Elvis Presley: Why It's Hard to Hear Johnny Cash's Voice on the Songs From Their Jam Session

Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis performed songs together during a jam session called the Million Dollar Quartet. Some fans have a difficult time hearing Cash’s voice in the recordings. In his autobiography, Cash explained why this is the case.

How Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis came to sing songs together

In his book Cash: The Autobiography, Cash explained what happened when the Million Dollar Quartet performed together. Cash said Perkins was the only singer booked to sing at the studio that day. Cash revealed he came to the studio because he wanted to see Perkins sing.

“I was there — I was the first to arrive and the last to leave, contrary to what has been written—but I was just there to watch Carl record, which he did until midafternoon, when Elvis came in with his girlfriend,” Cash said. “At that point the session stopped and we all started laughing and cutting up together.” 

Cash explained how the four singers started performing together. “Then Elvis sat down at the piano, and we started singing gospel songs we all knew, then some Bill Monroe songs,” Cash wrote. “Elvis wanted to hear songs Bill had written besides ‘Blue Moon of Kentucky,’ and I knew the whole repertoire.” For context, Elvis recorded a version of “Blue Moon of Kentucky” during the early years of his career.

Johnny Cash pushed back against what some people said about his role in the Million Dollar Quartet

Cash revealed his voice is on the tape of the Million Dollar Quartet, even if it’s difficult to hear it. “So, again contrary to what some people have written, my voice is on the tape,” he said. “It’s not obvious, because I was farthest away from the mike and I was singing a lot higher than I usually did in order to stay in key with Elvis, but I guarantee you, I’m there.” Cash said the performance was the only time he remembered performing with Elvis, Perkins, and Lewis.

The times the Million Dollar Quartet reunited without Elvis Presley

Cash would alter release a live album with Perkins and Lewis called The Survivors in 1982. The title of the album seemed to reference that fact that Cash, Perkins, and Lewis were the surviving members of the Million Dollar Quartet in 1982, as Elvis died in 1977. Despite the star power of The Survivors, it did not chart on the Billboard 200.

Cash, Perkins, and Lewis later released an album together with another icon of early rock ‘n’ roll: Roy Orbison. This album was called Class of ’55: Memphis Rock & Roll Homecoming. Class of ’55: Memphis Rock & Roll Homecoming was a minor hit, reaching No. 87 on the Billboard 200 and staying on the chart for 12 weeks. The Million Dollar Quartet never fully reunited, but the surviving members gave the world some great collaborations.

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