Jim Terry
Turkey Tetrazzini and history
By Jim Terry
November 27, 2017

Several years ago, while in New York City, my wife and I went to an off-Broadway theater to see a musical which took us back to our youth. The show, The Million Dollar Quartet, opened on Broadway in 2010. The musical premiered in Florida in 2006 and played in regional theaters the next few years before its Broadway opening.

The show is based on an impromptu recording session at Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee on December 4, 1956. According to the legend, Carl Perkins, a hot property of Sun at that time, was in the studio to record some songs. Sun's owner, Sam Phillips, had brought his newest future star, Jerry Lee Lewis, into the studio to add some hot piano to Perkins' recordings.

A former star for Sun, Elvis Presley, whose contract had already been sold to RCA, came by the studio to see his old friend Phillips. Then, Sun star, Johnny Cash, dropped by to watch as Perkins recorded his songs.

As the day went along, the four ended up together in the studio and a Rock and Roll jam session began.

The Sun recording engineer had the good sense to start the tapes rolling and, as they say, the rest is history. This was a one-time historic session of four of the greatest musical stars America has produced and who were instrumental in the societal change that swept across America in the 1950s.

Thanksgiving-after the bountiful meal was served, and eaten; after the games were played; after the goodbye hugs and kisses were exchanged as the kids left for home; and after all the remainders were stored away and the dishwasher began to spin away-wife and I sat in the quiet of the den to rest.

I turned on the tv and flipped through the channels and ran across a "Johnny Cash Christmas Special" on Get TV. This show originally aired in 1977. In addition to Cash, his wife, June Carter Cash, Roy Orbison, another Sun Records product, Roy Clark and the Statler Brothers appeared. But, there were two other major musicians who appeared on the show that night.

During the show, Cash and Clark paid tribute to the original singing cowboy, Gene Autry. They sang several of Gene's songs, including his Christmas hits, Here Comes Santa Clause, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, and Frosty the Snowman.

Cash then introduced his old Sun Records friend, Carl Perkins, who sang his biggest hit, Blue Suede Shoes, which Cash described as the song that "put Sun records on the map in those early days."

Next up was another Sun Record alumnus, Jerry Lee Lewis, who sang his most remembered

song, Whole Lot of Shaking Going On. In 1977, though a bit tamer, Jerry Lee still had the fire to move the audience on this hit.

Then, Cash, Perkins, Lewis and Orbison joined in the gospel, This Train, in tribute to yet another Sun Records Alumnus, Elvis Presley, who Cash described as "...a star, and he always was a star."

Remembering back to New York, I told my wife, "This is three-fourths of the Million Dollar Quartet. This is historic."

The show aired on November 30, 1977, almost twenty-one years after that impromptu jam session at Sun Records studio in Memphis. Sadly, the fourth and most famous member of that quartet had left the building a few months earlier. On August 16, 1977, Elvis Presley passed from this world.

Today, only one of those great stars is with us. Jerry Lee Lewis, at the age of eighty-two, still performs. He still has a spark, but the fire has dwindled.

You can see the "Johnny Cash Christmas Show" of 1977 on Youtube. You can see some music history as three members of the Million Dollar Quartet perform on that show. I don't know for a fact, but I suspect that was the last time those guys performed together. If you have the opportunity to see the musical, I recommend it.

Let's see, today is Saturday. I think that means Turkey Tetrazzini.

I hope you had a blessed Thanksgiving and your Christmas and New Year will be blessed abundantly.

© Jim Terry


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Jim Terry

Jim Terry has worked in Republican grassroots politics for 40 years. Terry was an administrative assistant to a Republican elected official in Dallas for twenty years. In 1996, he ran for and was elected to Justice Court 2 in Dallas County where he served eight years. Contact Jim at tr4guy62@yahoo.com


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