Legendary Energy

Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash rewrote music history by daring to bring to light genre-bending rock, rockabilly, blues, folk and gospel they’d grown up with, long before there were names for the sounds.
Born and raised in the South, the trio couldn’t help being moved by and attracted to this intoxicating blend of music that was both joyful and soulful, energizing and filled with sorrow, danceable and redemptive, and created by people who lived it every day.
Once the music caught on, becoming more than a fad, Presley, Lewis and Cash individually captured lightning in a bottle. Then on one fateful day, all three of them, along with singer/songwriter Carl Perkins, found themselves in Sun Record Studios in Memphis, Tennessee, at the same time in what became a pivotal moment in rock and roll history.
An engineer in the Sun Record Studios in Memphis knew he was witnessing a once in a lifetime event on Dec. 4, 1956, and had the foresight to record what has now become known as the “Million Dollar Quartet.”
It was that session, the natural chemistry and “rockabilly” vibe, that sparked the idea for “Cash, Killer & The King” tribute show. The show takes that moment and that memory and builds on it, giving it life, giving it more of a voice, begging the question, “what if these guys had taken things further?”
Producer and Johnny Cash tribute artist Neil Morrow brings the show back to the Riverside Resort for the third time. While the show has only been in existence for four years, Morrow is no stranger to the tribute business or Laughlin, for that matter. His Cash portrayals in various forms and his slammin’ rockabilly shows are staples at Laughlin venues, creating a loyal fan base as a result. The show also stars Doug Cooke as Jerry Lee and Scot Bruce as Elvis.
Morrow, of Memphis Music Group, Inc., traveled across the U.S. as well as Canada, Malaysia and Singapore with his long-running tribute show to Johnny Cash and June Carter, entitled, “Cash and Carter.” Morrow is an in-demand musician and is a member of John Stamos’ band Jessie & the Rippers, in the spin-off TV show “Fuller House.”
“Our show did stem from that infamous recording session at Sun Records,” Morrow said. “Honestly, I came up with the name ‘Cash, Killer & The King’ instantaneously. Johnny Cash only had to go by ‘Cash’ and you knew who they were talking about. ‘The Killer,’ that’s Jerry Lee and, of course, everybody knew who ‘The King’ was. So I thought a fun show featuring that high-energy rock and roll rockabilly music that these guys established in the ’50s, would be a great show.”
The trio toured together in the ’50s, but they never got to capture that magic for a live audience, Morrow said. Oh, but, Morrow’s group not only captures the magic, the energy created on stage is like a speeding train that can’t be stopped, hitting every audience member head on with its special delivery. There’s no way this musical locomotive is jumping the tracks.
“Of course, we can’t be them but we try to recreate the music pretty darn close and pretty authentic,” he said. “We studied up how things were played in the band that I’ve got. I’m so proud of these guys because they also live this music and respect this music — and it’s spot on, note for note. With this show, you’re not going to get some production of a musician who doesn’t understand the simplicity, yet the complexity rockabilly ’50s music was to play.”
Morrow said the show is not like the play “Million Dollar Quartet,” with dialogue between the players that never existed.
“We do have dialogue but we’re giving facts to the audience and kind of taking them back to 1956 or 1955,” Morrow said. “We really focus on the authenticity of the music. There’s no made-up dialogue, we’re not taking liberties, we’re going right off of what’s in the history books. It’s true to form, down to the guitars that were played to the upright bass.”
Morrow promised guests will feel like they are at a 1956 rockabilly show.
Cooke is an East Coast native who toured with Jerry Lee and is considered a close family friend to the Lewis family. He puts on a hell of a show and captures the vibe and style of Jerry Lee to a tee.
Bruce works with Disneyland and travels with his own Elvis show. The show sticks to the rockabilly era, without straying outside the lines. You wont see the white jumpsuit, hubba hubba, thank-you-very-much Elvis.
“This is gonna be the young Elvis, 19-year-old, 20-something who was setting the world on fire with his raw energy,” Morrow said. “His sexual energy that he brought to the stage, with the music too, there are going to be a lot of happy women there.
“They’re top notch, they really care about the music,” Morrow said. “They care about the style, a lot of times you go see these shows and they’re slightly off with the style of the band and the instruments, but we really try to pay attention to detail, even down to the drum kit.
Travis Daggett, lead guitar player, is also the musical director.
“If something’s not right, he’s like, ‘Hey listen to this, we have to adjust that,’ ” Morrow said. “I don’t know why this kid isn’t famous, he’s not selling out big forums, and stuff with his own thing, so I’m lucky to have these guys.”
The “guys” also include Russell Scott on upright bass and Jon Shelley on drums.
The show returns to Don’s Celebrity Theatre within the Riverside Resort Wednesday-Sunday, Oct. 9-13.
“We are looking forward to being back at the Riverside with the show,” Morrow said. “We’ve been quite busy this year with multiple shows across the country. We were recently in Maine for a weekend of shows. We’ve also visited Florida, Minnesota and Boston this year, just to name a few. The most recent shows were in August, where we had a five-day run in Memphis, Tennessee, at the Orpheum Theater during Elvis Week.
“Playing this legendary music by these artists in Memphis where it all began, brings an exciting energy to the show. That’s exactly what we will bring to the stage at the Riverside,” he added. “The audience will hear historical stories about the making of these tunes, personal encounters we’ve had with crossing paths with Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, and close and personal friends with Elvis Presley. And of course, the music, which speaks for itself.”
The show has been building up a solid reputation and Morrow has also built a musical foundation with every performance in Laughlin, no matter the venue.
“I’ve been thinking about it, I’ve been working at the Colorado Belle with my band for, gosh, going on 16 years now, so it’s always nice to get to Laughlin,” he said. “People ask me all the time, ‘how come you don’t do Vegas, why do you always go to Laughlin?’ Well, Laughlin has more of a support for live local music and better shows. When you go to Vegas, you get all the expensive shows like Elton John and Celine Dion, but as far as lounge acts or live entertainment, you can’t find it any more in Vegas.”
Fans know to look for the trio in Laughlin.
“Every time we come out there I see the same faces of people who follow us around,” Morrow said. “They come from Arizona or California, or they knew I was going to be out there one weekend so they planned their getaway around us, which is really nice. So Laughlin is very dear.
“Of course, I want to thank Ryan McDonough and his hardworking crew at Don’s Celebrity Theatre for making the production of the show sound awesome. And we wouldn’t be back at the Riverside if it wasn’t for Diana Fuchs, who has made this our fourth year in a row with Cash, Killer & The King. Doing this show in Laughlin, has kind of made me feel like a local celebrity, as it seems anytime I’m in town, people ask when the show is coming back. And now it’s time and we can’t wait to rock the week.”


CASH, KILLER & THE KING

Don’s Celebrity Theatre within the Riverside Resort

Wednesday-Sunday, Oct. 9-13 (8 p.m.)

See “Showtimes” for ticket info