This week, I was asked again to shoot publicity stills for a musical play in town called Million Dollar Quartet. The play follows the true story of a day (December 4, 1956) when Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis all turned up, sort of by accident, part by Sam Phillips design, at Sun Studios. The plot tells the story of the beginnings of rock and roll and is an indictment of the way that major record companies treated their artists even in those days. The acting is pretty fabulous, especially Elvis and Jerry Lee. The guys playing them, Brandon Bennett (From Louisiana) and Lance Lipinsky (Texas) have spent their entire lives singing and studying their subjects. Lance, especially as Jerry Lee, becomes Jerry Lee Lewis on stage to a mind boggling degree. They are all great musicians and are backed only by a drummer and bass player. The show is rocking into its fourth year in Chicago, with no sign of slowing down. It is the same show that I shot 3 years ago, with an entirely different cast, and just as good.
The show reminds me of February 18, 1982. I had read about a promoter in Nashville, who came up with the idea of putting a tour together called the ¾ of a Million Dollar Trio. It would include sets by Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash. Elvis had died about 5 years earlier, but the other three guys were still touring. They decided to try out the show in Madison, Wisconsin. So, I asked for a photo pass and confirmed. That morning, I drove up to Madison, arriving about 4 in the afternoon and parking next to the Dane County Coliseum. I went to the box office and got my passes, which included a backstage pass. I walked around to the backstage entrance, walked in and upon turning the corner, saw Johnny, Carl and jerry Lee standing there talking.
I dropped my bag on the floor, fished out a camera and asked them if I could take some pictures. They said sure, why not (think of that happening today with people of that stature). I hung out talking to them for about an hour, and then went out to the hall to get ready to shoot. What a shock!! There was a curtain blocking off half of the arena, and the stage was set up in front of the curtain. The audience didn’t even fill up ¼ of the half of the arena that was not curtained off. The show could have easily fit into a small bar. The show lasted about 3 hours, and was played, like true professionals that they were, as if the place was full. Amazing music played beautifully by great musicians!
Needless to say, the experiment didn’t work, and that was the end of the tour. What a shame!