Florida Studio Theater Puts Presley Onstage

Theater

BY PHILIP LEDERER SRQ DAILY FRIDAY WEEKEND EDITION FRIDAY DEC 2, 2016

On December 4, 1956, at the Sun Record Studios in Memphis, Tennessee, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins came together for an impromptu jam session that would go down as one of the greatest jam sessions in history and a defining moment in rock and roll. This Sunday marks the 60th anniversary of the occasion and not only will Florida Studio Theatre be continuing its run of Million Dollar Quartet, the Tony Award-winning musical based on that night, but one of Elvis Presley’s relatives will be in attendance, not in the audience, but in the cast.

To be fair, he’s been with the cast through the entire production as bassist Jay Perkins, but he’ll be there Sunday as well. Playing bass since the age of eight, Kroy Presley has been musical just about all his life, but it wasn’t until much later, grown and already gigging around the country, that he would discover his relation to rock and roll royalty. Questions of a connection weren’t uncommon and Presley’s mother would tell stories of his father meeting a young Elvis, drafted into the military, on a train in Germany, but that was largely that. It took another relative, Bob Presley, and some help from Ancestry.com to figure out the truth. Oddly enough, more surprising than finding out he was related to Elvis, Presley discovered he was a bit more German than previously thought.

Johan Valentine Presler was born in Germany and had a son named Andrew, who immigrated to the United States. Americanizing his name to Presley, he had four children in Cecil, Maryland. One was named John Valentine Presley, and his line would eventually lead to Kroy; another was named Andrew II, and his line would lead to Elvis. “It’s very distant,” says Presley, “but it’s there.”

As bassist for the band in Million Dollar Quartet, Presley makes his own mark. Perennially undersung and not as flashy as Elvis’ sequined and swinging hips, Presley nonetheless holds the bass up as the most important instrument, not necessarily for what it can do on its own but rather what it does for the whole. “It draws what’s happening with the rhythm section in the drums together with what’s happening with the harmony and the melodies,” he says. “Great bands that have thrived have all had great bass players.”

 But as another great rock-and-roller once said, you can’t always get what you want. And though he’s “always” been a fan of Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis, “Out of all the guys on the stage, if there’s anybody I would really truly like to be related to,” he says, “it would be Johnny Cash.”

Currently running through January 8 on the Gompertz Stage at Florida Studio Theatre, Million Dollar Quartet plays Saturday at 3pm and 8pm and Sunday at 2pm and 7pm. 

Pictured: Kroy Presley's father, John Maylon Presley, overseas where he would meet his unknown relation Elvis Presley. Photo courtesy of Kroy Presley.

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