A well-known poster marks the occasion. Or does it? Many of us have seen the cropped version of the above photo which graced the covers of the so-called, “Million Dollar Quartet”-Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash. Recorded on Tuesday December 4, 1956 in the Sun Record Studios in Memphis, Tennessee, the jam session of the Million Dollar Quartet was totally unplanned.
That morning Perkins came to the studios to cut some new material, including a revamped version of an old blues song, “Matchbox.” Jerry Lee Lewis, still unknown outside Memphis, was asked by the studios to play the piano on the Perkins session. Elvis Presley, a former Sun artist himself dropped by with a girlfriend, Marilyn Evans. As Presley listened to the playback of the Perkins’ session, Johnny Cash (who was the first to arrive at Sun Studio that day) decided to join in too.
The studio spotted an opportunity for the publicity and called a local newspaper, the Memphis Press-Scimitar. The next day, an article was published under the title, “Million Dollar Quartet,” accompanied by a cropped version of the above photo. The image of Marilyn Evans was cropped out of–a practice continued on the subsequent record covers and later posters. Today, it is uncertain whether ‘Marilyn Evans’ existed and whether she was merely a placeholder name for Elvis’ unknown girlfriend that day.
Unlike other women who told (and sold) their story of time with Presley, Evans disappeared from the media spotlight. Her voice, however, can be heard on the recordings from that day as she suggests a song title to the singers. Those present on that historic day claimed that then-19 year old was a showgirl at Las Vegas and dated Elvis only for a few weeks. Perkins, however, insisted that the woman had a different name. The mystery was finally solved only in 2008 with a publication of a Chicago Tribune article.