WATCH: Million Dollar Quartet Sang a Rendition of ‘This Train’

by Clayton Edwards

It’s hard to imagine what music would be today without Sun Records. Sam Phillips‘ studio in Memphis, Tennessee introduced the world to some of the most important artists in modern music. Phillips took a chance on unknowns like Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and, of course, Elvis Presley. Over the years, each of those men shaped music to differing degrees. One cold December day in 1956 they came together for an impromptu jam session. A day later, the Memphis Press-Scimitar called them The Million Dollar Quartet. The name stuck.

A New Million Dollar Quartet

Today, Jerry Lee Lewis is the only surviving member of the Million Dollar Quartet. The rest have gone on to Glory. Elvis was the first of the group to die. He passed away on August 16th, 1977. Later that year, Johnny Cash filmed a Christmas special with several musical guests. Among those guests were the other surviving members of that now-legendary jam session and Roy Orbison.

As the Christmas special neared its conclusion, Johnny Cash called up Orbison and the surviving members of the Million Dollar Quartet. They sang the old gospel tune “This Train” in memory of Elvis Presley. Check out their stirring rendition below.

A Fitting Tribute

In the video, you can hear Johnny Cash say “This song is for Elvis,” before the rest of the new Million Dollar Quartet gathers around him to sing. However, his actual intro was a little longer and made the song feel a little heavier. “…of course, there were others at Sun Records. Charlie Rich was there, so was Conway Twitty. And, there was another one. In fact, after playing in high school auditoriums and places like that, I worked my very first concert as a guest and he was a star. And he always was a star. Because all of us remember him and how he loved gospel songs and how we liked him, this song is for Elvis.”

In seconds, it goes from one icon paying his respects to another to a stage full of icons doing the same. Truly, “This Train” is a beautiful tribute to Elvis from the Million Dollar Quartet.

The Class of ’55

This iteration of the Million Dollar Quartet came together again in 1986 to record Class of ’55: Memphis Rock & Roll Homecoming. The record was both a tribute to Sun Records and Elvis Presley. The ten-song collection included a track called “We Remember the King” which is about Elvis. Additionally, they do a cover of Waylon Jennings’ hit “Waymore’s Blues” with slightly different lyrics.

In the opening verse, Cash sings “Early one mornin’, it was drizzlin’ rain. / ‘Round the curve come the Memphis train. / Heard somebody holler and a million moan. / The King is dead but he still ain’t gone. / Lord, he still ain’t gone.”