Four guys gather around an ordinary piano in small studio in Memphis, Tennessee. They begin to sing their way through several gospel classics including “Blessed Jesus (Hold My Hand)” and “Peace in the Valley”. Later they take on some pop and country hits where you can hear both finesse and flaw as this unpracticed quartet belts it out. Though this is a seemingly ordinary moment, it involves truly extraordinary players.
Perhaps you have heard of the four fellas that gathered around the ivory keys that day in 1957. Their names are Johnny Cash, Jerry lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Elvis Presley. That’s right. These four musical superstars from the 50s and 60s shared a rare moment of impromptu collaboration. Later dubbed the “Million-Dollar Quartet”, Cash, Lewis, Perkins, and Presley created a moment together that would go down in musical history.
I stumbled upon this sixty-two-year-old clip for the first time two weeks ago, and my jaw about hit the floor in utter shock. I am an avid fan of oldies music, but I did not know these recordings existed until I read Johnny Cash’s autobiography where he references the occasion. Just picturing these four guys standing in the same room was enough to wow me. But listening to them sing together for the love of music is another experience entirely.
I must confess, as I listened to these recordings, I couldn’t help but notice the unimpressive pieces of the moment since this was a regular old jam session among friends. This is what musicians do. And the process involves flaws. Not to mention, as a musician myself, I quickly recognize the lack of production power that fuels most artists these days. Yet, the beauty of this moment is leaking throughout the tapes with each passing song. The grit and greatness that these men possess as individuals takes on a new shape as they come together to form a moment so profound that it would move me to my core decades after the moment had passed. Even more mind blowing is that the men in these clips hadn’t even hit their prime yet.
Let’s take a moment to review the lineup for this star-studded event in history.
Now, here's a few reasons why these clips fascinate me.
I am very thankful that this moment was captured on tape and released to the public. These clips remind me of the value of embracing collaboration in my own life and to not be insecure in the process with others. I am also grateful to have these snapshot recordings of these superstars before they were superstars. It encourages me in my unimpressive and imperfect pursuits in music to keep chasing the dream and doing what I love. I hope it encourages YOU too.
Now, go make your day and listen to the Million Dollar Quartet in action.
Jen is a pastor, worship leader, writer, and songwriter living in Napa, California.