Philips new hope, Jerry Lee Lewis, (Ashley Carruthers) brash, buoyant and introducing the piano into ‘the devil’s music’ with Great Balls Of Fire. The talented actors are also excellent musicians so it’s all live and genuine just like it was on that day just over 60 years ago.
By this time, as our memories came flooding back, shoulders were swaying and heads jigging to the music, the story was unfolding and we forgot this was a theatre production, for the majority of the audience this was their youth, the Saturday night dances and the many record shops where you could hear this music standing in a little yellow sound proof booth with tiny holes in it – no obligation to buy.
The stage was constantly busy, brilliant bass player (James Swinnerton) and Ben Cullingworth on drums, Presley’s girlfriend Dyanne (Katie Ray) the only woman in the show sang Fever and the boys cooled it down with some spirituals and gospel. This surely was the beginnings of the Million Dollar Quartet. But the man who created rock’n’roll was worried; his boys were too good for a small record label, would he go with Presley and join RCA, would he hang on to see if a new debutant called Roy Orbison might made the grade? In fact, eventually he sold up and bought shares in the Holiday Inn chain of hotels so, like all the others who came under his care, he too made it to the big time.
The jam session that December day went down in history, Hound Dog, Down By The Riverside, I Hear You Knocking, See You Later Alligator, Whole Lot Of Shaking Going On, Sixteen Tons and more. But the impromptu gig was only recorded as a souvenir and I can’t find out if it was ever produced as a commercial disc. Not to worry, this show has it all in living colour and sound and has travelled round the world and back so give yourself a treat, get on down to the Grand Old Opera House and rock’n’roll with the best.
Million Dollar Quartet
Grand Opera House Belfast
until Saturday 29th April 2017