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A Million Dollar Jam Session

Thursday, September 29: 4:43 p.m.
The Million Dollar Quartet. Photo credit: Memphis Press-Scimitar

The story of rock and roll is often reduced to a happy mix of rhythm and blues and country music, but it is actually a far richer and more complicated comingling of styles, genres, instruments, cultures and people. For our Rock and Roll Night School last night, my colleagues and I researched a rather famous moment in rock and roll history featuring some of its greatest musicians playing together at an impromptu jam session at Sam Phillips’ Sun Studios in Memphis on December 4, 1956. Coined the “Million Dollar Quartet” by local journalist Bob Johnson who stopped by to chronicle the session, I was struck by the versatility of these legends and the diverse repertory they had in their wheelhouse.

Earlier that day, rockabilly king Carl Perkins had recorded some songs with Sun newcomer Jerry Lee Lewis on piano.  Former Sun superstar (and then RCA recording artist) Elvis Presley was home for the holidays and dropped by with his girlfriend. Johnny Cash swung by for a time as well. As the musicians began to play together, Phillips placed a microphone in the middle of the room and pressed record. What followed were hours of musical exchange, experimentation, improvisation, imitation ...


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A Look at Night #1 of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 25th Anniversary Concerts

Friday, November 6: 12 p.m.
Posted by Howard Kramer

I made a vacation out of this event. Really, I mean, I could have worked, but that meant that at some point during the concerts, I would not have been watching the performances. Not a chance. Going into this I knew that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25th Anniversary concerts were going to be an event for the ages.

Opening with remarks from event producer Tom Hanks, the music started with the Killer himself, Jerry Lee Lewis, a 1986 inductee, pounding out “Whole Lot of Shakin’ Going On.” He was followed by Crosby, Stills and Nash. The trio and their band were clearly psyched up for the show and hit the stage with an energetic “Woodstock.” Each of the night’s billed acts had a slate of special guests and CSN first brought out Bonnie Raitt. Possessing one of the greatest voices in rock, Raitt sang a moving “Love Has No Pride” with Crosby and Nash adding harmonies. Stills rejoined them and Raitt pulled out the bottleneck slide for a take on Gregg Allman’s “Midnight Rider.” Next up was “The Pretender” performed with its author, Jackson Browne. James Taylor was next with versions of “Mexico,” “Love the ...


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