|Elvis Express Radio brings news of Elvis releases and provides free online entertainment & news to fans around the world. We DO NOT sell any Elvis products
|MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET - THE TV SERIES
February 03, 2016 Commercial Appeal / Elvis Express Radio
Viacom's Nashville-based CMT network is expected to formally announce Wednesday the filming of an eight-episode television adaptation of "Million Dollar Quartet," the Broadway
musical about Memphis' Sun Records. According to sources familiar with the project, the production will be based in Memphis and could spend up to six months shooting in the city.
Filming is expected to begin in early spring, but preproduction has been ongoing for several weeks. An ambitious period piece, the project would be the biggest film or television
production in Memphis in many years, and was made possible by the $4 million in state film funds earmarked last year for Memphis-area productions, out of the $16 million included
in Gov. Bill Haslam's budget for film funding. This kept the production in Tennessee, although Louisiana also was competing for the series.
As part of the announcement, the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development is also expected to confirm details of an incentive package for the project.
During a luncheon hosted by the Memphis Rotary Club today, the state's economic development commissioner, Randy Boyd, told a group of local business and community leaders
to expect a major announcement involving the city tomorrow, but did not disclose specifics.
The shooting could generate significant job opportunities. Officials with Sun Studios — the historic home of Sun Records — confirmed they have met with producers of the "Million
Dollar Quartet" show, but that there were no current plans to film scenes at the studio. Instead, sets will be constructed in a Downtown warehouse, which will serve as a soundstage
for some interior scenes. Close to 50 locations around town will be needed, as well as vintage cars.
The series will be a scripted drama that depicts the lives of young Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins, in and around Memphis in the 1950s, in the time
leading up to the historic 1956 meeting of the so-called Million Dollar Quartet at Sun Studios. Such figures as Sun founder Sam Phillips, associate Marion Keisker and various blues
singers will be characters. Most of the main actors have yet to be cast.
The "Million Dollar Quartet" series is being executive produced by Leslie Greif and Gil Grant. Greif's credits include reality shows such as "Gene Simmons' Family Jewels" and the
miniseries "The Hatfields & McCoys." Grant served as an executive and consulting producer on the hit police dramas "NCIS" and "NCIS: Los Angeles." Sun Records historian Colin
Escott, who co-wrote the book for the Broadway version of "Million Dollar Quartet," will serve as a producer as well.
The program's musical director is Chuck Mead, best known for his work with roots-country band BR5-49 and as an arranger for the stage show of "Million Dollar Quartet." The
score and recordings for the show are expected to be cut by Mead and musicians in Nashville.
The synopsis for the television series, sent out as part of its casting notice in late 2015, characterizes the narrative as "the story of nothing less than the creation of rock 'n' roll. We
see the new music unfold, changing society, paving the way for racial integration. Set in Memphis, Tennessee, it's the story of Sam Phillips, a struggling audio engineer who has a
dream of starting his own record label."
The series will document Sun Records' transition from a black, blues-based label to becoming a force in rock and roll with the arrival of Elvis Presley. "Phillips signed him, promoted
him in the face of ridicule and hostility, but was soon forced to sell his contract to RCA to keep afloat," according to the synopsis. "He used the proceeds to promote Johnny Cash
and Carl Perkins' 'Blue Suede Shoes.' Then he discovered Jerry Lee Lewis. The music that Phillips nurtured is the defining sound of modern times, still the foundation of
contemporary popular music."
Though not involved formally with the project, the family of the late Sam Phillips is aware of the production. Jerry Phillips, one of Sam's two sons, confirmed that he and his brother
Knox had been in contact with producers and requested to see a treatment for the proposed TV adaptation.
Sam Phillips' legacy has enjoyed a renaissance over the past year. He's currently the subject of a major exhibit chronicling his life at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville,
and a critically hailed biography by author Peter Guralnick. The family-owned Madison Avenue studio bearing his name, the Sam Phillips Recording Service, has also been
undergoing major renovations and improvements during recent months.
The first local casting call for the series will be Saturday, February 13 at Humes Prepatory Academy Middle School, at 659 N. Manassas St. The open call begins at 9 a.m., with the
line starting at 7 a.m.
|The only thing predictable about Elvis is that he's unpredictable. On Tuesday, December 4, 1956, Carl Perkins (second from left) was cutting some new records at Sam Phillips' Sun Record
studio on Union at Marshall. Elvis Presley dropped in. So did Johnny Cash (right). Jerry Lee Lewis (left) was already there. Elvis headed for the piano, and an old-fashioned barrel-house
session with barbershop harmony resulted. Accompanying Elvis was his houseguest (pictured) Marilyn Evans, 19, a dancer at the New Frontier in Las Vegas. (The Commercial Appeal files)