Class of 55: Memphis Rock & Roll Homecoming

class of 55 memphis homecoming

Well Nashville had country music but Memphis had the soul
Lord, the white boy had the rhythm and that started rock and roll
And I was here when it happened don’t you all think I ought to know
I was here when it happened, yeah, yeah, yeah
I watched Memphis give birth to rock and roll, Lord, lord yeah.
~Carl Perkins (Birth Of Rock And Roll)

In the early years, when the King [Elvis Presley] and the Four Horsemen [Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins & Roy Orbison] reigned over American music, Memphis music was the life force of teenage rebellion. It influenced clothing styles, created movie idols,  helped end a war in Vietnam, and eventually changed the politics of a nation unaccustomed to listening to the voices of youth. By 1985, three decades after that rebellion had been hatched in the tiny studio of Sam Phillip’s Sun Records, popular music had gone through many cycles, as had the artists who invented it, but seldom had the music, or the artists who created it, ever returned to it’s birthplace.
~James L. Dickerson (Goin’ Back to Memphis: A Century of Blues, Rock ‘n’ Roll, and Glorious Soul)

Johnny Cash (Lewis, Perkins & Orbison) – We Remember The King:

As the swift bird flies o’er the mountains
How we wished, we were there at its wings
No Sir, by far, to a friend, we have lost We remember the King
We remember (we remember the King)
We recall (we recall everything)
We will treasure all of the gifts, that he did bring
We remember the King


In part a tribute to Elvis Presley, it was mainly a commemoration of those young performing hopefuls, the four album participants included, who came to Sun Records in 1955 to make music in the new era of Rock and Roll. Recorded at Sam Phillips’ Sun Studios and completed at American Sound Studios, the album was documented by Dick Clark Productions, which filmed it from start to finish; by The Commercial Appeal, the Mid-South’s largest circulation newspaper; and by Nine-O-One Network Magazine, the first edition of which was sold with the album in a telemarketing package.

The final song of the session, “Big Train (from Memphis)”, written by John Fogerty, includes the blended voices of John Fogerty, The Judds, Dave Edmunds, Ricky Nelson, Sam Phillips, and June Carter Cash. Fogerty told a reporter that he was thinking about the old Sun Records sound when he wrote the song.

The recorded “Interviews from the Class of ’55 Recording Sessions” earned the 1987 Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for the four performers plus for producer Chips Moman, Sam Phillips and Ricky Nelson. For Nelson, it was his last recording session and only Grammy Award of his career.

Cash, Lewis and Perkins had previously collaborated in 1956 with the Million Dollar Quartet and in 1982 with The Survivors Live.

johnny cash jerry lee lewis roy orbison carl perkins


  1. Perkins, Lewis, Orbison & Cash – “Big Train (from Memphis)” (John Fogerty)
    – playing in the background
  2. Perkins, Lewis, Orbison & Cash – “Rock and Roll (Fais-Do-Do)” (Michael Smotherman)
  3. Carl Perkins – “Birth of Rock and Roll” (Carl Perkins/Greg Perkins)
  4. Roy Orbison – “Coming Home” (Orbison/Will Jennings/J.D. Souther)
  5. Johnny Cash – “I Will Rock and Roll with You” (Cash)
  6. Jerry Lee Lewis – “Keep My Motor Running” (Randy Bachman)
  7. Johnny Cash – “We Remember the King” (Paul Kennerly)
  8. Johnny Cash – “Home Of The Blues
  9. Carl Perkins – “Class of ’55” (Chips Moman/Bobby Emmons)
  10. Perkins, Lewis, Orbison & Cash – “Waymore’s Blues” (Waylon Jennings/Curtis Buck)
  11. Perkins, Lewis, Orbison & Cash + – “Big Train (from Memphis)” (John Fogerty)

Throughout the years ever since I left Sun records in 1958, somebody at one time or another every year said you should go back to Memphis to record the old feel, the old sound..
~Johnny Cash (Class of 55)

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