by Shanon Weaver
Some people have their head in the clouds. Some people have their head in the game. John Mueller has his head in the enigmatic music scene of the 1950s, and that’s just where we want it.
Mueller, a Kansas native, is the driving force behind a couple of fantastic, nostalgia-packed recreations of memorable moments in rock and roll history. One, Winter Dance Party, pays homage to the 1959 tour of the same name which featured Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and the Big Bopper as headliners. Mueller himself portrays Holly in that production – a part he seems born to play. The other, One Night in Memphis, chronicles the extraordinary night of December 4th, 1956, when the “Million Dollar Quartet” of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis sat down for a now-legendary jam session (Mueller plays Perkins in this show).
You may recall featured stories about these rockabilly romps in these very pages. Our own Dan Price covered Winter Dance Party when it came to the Eisemann Center last April, and One Night in Memphis at the same venue back in the Summer of 2022. Both shows have only grown and improved over time, and complement each other well, according to Mueller. If you missed it in ’22, we’re excited to report that One Night in Memphis will be back at the Eisemann for one night in March! March 10th, 2024, to be exact!
“The amazing thing about 50s music is that people still really appreciate it,” Mueller said. “With One Night in Memphis you get all of those rock and roll elements – country, gospel, rockabilly, and of course what we know as rock and roll today. The show is like being a fly on the wall on this one night; you hear all the comradery between these legends.”
“There’s an original recording where the guys got together on December 4, 1956,” Mueller said. “Sam Phillips, the recording engineer, just left the tape rolling. It was released sometime in the 80s. It’s just fascinating to listen to, because you hear all those guys at the top of their form –Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash –they’re all at the top of their game then, which is great for audiences to hear now. Just to hear them banter with each other, make fun of each other, play songs and laugh…you don’t see that today with recording artists.”
Mueller says the show works so well because of the connection it makes with the audience.
“It’s fun for us, and it’s fun for the audience because we interact with them,” he said. “And we take a little creative license – for example, Jerry Lee Lewis at the time hadn’t actually released Whole Lotta Shakin’ or Great Balls of Fire – but we keep it pretty true to the elements of that night.”
He also credits the chemistry of the cast in the show’s success. It’s grown big enough that there are actually two casts in the event of a double booking, as was recently the case when the show was going on in both California and New York on the same night.
“My motto in life is to bring joy to people,” Mueller said. “Making money, buying stuff you don’t need…none of that gives you an eternal feeling of great gratitude. When people come up to me at the merchandise table after the show and tell me how much fun they had, that just makes me feel so good. Like this was what I was meant to do in life.”
So what can our readers expect from the show on March 10th? A pretty rockin’ good time, we suspect. But don’t take our word for it…
“They can expect a high-energy recreation of this fantastic, legendary gathering of four great American artists – Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Johnny cash and Elvis Presley,” Mueller said. “They’ll be a fly on the wall at that recording session. They’re going to see how rock and roll became rock and roll, because they’re going to hear country elements, gospel elements…all those guys grew up singing in church. And they’re going to learn some stuff too! We tell little anecdotes about what went on that night and what became because of that night.”
Mueller summarizes the show best in his own words:
“One Night in Memphis is a recreation of that legendary night in 1956 when irreplaceable pioneers of rock and roll got together for a jam session.” We hope you’ll check it out!
One Night in Memphis | March 10, 2024 | The Eisemann Center 2351 Performance Dr Richardson, TX 75082