October 2011

Johnny Cash Vs. Elvis Presley

Art Imitates Art

In 1954, Johnny Cash met Elvis Presley for the first time. The 'not yet' king of rock n' roll was giving a live performance at Katz Drug Store on Lamar Avenue in Memphis, Tennesee, on the back of a flat bed truck to a crowd of hormone frenzied teenaged girls. He only knew two songs back then, "That's All Right Mama" and the B-side of his first single "Blue Moon of Kentucky"; and he growled them over and over.

After the show, Elvis introduced himself to Johnny and his then wife Vivian and invited them to his next show at the Eagle's Nest. Which Johnny remembers as a flop since it was an adult establishment and his biggest fan base was teenage girls.

On December 4th, 1956 at Sun Studios in Memphis, Carl Perkins was recording for Sam Phillips. Johnny Cash sat in to listen. Then in walked Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis followed. This event culminated in a jam session that would be dubbed "The Million Dollar Quartet". It create a fever among collectors and even inspire a Broadway musical.

A few years later, after Elvis went off to Germany in his stint in the United States Army, Johnny Cash brought a little bit of the 'spirit' of the king on nationwide TV. The show was called "The Vel's Ford Town Hall Party". Johnny cracked a few jokes regarding Elvis (Elvis who?) and then flipped his hair into a "Doo wop" pompadour and began swiveling his hips singing "Hearbreak Hotel" in a performance that Time magazine listed in the Top 10 Elvis Impersonators.

Sadly, the King probably never saw it.