Million Dollar Quartet To Launch National Tour in Cleveland
The jam session.
The term conjures up images of wannabe rockers strumming guitars in dingy basements surrounded by cold beer and tramp-stamped chicks. If you hang around long enough the hacks might actually play something that resembles a real song.
Yes, professional musicians jam (thus the term "jam band") but for the most part rock concerts are a highly choreographed, well-planned musical performances.
However, there's one jam session that's circumnavigated the passage of time, transcended the generations, and is far more significant than a bunch of hippies playing "Fire on the Mountain" for 48 minutes. The immortal jam session I'm referring to has been dramatized in the highly acclaimed Broadway musical, Million Dollar Quartet.
Million Dollar Quartet tells the story of one of rock ‘n’ roll's most memorable nights, Dec. 4, 1956. On that evening, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins gathered at Sun Records' storefront studio in Memphis, Tennessee for one of rock music’s most important jam sessions.
That December night was the only time the four legends ever joined forces. They played several rock ‘n’ roll standards including "Blue Suede Shoes," "Great Balls of Fire," and "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On."
Those songs, and many more including "Fever," "Sixteen Tons," and "Folsom Prison Blues," are all featured in Million Dollar Quartet. While the tunes are half-a-century old, the production is youthful and vivacious.
This show, which was nominated for three Tony Awards including Best Musical, isn't about fat Elvis, creepy Lewis, or the Johnny Cash that played state fairs. Million Dollar Quartet is all about rock ‘n’ roll. It’s a captivating production that captures the spirit of those tumultuous times and showcases four of rock music’s most prominent pioneers in their prime.
The music of Million Dollar Quartet was arranged by Chuck Mead and the book was written by Floyd Mutrux and Colin Escott. The show was directed by Eric Schaeffer.
Million Dollar Quartet began selling tickets to its Broadway run April 11, 2010. It closed June 12, 2011 after 489 performances and 34 previews at the Nederlander Theatre. The show has since moved off-Broadway to New World Stages. There are also productions running in Chicago and London's West End.
Its first national tour launches Oct. 11 in Cleveland, Ohio. Other cities on the touring company's route include Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, and Seattle. Their schedule extends well into 2012.
It's appropriate that a Broadway musical about an historic rock 'n' roll moment that happened in Memphis should open in Cleveland. The two cities have an on-going dispute over which town is the actual birthplace of rock 'n' roll.
Cleveland believes they should be listed under hometown on rock’s birth certificate because in July of 1951 Cleveland DJ Alan Freed first played "black music" on a mainstream radio station, WJW.
Both cities’ moments are seminal events in the history of the genre.
You can decide which city has the best claim to the title of the "birthplace of rock 'n' roll." However, if the actual Sun Records jam session was even half as exciting as the musical it inspired you'll be hard pressed to give the epithet to a city other than Memphis.