Going Back in Time with Million Dollar Quartet

by Danielle Ochoa, Cristo Rey St. Martin College Prep, Class of 2016

After the show, CRSM students met two of the Million Dollar Quartet actors.
Million Dollar Quartet is a musical theatre performance based on the 1956 event when Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis recorded together at Sun Records. Million Dollar Quartet revealed the artists’ backgrounds, such as the fact that Elvis was hired to play music that African-American artists like Chuck Berry were already playing. Since racism was so prevalent at the time, white children were not even allowed to touch or even buy a record made by an African-American artist. Everything appeared to run smoothly in the music business, but racism caused an unfair effect on the African-American artists’ sales. Elvis was making more than Chuck Berry because of the color of his skin. These artists changed music as we know it, and the actors and actresses of Million Dollar Quartet portrayed these artists in a humorous and talented way.

Danielle with Lance Lipinsky, or
Jerry Lee Lewis in MDQ.
I had the opportunity to see this performance twice at the Apollo Theater. I have always loved 1950s and 1960s rock ‘n’ roll music, which has inspired me to write a few of my own pieces of music. The performance is full of energy and gets you on your feet and makes you feel like you are in the 1950s. The overall message of the play is that you should never forget where you come from. Three of the four artists left Sun Records to go to a bigger and richer record label. Jerry Lee was grateful for the opportunity to play for Sun Records, but record label does not define how “good” of an artist you are.

I also learned that you should believe in yourself even at the lowest of times. Sun Records studio used to be a car shop that was then renovated into a studio. Everyone has to start somewhere and use what they have. I make music on my 30-year-old guitar that was handed down to me by my godfather, and I record on my laptop. As I said earlier, big record labels and high tech gadgets don’t define your talent. As it’s well known Elvis and Johnny Cash are legends who started off playing in a car shop.

After the show, my peers and I had the chance to meet the two cast members who played Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash. They inspired me to continue learning new tricks on guitar. Million Dollar Quartet was an unforgettable performance that I encourage everyone to see. 1950’s rock ‘n’ roll music was known to the older generation as a “fad”, but little did they know that it would impact pop culture as we know it today.


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