December 4th, 1956 marks a historical day in the world of music that rocked society in so many ways that were, before that day, unforeseen. Teenagers in the fifties were just about to discover the addictive adrenaline that derives from freedom and self-expression. Arguably, this day changed humanity for the better, but for adults in the fifties, this day was a turning point toward a horrifying rebellion of degenerates. It’s hard to tell when or where this new sound of music began or who was most notably behind its creation as a whole, but theories suggest that Sam Phillips, record producer and founder of Sun Records and Sun Studio, held a pivotal role in the breakthrough of the genre that would soon be known as rock and roll.
Phillips didn’t have an easy upbringing, but nothing stood in the way of his love for music and his eagerness to find a new sound for it. He wanted to make something that was relatable and enjoyable to the ears of all races and classes, rather than conform to a single side of music which promoted segregation. His objective was finding a way to combine the sounds of African American R&B with southern country and pop to find a new sound that could bring people together. Phillips felt that perfection meant nothing in music as long as the emotions and feelings from a song were conveyed to listeners. This record producer didn’t judge people for their appearances and lifestyles, but instead connected to their spirits, making him an early influencer in a chain of events that led up to the Civil Rights Movement.
Sam Phillips and Elvis Presley in Sun Records recording studio.
Another remarkable name that was involved in this revolution of rock music was Elvis Presley. Phillips saw something in Presley that Presley didn’t see in himself. Also coming from a difficult childhood, he had an energy inside him that he only knew to express through music. However, Presley was timid and kept to himself until December 4th, 1956, the day that the Million Dollar Quartet accidentally found a sound that Phillips knew was going to change their lives.
The famous photograph of the four artists, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins, taking part in the jam session that made them famously known as the Million Dollar Quartet.
The Million Dollar Quartet was happened upon when Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins were taking a break from recording in the studio and impulsively broke into a jam session. An audio recording was taken of the group of artists while they jumped around and expressed themselves through music. Phillips knew that this was the perfect mix of artists; each artist specialized in their own genre, each was excited to express themselves and show energy, and the sound that they made together was what Phillips had been so eager to find. The group of artists went down in history that day as The Million Dollar Quartet, a group that came together by fate and made a new kind of music. This is why December 4th, 1956 went down in history as the day that started a rock and roll revolution.
As the King of Rock N' Roll would say: Thank You, thank you very much!