On and off Sun Records, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins played an inestimable role in shaping popular music during the Fifties and beyond. But Sun Records was where they found their voice. All four were only in the same place at the same time on one occasion, and it was at Sun's storefront studio in downtown Memphis, Tennessee, during the afternoon of Tuesday, December 4, 1956.
Elvis Presley was home for Christmas. Thirteen months earlier, Sun president Sam Phillips had peddled Elvis' contract to RCA, and invested the proceeds in Cash and Perkins. 1956 had been a year of redemption for them all. Elvis was the most celebrated, vilified, and polarizing personality in American entertainment. One out of every two records that RCA had pressed that year was an Elvis record. Carl Perkins was trying to recapture the success he'd found in the early months of 1956 with "Blue Suede Shoes."
Johnny Cash had given up his job selling home appliances shortly before Christmas 1955, and his early records, like "I Walk the Line," had become pop and country smashes. Jerry Lee Lewis' first record had been out just three days on December 4, 1956, and he was desperate to join the company in which he now found himself He was certain that he would soon eclipse them all.
Sam Phillips was at the controls for a Carl Perkins session during the early afternoon of December 4. Jerry Lee Lewis was the session pianist, trying to earn a little money. Sun's notoriously sloppy record-keeping means that we don't really know what Carl recorded, although "Matchbox" and a "Blue Suede Shoes" sequel, "Put Your Cat Clothes On," seem a good bet. As the session wound down, Elvis appeared with an entourage that included a girlfriend, Marilyn Evans...