Fresh off a stint as rock and roll great, Jerry Lee Lewis in the Million Dollar Quartet at Harrah’s in Las Vegas, Scioto County native Jacob Tolliver will be returning to Portsmouth with his fellow stars Cole (Elvis Presley), Ben Hale (Johnny Cash) and Luke Darnell (Carl Perkins) Feb. 11 at 7:30 p.m., at the Vern Riffe Center for the Arts on the campus of Shawnee State University presented by Wendy’s Old fashioned Rock n’ Roll House Party.
While the show is being titled the Jacob Tolliver and Friends Million Dollar Reunion and is not related to the Million Dollar Quartet, it will have the same great music that happened on Dec. 4, 1956, as the stars aligned on one night in Sun Records recording studio in Memphis. Sam Phillips, who owned Sun Records, was doing a session for Carl Perkins, who had just come off the hit “Blue Suede Shoes” and was laying down the tracks for “Matchbox.” Lewis, a session player, was in the process of recording a hit record as well, and at the time was adding his touch to Perkins’ new song.
‘Elvis had already left Sun Records and had gone to RCA, and (Elvis’ manager) Colonel Tom Parker had him out in L.A. making movies,” Tolliver said. “He came back for Christmas and he decided to visit Sun Records and visit Sam Phillips.”
So, by chance, in walks Elvis.
“Sam, the genius that he was, called Johnny Cash, and said, ‘hey, get down here, we’ve got something special going on,’” Toliver said. “So they had an impromptu jam session. Sam was also smart enough to keep the reels running, so now you can buy a CD of the actual quartet.”
For nearly four years, Tolliver played a role in what was a complete story.
“A lot of people would come to the show (Million Dollar Quartet) not really knowing what the show was about, and they would come out very surprised and in a good way because they thought that they were just going to see an impersonator show,” Tolliver said. “It’s not that at all.”
Tolliver graduated from Portsmouth West High School in 2012 and he honed his music skills listening to old rock and roll via WIOI Radio, at his grandmother’s house.
“As a kid, I must have been the weirdest kid alive because I didn’t like Britney Spears, I didn’t like Aaron carter, NSync, the Backstreet Boys,” Tolliver said. “I liked the Andrews Sisters, Bing Crosby, Elvis and Tony Bennett.”
Tolliver credits several teachers when it comes to nurturing his talents. In elementary school it was music teacher Mike Newman. He took piano lessons from Mary Smalley for a year. In middle school it was Sonja Thompson. In high school he was influenced by music teacher extraordinaire Linda Tieman.
“She just amplified it all and encouraged me and magnified what I was good at and helped me do it,” Tolliver said.
He said the choir went to New York one year, and it was while they were in the Big Apple that Linda Tieman and her husband Gary Tieman took him to an audition for the Million Dollar Quartet.
He got called back for another audition and the rest is history.
Joining him and his fellow cast members from Million Dollar Quartet will be his father, Rick Tolliver on drums, and local optometrist Mike Raies on bass.
Tolliver is excited about returning to his hometown to perform.
“I can’t wait for the home town to actually see me perform,” Tolliver said. “They’ve seen me in local stuff, but this will actually be a next level show that they have never witnessed before.”
What is it like to do a one-time-only show?
“By doing this, we get to give them the best part of that show,” Tolliver said. “It’s kind of like all the best elements of the show. It’s just the music, but that’s what everybody wants anyway.”
Tolliver says it will be a full evening of entertainment
“It will be a full show, probably a two hour show,” Tolliver said. “It will just be rock and roll music all night long.”
Tickets are on sale now for $20 and $25 dollars and can be purchased at the McKinley Box Office by calling 740-351-3600 or online at VRFCA.com.
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.