Afternoon D & C Dedicated To Mumbai
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Rocking ‘N’ Rolling

Wednesday, December 27, 2017
By Deepa Gahlot

This one was either a delightful discovery or a nostalgic trip, depending on the age of the viewer or exposure to classic rock ‘n’ roll music of fifties vintage.

'Million Dollar Quartet' is a fictional account of a rare occasion back in 1956, December 4 to be precise, when four music legends, Johnny Cash (Robbie Durham), Elvis Presley (Rhys Whitfied), Carl Perkins (Matt Wycliffe) and Jerry Lee Lewis (Martin Kaye) came together at Sun Records Studios in Memphis to jam together for the first and only time. When the evening began, their mentor Sam Phillips (Peter Duncan) had no idea that two of his protégés, Cash and Perkins were moving to Columbia Records; Phillips had already lost Presley to RCA Records. Only the new hyper energetic piano player Lewis remained to support Phillips.

Written by Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux, with director Ian Talbot, the show was brought to the city by Avinash and Brinda Shankar of the Mumbai-based company Blank Slate, and what a favour it was to music lovers. The plot is a peg to hang the fantastic line-up of songs that includes 'Blue Suede Shoes', 'I Walk The Line', 'Great Balls Of Fire', 'That’s All Right', 'Who Do You Love', 'See You Later Alligator', 'Down By The Riverside'... with 20 great numbers performed live.

The jam session happened by chance – nobody knew then that they were creating music history. Perkins came into the studio with his brothers to record some new songs; Lewis happened to be there and immediately rubbed Perkins the wrong way. Presley strolled in with then girlfriend (Jen Caldwall); Cash came by to drop his ‘quitting’ bombshell on Phillips.

After chatting for a bit, they started jamming, and music lore has it that Jack Clement in the recording room said to himself, “I think I'd be remiss not to record this.” He did and caught those rare moments for posterity; Phillips took a picture (actually photographer George Pierce did) and there it was – the 'Million Dollar Quartet' in a room together; the title given by Bob Johnson of the Memphis Press-Scimitar, who wrote an article on that session. (Eventually, Phillips sold Sun, started radio stations and invested in the Holiday Inn chain of hotels)

The production has been staged on Broadway and the West End, and toured widely; Mumbai was lucky to catch it; only the reticence of the audience prevented them from dancing in the aisles.

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