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Carl Perkins

Carl Perkins

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Carl Lee Perkins was an American rockabilly
Rockabilly
Rockabilly is one of the earliest styles of rock and roll music, dating to the early 1950s.The term rockabilly is a portmanteau of rock and hillbilly, the latter a reference to the country music that contributed strongly to the style's development...

 musician who recorded most notably at Sun Records Studio in Memphis, Tennessee
Memphis, Tennessee
Memphis is a city in the southwestern corner of the U.S. state of Tennessee, and the county seat of Shelby County. The city is located on the 4th Chickasaw Bluff, south of the confluence of the Wolf and Mississippi rivers....

, beginning during 1954. His best known song is "Blue Suede Shoes
Blue Suede Shoes
"Blue Suede Shoes" is a rock and roll standard written and first recorded by Carl Perkins in 1955 and is considered one of the first rockabilly records and incorporated elements of blues, country and pop music of the time...

".

According to Charlie Daniels
Charlie Daniels
Charles Edward "Charlie" Daniels is an American musician known for his contributions to country and southern rock music. He is known primarily for his number one country hit "The Devil Went Down to Georgia", and multiple other songs he has performed and written. Daniels has been active as a singer...

, "Carl Perkins' songs personified the rockabilly era, and Carl Perkins' sound personifies the rockabilly sound more so than anybody involved in it, because he never changed." Perkins' songs were recorded by artists (and friends) as influential as Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley
Elvis Aaron Presley was one of the most popular American singers of the 20th century. A cultural icon, he is widely known by the single name Elvis. He is often referred to as the "King of Rock and Roll" or simply "the King"....

, The Beatles
The Beatles
The Beatles were an English rock band, active throughout the 1960s and one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed acts in the history of popular music. Formed in Liverpool, by 1962 the group consisted of John Lennon , Paul McCartney , George Harrison and Ringo Starr...

, Jimi Hendrix
Jimi Hendrix
James Marshall "Jimi" Hendrix was an American guitarist and singer-songwriter...

, and Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash
John R. "Johnny" Cash was an American singer-songwriter, actor, and author, who has been called one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century...

, which further cemented his place in the history of popular music.

Called "the King of Rockabilly", he was inducted into the Rock and Roll
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is a museum located on the shore of Lake Erie in downtown Cleveland, Ohio, United States. It is dedicated to archiving the history of some of the best-known and most influential artists, producers, engineers and others who have, in some major way,...

, the Rockabilly
Rockabilly Hall of Fame
The Rockabilly Hall of Fame was established on the internet on March 21, 1997, to present early rock and roll history and information relative to the artists and personalities involved in this pioneering American music genre....

, and the Nashville Songwriters
Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame
The Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame was established by the Nashville Songwriters Foundation, Inc. in Nashville, Tennessee, United States. A non-profit organization, its objective is to honor and preserve the songwriting legacy that is uniquely associated with music community in the city of...

 Halls of Fame; and was a Grammy Hall of Fame Award recipient.

Early life


Perkins was the son of poor sharecroppers near Tiptonville, Tennessee
Tiptonville, Tennessee
Tiptonville is a town in and the county seat of Lake County, Tennessee, United States. Its population was 2,439 as of the 2000 census. It is also home to the Northwest Correctional Complex, a maximum security prison, known for once housing mass murderer Jessie Dotson, Jr.-History:According to the...

. He grew up hearing Southern gospel music
Gospel music
Gospel music is music that is written to express either personal, spiritual or a communal belief regarding Christian life, as well as to give a Christian alternative to mainstream secular music....

 sung by whites in church, and by black
African American
African Americans are citizens or residents of the United States who have at least partial ancestry from any of the native populations of Sub-Saharan Africa and are the direct descendants of enslaved Africans within the boundaries of the present United States...

 field workers when he started working in the cotton fields at age six. During spring and autumn, the school day would be followed by several hours of work in fields. During the summer, workdays were 12–14 hours, "from can to can't." Carl and his brother Jay together would earn 50 cents a day. With all family members working and not having any credit, there was enough money for beans and potatoes, some tobacco for Carl's father Buck, and occasionally the luxury of a five-cent bag of hard candy.

During Saturday nights Carl would listen to the radio with his father and hear the Grand Ole Opry
Grand Ole Opry
The Grand Ole Opry is a weekly country music stage concert in Nashville, Tennessee, that has presented the biggest stars of that genre since 1925. It is also among the longest-running broadcasts in history since its beginnings as a one-hour radio "barn dance" on WSM-AM...

, and Roy Acuff
Roy Acuff
Roy Claxton Acuff was an American country music singer, fiddler, and promoter. Known as the King of Country Music, Acuff is often credited with moving the genre from its early string band and "hoedown" format to the star singer-based format that helped make it internationally successful.Acuff...

's broadcasts on the Opry inspired him to ask his parents for a guitar.
Because they could not afford a real guitar, Carl's father fashioned one from a cigar box
Cigar box guitar
The cigar box guitar is a primitive chordophone that uses an empty cigar box for a resonator. "Guitar" refers to the traditional instrument and to a string bass. The earliest predecessors had one or two strings compared with the three or more used in today's models...

 and a broomstick. When a neighbor in tough straits offered to sell his dented and scratched Gene Autry
Gene Autry
Orvon Grover Autry , better known as Gene Autry, was an American performer who gained fame as The Singing Cowboy on the radio, in movies and on television for more than three decades beginning in the 1930s...

 model guitar with worn-out strings, Buck purchased it for a couple of dollars.

For the next year Carl taught himself parts of Acuff's "Great Speckled Bird
The Great Speckled Bird (song)
"The Great Speckled Bird" is a Southern hymn whose lyrics were written by the Reverend Guy Smith. It is an allegory referencing Fundamentalist self-perception during the Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy. The song is in the form of AABA and has a 12 bar count...

" and "The Wabash Cannonball", which he had heard on the Opry. He also cited the fast playing and vocals of Bill Monroe
Bill Monroe
William Smith Monroe was an American musician who created the style of music known as bluegrass, which takes its name from his band, the "Blue Grass Boys," named for Monroe's home state of Kentucky. Monroe's performing career spanned 60 years as a singer, instrumentalist, composer and bandleader...

 as an early influence.

Carl began learning more about playing his guitar from a fellow field worker named John Westbrook who befriended him. "Uncle John," as Carl called him, was an African American in his sixties who played blues and gospel on his battered acoustic guitar. Most famously, "Uncle John" advised Carl when playing the guitar to "Get down close to it. You can feel it travel down the strangs, come through your head and down to your soul where you live. You can feel it. Let it vib-a-rate." Because Carl could not afford new strings when they broke, he retied them. The knots would cut into his fingers when he tried to slide to another note, so he began bending the notes, stumbling onto a type of "blue note."

Carl was recruited to be a member of the Lake County Fourth Grade Marching Band, and because of the Perkins' limited finances, was given a new white shirt, cotton pants, white band cap and red cape by Miss Lee McCutcheon, who was in charge of the band.
During January 1947, Buck Perkins moved his family from Lake County to Madison County. A replacement radio which operated by electricity rather than a battery and the proximity of Memphis made it possible for Carl to hear a greater variety of music. At age fourteen years, using the I IV V chord progression common to country songs of the day, he wrote what came to be known around Jackson as "Let Me Take You To the Movie, Magg" (the song would convince Sam Phillips
Sam Phillips
Samuel Cornelius Phillips , better known as Sam Phillips, was an American businessman, record executive, record producer and DJ who played an important role in the emergence of rock and roll as the major form of popular music in the 1950s...

 to sign Perkins to his Sun Records label).

Beginnings as a performer


Perkins and his brother Jay had their first paying job (in tips) as entertainers at the "Cotton Boll" tavern on Highway 45 some twelve miles south of Jackson, starting on Wednesday nights during late 1946. Carl was only 14 years old. One of the songs they played was an uptempo, country blues shuffle version of Bill Monroe's "Blue Moon of Kentucky
Blue Moon of Kentucky
"Blue Moon of Kentucky" is a waltz written in 1946 by bluegrass musician Bill Monroe and recorded by his band, The Blue Grass Boys. The song has since been recorded by many artists, including Elvis Presley....

". Free drinks were one of the perks of playing in a tavern, and Carl drank four beers that first night. Within a month Carl and Jay began playing Friday and Saturday nights at the Sand Ditch tavern near the western boundary of Jackson. Both places were the scene of occasional fights, and both of the Perkins Brothers gained a reputation as fighters.

During the next couple of years the Perkins Brothers began playing other taverns, including El Rancho, The Roadside Inn, and the Hilltop around Bemis and Jackson as they became well known. Carl persuaded his brother Clayton to play the bass fiddle to complete the sound of the band.

Perkins began performing regularly on WTJS
WTJS
WTJS is a radio station broadcasting a News Talk Information format. Licensed to Jackson, Tennessee, USA, the station is currently owned by Forever South Licenses, LLC and features programing from Fox News Radio, Fox Sports Radio, and Premiere Radio Networks....

-AM in Jackson during the late 1940s as a sometime member of the Tennessee Ramblers. He also appeared on Hayloft Frolic where he performed two songs, sometimes including "Talking Blues" as done by Robert Lunn on the Grand Ole Opry. Perkins and then his brothers began appearing on The Early Morning Farm and Home Hour. Overwhelmingly positive listener response resulted in a 15-minute segment sponsored by Mother's Best Flour. By the end of the 1940s
1940s
File:1940s decade montage.png|Above title bar: events which happened during World War II : From left to right: Troops in an LCVP landing craft approaching "Omaha" Beach on "D-Day"; Adolf Hitler visits Paris, soon after the Battle of France; The Holocaust occurred during the war as Nazi Germany...

, the Perkins Brothers were the best-known band in the Jackson area.

Perkins had day jobs during most of these early years, working first at picking cotton, then at Day's Dairy in Malesus, then at a mattress factory and in a battery plant. He then worked as a pan greaser for the Colonial Baking Company from 1951 through 1952.

During January 1953, Perkins married a woman he had known for a number of years, Valda Crider. When his job at the bakery was reduced to part-time, Valda, who had her own job, encouraged Carl to begin working the taverns full-time. He began playing six nights a week. Late the same year he added W.S. "Fluke" Holland
W. S. Holland
W. S. "Fluke" Holland is a drummer who worked extensively with numerous rock and roll musicians, beginning with Carl Perkins, but became well known as the drummer in singer Johnny Cash's succession of backing bands: The Tennessee Three, The Great Eighties Eight, and The Johnny Cash Show Band...

 to the band as a drummer, who had not any previous experience as a musician but had a good sense of rhythm.

Malcolm Yelvington
Malcolm Yelvington
Malcolm Yelvington was an American rockabilly and country musician. Born in Covington, Tennessee, he released a record on Sun Records in 1954, just after Elvis Presley....

 remembered the Perkins brothers from 1953 when they played in Covington, Tennessee
Covington, Tennessee
Covington is a city in central Tipton County in the State of Tennessee. Covington is the largest city and county seat of, Tipton County. Covington is located in one of just five counties of West Tennessee that are located along the Mississippi River, thus it is in extreme western Tennessee.This...

. He noted that Carl had a very unusual blues-like style all his own. One of Carl's friends had a tape recorder, and he had used it to make tapes of his materials that he sent to Columbia and RCA. He never heard back from them.

During July 1954, Perkins and his wife heard a new release of "Blue Moon of Kentucky
Blue Moon of Kentucky
"Blue Moon of Kentucky" is a waltz written in 1946 by bluegrass musician Bill Monroe and recorded by his band, The Blue Grass Boys. The song has since been recorded by many artists, including Elvis Presley....

" by Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley
Elvis Aaron Presley was one of the most popular American singers of the 20th century. A cultural icon, he is widely known by the single name Elvis. He is often referred to as the "King of Rock and Roll" or simply "the King"....

, Scotty Moore
Scotty Moore
Winfield Scott "Scotty" Moore III is an American guitarist. He is best known for his backing of Elvis Presley in the first part of his career, between 1954 and the beginning of Elvis' Hollywood years...

 and Bill Black
Bill Black
William Patton "Bill" Black, Jr. was an American musician who is noted as one of the pioneers of rockabilly music. Black was the bassist in Elvis Presley's early trio and the leader of Bill Black's Combo....

 on the radio. Valda exclaimed, "Listen! They play like y'all! It sounds like you!" After recording the take of the song that was released, Presley exclaimed, "That sounds like Carl Perkins!" Later, Presley told Perkins that he had traveled to Jackson and seen Perkins and his group playing at El Rancho. As "Blue Moon of Kentucky faded out, Carl said, "There's a man in Memphis who understands what we're doing. I need to go see him."

Years later fellow musician Gene Vincent told an interviewer that, rather than "Blue Moon of Kentucky" being a "new sound", "a lot of people were doing it before that, especially Carl Perkins."

Sun Records


Perkins successfully auditioned for Sam Phillips
Sam Phillips
Samuel Cornelius Phillips , better known as Sam Phillips, was an American businessman, record executive, record producer and DJ who played an important role in the emergence of rock and roll as the major form of popular music in the 1950s...

 at Sun Records
Sun Records
Sun Records is a record label founded in Memphis, Tennessee, starting operations on March 27, 1952.Founded by Sam Phillips, Sun Records was known for giving notable musicians such as Elvis Presley , Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, and Johnny Cash...

 during early October 1954. "Movie Magg
Movie Magg
"Movie Magg" is a 1955 rockabilly song written by Carl Perkins and released on Flip Records, a subsidiary of Sun Records. Perkins had written the song at the age of thirteen. It was based on the true story of Perkins' girlfriend Maggie and their occasional trips to the movies at the weekends...

" and "Turn Around" were released on the Phillips-owned Flip label (151) March 19, 1955, with "Turn Around" becoming a regional success. With the song getting airplay across the South and Southwest, Perkins was booked to appear along with Elvis Presley at theaters in Marianna
Marianna, Arkansas
Marianna is a city in and the county seat of Lee County, Arkansas, United States, along the L'Anguille River. The community was established by Col. Walter H. Otey in 1848 and was known as Walnut Ridge until 1852 when it became known as Marianna...

 and West Memphis, Arkansas
West Memphis, Arkansas
West Memphis is the largest city in Crittenden County, Arkansas, United States. The population was 27,666 at the 2000 census, with an estimated population of 28,181 in 2005, and 31,329 in 2011 ranking it as the state's 11th largest city, behind Hot Springs...

. Commenting on the audience reaction to both Presley and himself Perkins said, "When I'd jump around they'd scream some, but they were gettin' ready for him. It was like TNT, man, it just exploded. All of a sudden the world was wrapped up in rock."

Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash
John R. "Johnny" Cash was an American singer-songwriter, actor, and author, who has been called one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century...

 and the Tennessee Two were the next musicians to be added to the performances by Sun musicians. During the summer of 1955 there were junkets to Little Rock
Little Rock, Arkansas
Little Rock is the capital and the largest city of the U.S. state of Arkansas. The Metropolitan Statistical Area had a population of 699,757 people in the 2010 census...

, Forrest City, Arkansas
Forrest City, Arkansas
Forrest City is a city in and the county seat of St. Francis County, Arkansas, United States. It was named for General Nathan Bedford Forrest, who used the location as a campsite for a construction crew completing a railroad between Memphis and Little Rock, shortly after the Civil War. The...

, Corinth
Corinth, Mississippi
Corinth is a city in Alcorn County, Mississippi, United States. The population was 14,054 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Alcorn County. Its ZIP codes are 38834 and 38835.- History :...

 and Tupelo, Mississippi
Tupelo, Mississippi
Tupelo is the largest city in and the county seat of Lee County, Mississippi, United States. It is the seventh largest city in the state of Mississippi, smaller than Meridian, and larger than Greenville. As of the 2000 United States Census, the city's population was 34,211...

. Again performing at El Rancho, the Perkins brothers were involved in an automobile accident. A friend, who had been driving, was pinned by the steering wheel. Perkins managed to drag him from the car, which had begun burning. Clayton had been thrown from the car, but was not injured seriously.

Another Perkins' tune, "Gone Gone Gone", released in October 1955 by Sun, was also a regional success. It was backed by the more traditional "Let The Juke Box Keep On Playing
Let The Jukebox Keep On Playing
Let The Jukebox Keep On Playing is a 1955 rockabilly song written by Carl Perkins. It was released on October 22, 1955 by Sun Records as a 78 and 45 single, 224, b/w "Gone, Gone, Gone". The song was a follow-up to "Turn Around", released on Flip....

," complete with fiddle, "Western Boogie" bass line, steel guitar and weepy vocal.

Commenting on Perkins' playing, Sam Phillips has been quoted as saying that, "I knew that Carl could rock and in fact he told me right from the start that he had been playing that music before Elvis came out on record... I wanted to see whether this was someone who could revolutionize the country end of the business."

That same autumn, Perkins wrote "Blue Suede Shoes
Blue Suede Shoes
"Blue Suede Shoes" is a rock and roll standard written and first recorded by Carl Perkins in 1955 and is considered one of the first rockabilly records and incorporated elements of blues, country and pop music of the time...

" after seeing a dancer in a tavern get angry with his date for scuffing up his blue suede shoes. Several weeks later, on December 19, 1955, Perkins and his band recorded the song during a session at Sun Studio in Memphis. Phillips suggested changes to the lyrics ("Go, cat, go") and the band changed the end of the song to a "boogie vamp".
Presley left Sun for a larger opportunity with RCA
RCA Records
RCA Records is one of the flagship labels of Sony Music Entertainment. The RCA initials stand for Radio Corporation of America , which was the parent corporation from 1929 to 1985 and a partner from 1985 to 1986.RCA's Canadian unit is Sony's oldest label...

 in November, and on December 19, 1955, Phillips, who had begun recording Perkins in late 1954, told Perkins, "Carl Perkins, you're my rockabilly cat now." Released on January 1, 1956, "Blue Suede Shoes" was a massive chart success. In the United States, it scored No. 1 on Billboard magazine's country music
Country music
Country music is a popular American musical style that began in the rural Southern United States in the 1920s. It takes its roots from Western cowboy and folk music...

 charts (the only No. 1 success he would have) and No. 2 on Billboard's Best Sellers popular music chart. On March 17, Perkins became the first country artist to score No. 3 on the rhythm & blues charts. That night, Perkins performed the song during his television debut on ABC-TV's Ozark Jubilee
Ozark Jubilee
Ozark Jubilee is the first U.S. network television program to feature country music's top stars, and was the centerpiece of a strategy for Springfield, Missouri to challenge Nashville, Tennessee as America's country music capital...

(Presley performed it for the second time that same night on CBS-TV's Stage Show
Stage Show
Stage Show was a popular music variety series on American television originally hosted on alternate weeks by big band leaders and brothers Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey. Produced by Jackie Gleason, the CBS-TV show included the first national television appearances by Elvis Presley.The series began as a...

; he'd first sung it on the program on February 11).

In the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, the song became a Top Ten success, scoring No. 10 on the British charts. It was the first record by a Sun label artist to sell a million copies. The B side, "Honey Don't
Honey Don't
"Honey Don't" is a song written by Carl Perkins, originally released on January 1, 1956 as the B-side of the "Blue Suede Shoes" single. Both songs became rockabilly classics...

", was covered by The Beatles, Wanda Jackson
Wanda Jackson
Wanda Lavonne Jackson is an American singer, songwriter, pianist and guitarist who had success in the mid-1950s and 60s as one of the first popular female rockabilly singers and a pioneering rock and roll artist...

 and (in the 1970s) T. Rex
T. Rex (band)
T. Rex were a British rock band, formed in 1967 by singer/songwriter and guitarist Marc Bolan. The band formed as Tyrannosaurus Rex, releasing four folk albums under the name...

. John Lennon
John Lennon
John Winston Lennon, MBE was an English musician and singer-songwriter who rose to worldwide fame as one of the founding members of The Beatles, one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed acts in the history of popular music...

 sang lead on the song when the Beatles performed it before it was given to Ringo Starr
Ringo Starr
Richard Starkey, MBE better known by his stage name Ringo Starr, is an English musician and actor who gained worldwide fame as the drummer for The Beatles. When the band formed in 1960, Starr was a member of another Liverpool band, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. He became The Beatles' drummer in...

 to sing. Lennon also performed the song on the Lost Lennon Tapes.

The accident


After playing a show in Norfolk, Virginia
Norfolk, Virginia
Norfolk is an independent city in the Commonwealth of Virginia in the United States. With a population of 242,803 as of the 2010 Census, it is Virginia's second-largest city behind neighboring Virginia Beach....

 on March 21, 1956, the Perkins Brothers Band headed to New York City for a March 24 appearance on NBC-TV's
NBC
The National Broadcasting Company is an American commercial broadcasting television network and former radio network headquartered in the GE Building in New York City's Rockefeller Center with additional major offices near Los Angeles and in Chicago...

 Perry Como
Perry Como
Pierino Ronald "Perry" Como was an American singer and television personality. During a career spanning more than half a century he recorded exclusively for the RCA Victor label after signing with them in 1943. "Mr...

 Show
. Shortly before sunrise on March 22 on Route 13 between Dover and Woodside in Dover, Delaware
Dover, Delaware
The city of Dover is the capital and second largest city in the U.S. state of Delaware. It is also the county seat of Kent County, and the principal city of the Dover, Delaware Metropolitan Statistical Area, which encompasses all of Kent County. It is located on the St. Jones River in the Delaware...

, Stuart Pinkham (aka Richard Stuart and Poor Richard) assumed duties as driver. After hitting the back of a pickup truck, their car went into a ditch of water about a foot deep, and Carl was lying face down in the water. Drummer Holland rolled Carl over, saving him from drowning. He had suffered three fractured vertebrae in his neck, a severe concussion, a broken collar bone, and lacerations all over his body in the crash. Carl remained unconscious for an entire day. The driver of the pickup truck, Thomas Phillips, a 40-year old farmer, died when he was thrown into the steering wheel. Carl's brother Jay had a fractured neck along with severe internal injuries, later dying from these complications.

On March 23, Bill Black
Bill Black
William Patton "Bill" Black, Jr. was an American musician who is noted as one of the pioneers of rockabilly music. Black was the bassist in Elvis Presley's early trio and the leader of Bill Black's Combo....

, Scotty Moore
Scotty Moore
Winfield Scott "Scotty" Moore III is an American guitarist. He is best known for his backing of Elvis Presley in the first part of his career, between 1954 and the beginning of Elvis' Hollywood years...

 and D.J. Fontana visited Perkins on their way to New York to appear with Presley the next day. D.J. Fontana recalled Perkins saying, "Of all the people, I looked up and there you guys are. You looked like a bunch of angels coming to see me." Black told him, "Hey man, Elvis sends his love," and lit a cigarette for him, even though the patient in the next bed was in an oxygen tent. A week later, Perkins was given a telegram from Presley (which had arrived on the 23rd), wishing him a speedy recovery.

Sam Philips had planned to surprise Perkins with a gold record on The Perry Como Show. "Shoes" had already sold more than 500,000 copies by March 22. Now, while Carl recuperated from the accident, "Blue Suede Shoes" scored No. 1 on most popular, R&B, and country regional music charts. It also scored No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and country charts. Elvis Presley's "Heartbreak Hotel
Heartbreak Hotel
"Heartbreak Hotel" is a song recorded by American rock and roll musician Elvis Presley. It was released as a single on January 27, 1956, Presley's first on his new record label RCA Victor. His first number-one pop record, "Heartbreak Hotel" topped Billboards Top 100 chart, became his first...

" scored number one on the pop and country charts, while "Shoes" did better than "Heartbreak" on the R&B charts. By mid-April, more than one million copies of "Blue Suede Shoes" had been sold.

On April 3, while still recuperating in Jackson, Perkins would see Presley perform "Blue Suede Shoes" on his first Milton Berle Show appearance, which was his third performance of the song on national television. He also made references to it twice during an appearance on The Steve Allen Show
The Steve Allen Show
The Steve Allen Show is an American variety show hosted by Steve Allen from June 1956 to June 1960 on NBC, from September 1961 to December 1961 on ABC, and in first-run syndication from 1962 to 1964....

. Although his version became more famous than Perkins', it only scored No. 20 on Billboard's popular music chart.

Return to recording and touring



Perkins returned to live performances on April 21, 1956, beginning with an appearance in Beaumont, Texas
Beaumont, Texas
Beaumont is a city in and county seat of Jefferson County, Texas, United States, within the Beaumont–Port Arthur Metropolitan Statistical Area. The city's population was 118,296 at the 2010 census. With Port Arthur and Orange, it forms the Golden Triangle, a major industrial area on the...

, with the "Big D Jamboree" tour. Before resuming touring, Sam Phillips arranged a recording session at Sun with Ed Cisco filling in for the still- recuperating Jay. By mid-April, "Dixie Fried", "Put Your Cat Clothes On", "Right String, Wrong Yo-Yo", "You Can't Make Love to Somebody", "Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby", and "That Don't Move Me" had been recorded.
Beginning during early summer, Perkins was paid $1,000 to play just two songs a night on the extended tour of "Top Stars of '56." Other performers on the tour were Chuck Berry
Chuck Berry
Charles Edward Anderson "Chuck" Berry is an American guitarist, singer, and songwriter, and one of the pioneers of rock and roll music. With songs such as "Maybellene" , "Roll Over Beethoven" , "Rock and Roll Music" and "Johnny B...

 and Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers. When Perkins and the group entered the stage in Columbia, South Carolina
Columbia, South Carolina
Columbia is the state capital and largest city in the U.S. state of South Carolina. The population was 129,272 according to the 2010 census. Columbia is the county seat of Richland County, but a portion of the city extends into neighboring Lexington County. The city is the center of a metropolitan...

, he was appalled to see a teenager with a bleeding chin pressed against the stage by the crowd. During the first guitar intermission of "Honey Don't" they were waved off stage and into a vacant dressing room behind a double line of police officers. Perkins was quoted as saying, "It was dangerous. Lot of kids got hurt. There was a lot of rioting going on, just crazy, man! The music drove 'em insane." Appalled by what he had seen and experienced, Perkins left the tour. Appearing with Gene Vincent
Gene Vincent
Vincent Eugene Craddock , known as Gene Vincent, was an American musician who pioneered the styles of rock and roll and rockabilly. His 1956 top ten hit with his Blue Caps, "Be-Bop-A-Lula", is considered a significant early example of rockabilly...

 and Lillian Briggs
Lillian Briggs
Lillian Briggs was an American rock 'n roll performer and musician.Lillian Briggs was the first woman to achieve super-star status at the dawn of rock 'n roll in the early 1950's, as evidenced by the fact that soon after embarking upon her career, she was named "The Queen of Rock & Roll" by The...

 in a "rock 'n' roll show", he helped pull 39,872 people to the Reading Fair in Pennsylvania on a Tuesday night in late September. A full grand stand and one thousand people who stood in a heavy rain to hear Perkins and Briggs at the Brockton Fair in Mass.

Sun issued more Perkins songs in 1956: "Boppin' the Blues"/"All Mama's Children" (Sun 243), the B side co-written with Johnny Cash, "Dixie Fried"/"I'm Sorry, I'm Not Sorry" (Sun 249). "Matchbox
Matchbox (song)
"Matchbox" is a rock and roll and rockabilly song written by Carl Perkins and first recorded by him at Sun Records in December 1956 and released on February 11, 1957 as a 45 single on Sun Records. It has become one of Perkins' best-known recordings...

"/"Your True Love" (Sun 261 ) came out in February 1957. "Boppin' the Blues" reached no. 47 on the Cash Box pop singles chart, no. 9 on the Billboard country and western chart, and no. 70 on the Billboard Top 100 chart.

"Matchbox" is considered a rockabilly classic. The day it was recorded, Elvis Presley visited the studio. Along with Johnny Cash (who left early), Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis
Jerry Lee Lewis
Jerry Lee Lewis is an American rock and roll and country music singer-songwriter and pianist. An early pioneer of rock and roll music, Lewis's career faltered after he married his young cousin, and he afterwards made a career extension to country and western music. He is known by the nickname 'The...

 and Presley spent more than an hour singing gospel, country and rhythm-and-blues songs while a tape rolled. The casual session was called The Million Dollar Quartet
Million Dollar Quartet
"Million Dollar Quartet" is the name given to recordings made on Tuesday December 4, 1956 in the Sun Record Studios in Memphis, Tennessee. The recordings were of an impromptu jam session among Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash. It was arguably the first...

 by a local newspaper the next day, and it was eventually released on CD in 1990.

On February 2, 1957, Perkins again appeared on Ozark Jubilee, singing "Matchbox" and "Blue Suede Shoes". He also made at least two appearances on Town Hall Party
Town Hall Party
Town Hall Party was an American country music radio and television show broadcast over KXLA-AM, Pasadena, California, KFI-AM, Los Angeles, California, and KTTV-TV. The first radio broadcast was in the autumn of 1951.Promoter William B...

in Compton, California
Compton, California
Compton is a city in southern Los Angeles County, California, United States, southeast of downtown Los Angeles. The city of Compton is one of the oldest cities in the county and on May 11, 1888, was the eighth city to incorporate. The city is considered part of the South side by residents of Los...

 in 1957 singing both songs. Those performances were included in the Western Ranch Dance Party series filmed and distributed by Screen Gems.

The 1957 film Jamboree
Jamboree (1957 film)
Jamboree is the name of a black and white 1957 rock 'n' roll motion picture directed by Roy Lockwood that runs for 71 minutes in mono RCA sound...

included a Perkins performance of "Glad All Over
Glad All Over (Carl Perkins song)
"Glad All Over" is a song written by Aaron Schroeder, Sid Tepper, and Roy Bennett and recorded by rockabilly artist Carl Perkins, "The Rockin' Guitar Man", at Sun Records in 1957. It was released as a 45 and 78 single on January 6, 1958...

" (not to be confused with The Dave Clark Five
The Dave Clark Five
The Dave Clark Five were an English pop rock group. Their single "Glad All Over" knocked The Beatles' "I Want to Hold Your Hand" off the top of the UK singles charts in January 1964: it eventually peaked at No.6 in the United States in April 1964.They were the second group of the British Invasion,...

 song of the same name), that ran 1:55. "Glad All Over," written by Aaron Schroeder
Aaron Schroeder
Aaron Schroeder was an American songwriter and music publisher.-Biography:Born Aaron Harold Schroder , he graduated from the school now known as the Fiorello H...

, Sid Tepper
Sid Tepper
Sid Tepper is an American songwriter, best known for his collaborations with Roy C. Bennett, which spawned several hits for Elvis Presley. Between 1945 and 1970, Tepper and Bennett published over 300 songs.-Biography:...

, and Roy Bennett, was released by Sun in January 1958.

Life after Sun


During 1958, Perkins moved to Columbia Records
Columbia Records
Columbia Records is an American record label, owned by Japan's Sony Music Entertainment, operating under the Columbia Music Group with Aware Records. It was founded in 1888, evolving from an earlier enterprise, the American Graphophone Company — successor to the Volta Graphophone Company...

 where he recorded songs such as "Jive After Five", "Rockin' Record Hop", "Levi Jacket (And a Long Tail Shirt)", "Pop, Let Me Have the Car", "Pink Pedal Pushers", "Anyway the Wind Blows", "Hambone", "Pointed Toe Shoes", and "Sister Twister".

He performed often in The Golden Nugget Casino
Golden Nugget Las Vegas
The Golden Nugget Las Vegas is a luxury casino-hotel located in Las Vegas, Nevada on the Fremont Street Experience. The property is owned and operated by Landry's Restaurants....

 in Las Vegas during 1962 and 1963, and also in nine Midwestern states and a tour of Germany.

During May 1964, Perkins toured England along with Chuck Berry
Chuck Berry
Charles Edward Anderson "Chuck" Berry is an American guitarist, singer, and songwriter, and one of the pioneers of rock and roll music. With songs such as "Maybellene" , "Roll Over Beethoven" , "Rock and Roll Music" and "Johnny B...

. The Animals
The Animals
The Animals were an English music group of the 1960s formed in Newcastle upon Tyne during the early part of the decade, and later relocated to London...

 backed the two performers. On the last night of the tour, Perkins attended a party that turned out to be for him, and ended up sitting on the floor sharing stories, playing guitar, and singing songs while surrounded by The Beatles
The Beatles
The Beatles were an English rock band, active throughout the 1960s and one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed acts in the history of popular music. Formed in Liverpool, by 1962 the group consisted of John Lennon , Paul McCartney , George Harrison and Ringo Starr...

. Ringo Starr asked if he could record "Honey Don't". "Man," answered Perkins, "go ahead, have at it." The Beatles would cover "Matchbox
Matchbox (song)
"Matchbox" is a rock and roll and rockabilly song written by Carl Perkins and first recorded by him at Sun Records in December 1956 and released on February 11, 1957 as a 45 single on Sun Records. It has become one of Perkins' best-known recordings...

", "Honey Don't
Honey Don't
"Honey Don't" is a song written by Carl Perkins, originally released on January 1, 1956 as the B-side of the "Blue Suede Shoes" single. Both songs became rockabilly classics...

" and "Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby
Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby
"Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby" is a 1957 song written by Carl Perkins and originally released on the Sun Dance Album of ... Carl Perkins. A song with the same title was written in the mid-1930s by Alabama-born country songwriter Rex Griffin. Griffin recorded the song for Decca Records in 1936...

" recorded by Perkins but adapted from a song originally recorded by Rex Griffin
Rex Griffin
Alsie "Rex" Griffin was an American country musician and songwriter.-Early years:Griffin was born in Gadsden, Alabama as the second of seven children to Marion and Selma Griffin. He grew up on a farm and received little schooling, eventually finding work in the factory where his father worked as a...

 during 1936 with new music composed by Carl Perkins, a song with the same title also recorded by Roy Newman in 1938. The Beatles recorded two versions of "Glad All Over" in 1963. Another tour to Germany followed in the autumn.

Although he had been trying to rehabilitate himself by drinking only beer (but large amounts of it), during 1968, while on tour with the Johnny Cash troupe, Perkins began a four-day drunk in Tulsa, Oklahoma
Tulsa, Oklahoma
Tulsa is the second-largest city in the state of Oklahoma and 46th-largest city in the United States. With a population of 391,906 as of the 2010 census, it is the principal municipality of the Tulsa Metropolitan Area, a region with 937,478 residents in the MSA and 988,454 in the CSA. Tulsa's...

 starting with a bottle of Early Times
Early Times
Early Times is a brand of Kentucky whisky produced by the Brown-Forman Corporation. The whisky sold under this brand name outside the United States is labelled as bourbon, while most of the brand bottlings sold within the U.S. do not meet the qualifications for marketing as a bourbon and are just...

. Nevertheless, with the urging of Cash, he opened a show in San Diego, California
San Diego, California
San Diego is the eighth-largest city in the United States and second-largest city in California. The city is located on the coast of the Pacific Ocean in Southern California, immediately adjacent to the Mexican border. The birthplace of California, San Diego is known for its mild year-round...

 by playing four songs after seeing "four or five of me in the mirror," and while being able to see "nothin' but a blur." After drinking yet another pint of Early Times, he passed out on the tour bus. By morning he started hallucinating "big spiders, and dinosaurs, huge, and they were gonna step on me." The bus was parked on a beach at the ocean. He was tempted by yet another pint of whiskey that he had hidden. He took the bottle with him onto the beach and fell on his knees and said, "Lord... I'm gonna throw this bottle. I'm gonna show You that I believe in You. I sailed it into the Pacific... I got up, I knew I had done the right thing." Perkins and Cash, who had his own problems with drugs, then gave each other support to refrain from their drug of choice.

During 1968, Cash recorded the Perkins-written "Daddy Sang Bass
Daddy Sang Bass
"Daddy Sang Bass" is a 1968 single written by Carl Perkins, with some lines from "Will the Circle Be Unbroken?" and recorded by Johnny Cash. "Daddy Sang Bass" was Johnny Cash's sixty-first release on the country chart. The song went to number one on the country charts for six weeks and spent a...

" (which incorporates parts of the American standard "Will the Circle Be Unbroken") and scored No. 1 on the country music charts for six weeks. Glen Campbell
Glen Campbell
Glen Travis Campbell is an American country music singer, guitarist, television host and occasional actor. He is best known for a series of hits in the 1960s and 1970s, as well as for hosting a variety show called The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour on CBS television.During his 50 years in show...

 also covered the song, as did The Statler Brothers and Carl Story
Carl Story
Carl Story was an influential bluegrass musician and leader of his band the "Rambling Mountaineers". He was dubbed "The Father of Bluegrass Gospel Music" by the governor of Oklahoma.-Biography:...

. "Daddy Sang Bass" was also a Country Music Association
Country Music Association
The Country Music Association was founded in 1958 in Nashville, Tennessee. It originally consisted of only 233 members and was the first trade organization formed to promote a music genre...

 nominee for Song of the Year. Perkins also played lead guitar on the Cash smash single "A Boy Named Sue
A Boy Named Sue
"A Boy Named Sue" is a song written by Shel Silverstein and performed by Johnny Cash. Cash was at the height of his popularity when he recorded the song live at California's San Quentin State Prison at a concert on 24 February 1969. The concert was filmed by Granada Television for later...

" which was No. 1 for five weeks on the country chart and No. 2 on the popular music chart. Perkins spent a decade in Cash's touring revue and appeared on The Johnny Cash Show
The Johnny Cash Show (TV series)
The Johnny Cash Show was an American television music variety show hosted by Johnny Cash. The Screen Gems 58-episode series ran from June 7, 1969 to March 31, 1971 on ABC; it was taped at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee. The show reached No...

.
He played "Matchbox" with Cash and Derek and the Dominoes. Cash also featured Perkins in rehearsal jamming with José Feliciano
José Feliciano
José Feliciano is a Puerto Rican singer, virtuoso guitarist and composer known for many international hits including the 1970 holiday single "Feliz Navidad".-Childhood:...

 and Merle Travis
Merle Travis
Merle Robert Travis was an American country and western singer, songwriter, and musician born in Rosewood, Kentucky. His lyrics often discussed the life and exploitation of coal miners. Among his many well-known songs are "Sixteen Tons", "Re-Enlistment Blues" and "Dark as a Dungeon"...

.

A Kraft Music Hall
Kraft Music Hall
The Kraft Music Hall was a popular variety program, featuring top show business entertainers, which aired on NBC radio and television from 1933 to 1971....

 episode hosted by Cash on April 16, 1969 had Perkins singing his song "Restless". Country music fans may recognize The Statler Brothers' song, "Flowers on the Wall
Flowers on the Wall
"Flowers on The Wall" is a song made famous by country music group The Statler Brothers. Written and composed by the group's original tenor, Lew DeWitt, the song peaked in popularity in January 1966, spending four weeks at No. 2 on the Billboard magazine Hot Country Singles chart, and reaching No....

", which was also featured on the show.

During February 1969, Perkins joined with Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan is an American singer-songwriter, musician, poet, film director and painter. He has been a major and profoundly influential figure in popular music and culture for five decades. Much of his most celebrated work dates from the 1960s when he was an informal chronicler and a seemingly...

 to write "Champaign, Illinois
Champaign, Illinois
Champaign is a city in Champaign County, Illinois, in the United States. The city is located south of Chicago, west of Indianapolis, Indiana, and 178 miles northeast of St. Louis, Missouri. Though surrounded by farm communities, Champaign is notable for sharing the campus of the University of...

". Dylan was recording in Nashville from February 12 through February 21 for an album that would be titled Nashville Skyline
Nashville Skyline
Nashville Skyline is singer-songwriter Bob Dylan's ninth studio album, released by Columbia Records in April 1969.The album marked a dramatic departure for Dylan, previously known for his groundbreaking, poetic folk music and rock and roll...

, and met Perkins when he appeared on The Johnny Cash Show on June 7. Dylan had written one verse of a song, but was stuck. After Perkins worked out a loping rhythm and improvised a verse ending lyric, Dylan said, "Your song. Take it. Finish it." The co-authored song was included in Perkins' 1969 album On Top.

Perkins was also united in 1969 by Columbia's Murray Krugman with a "rockabilly" group based in New York's Hudson Valley, the New Rhythm and Blues Quartet. Carl and NRBQ recorded "Boppin' the Blues" which featured the group backing him on songs like his staples "Turn Around" and "Boppin' the Blues" and included songs recorded separately by Perkins and NRBQ. One of his TV appearances with Cash was on the popular country series Hee Haw
Hee Haw
Hee Haw is an American television variety show featuring country music and humor with fictional rural Kornfield Kounty as a backdrop. It aired on CBS-TV from 1969–1971 before a 20-year run in local syndication. The show was inspired by Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, the major difference being...

on February 16, 1974.

After a long legal struggle with Sam Phillips over royalties
Royalties
Royalties are usage-based payments made by one party to another for the right to ongoing use of an asset, sometimes an intellectual property...

, Perkins gained ownership of his songs during the 1970s.

Later years


During 1981 Perkins recorded the song "Get It" with Paul McCartney
Paul McCartney
Sir James Paul McCartney, MBE, Hon RAM, FRCM is an English musician, singer-songwriter and composer. Formerly of The Beatles and Wings , McCartney is listed in Guinness World Records as the "most successful musician and composer in popular music history", with 60 gold discs and sales of 100...

, providing vocals and playing guitar with the former Beatle. This recording was included on the chart-topping album Tug Of War released in 1982. This track also comprised the B-side of the title track single in a slightly edited form. One source states that Perkins "wrote the song with Paul McCartney."
The song ends with a fade-out of Perkins' impromptu laughter.

The "rockabilly" revival of the 1980s helped bring Perkins back into the limelight. During 1985, he re-recorded "Blue Suede Shoes" with Lee Rocker and Jim Phantom of the Stray Cats
Stray Cats
Stray Cats are an American Rockabilly band formed in 1980 by guitarist/vocalist Brian Setzer , upright bassist Lee Rocker and Slim Jim Phantom in the Long Island town of Massapequa, New York. The group had numerous hit singles in the UK, Australia and the U.S...

, as part of the soundtrack for the movie, Porky's Revenge
Porky's Revenge
Porky's Revenge! is the 1985 third installment to the Porky's film trilogy. The film was directed by James Komack.-Plot:The sex-crazed teenagers of Angel Beach High School are back for the third and final time. They continue to be harassed by the gym teacher, Beulah Balbricker, who catches them...

.

In October 1985, George Harrison
George Harrison
George Harrison, MBE was an English musician, guitarist, singer-songwriter, actor and film producer who achieved international fame as lead guitarist of The Beatles. Often referred to as "the quiet Beatle", Harrison became over time an admirer of Indian mysticism, and introduced it to the other...

, Eric Clapton
Eric Clapton
Eric Patrick Clapton, CBE, is an English guitarist and singer-songwriter. Clapton is the only three-time inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: once as a solo artist, and separately as a member of The Yardbirds and Cream. Clapton has been referred to as one of the most important and...

, Dave Edmunds
Dave Edmunds
David 'Dave' Edmunds is a Welsh singer, guitarist and record producer. Although he is primarily associated with Pub rock and New Wave, and had numerous hits in the 1970s and early 1980s, his natural leaning has always been towards 1950s style rock and roll.-Early bands:As a teenager Edmunds first...

, Lee Rocker, Rosanne Cash and Ringo Starr
Ringo Starr
Richard Starkey, MBE better known by his stage name Ringo Starr, is an English musician and actor who gained worldwide fame as the drummer for The Beatles. When the band formed in 1960, Starr was a member of another Liverpool band, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. He became The Beatles' drummer in...

 appeared with him on stage for a television special that was taped live at the Limehouse Studios London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 before an ecstatic audience called Blue Suede Shoes: A Rockabilly Session
Blue Suede Shoes: A Rockabilly Session
Blue Suede Shoes: A Rockabilly Session was a concert that was held on 21 October 1985 in London England, and featured rock n' roll pioneer Carl Perkins and his house band, along with friends as guest stars, including Eric Clapton, former Beatles George Harrison and Ringo Starr, as well as Dave...

. The show was later shown on Channel 4
Channel 4
Channel 4 is a British public-service television broadcaster which began working on 2 November 1982. Although largely commercially self-funded, it is ultimately publicly owned; originally a subsidiary of the Independent Broadcasting Authority , the station is now owned and operated by the Channel...

 on the 1st January 1986. Perkins performed 16 songs with 2 encores in an extraordinary performance. Perkins and his friends ended the session by singing his most famous song, 30 years after its writing, which brought Perkins to tears. The concert special was a memorable highlight of Perkins' later career and has been highly praised by fans for the spirited performances delivered by Perkins and his famous guests. The concert was released for DVD by Snapper Music in 2006.
Also during 1985, Perkins was inducted to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame
Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame
The Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame was established by the Nashville Songwriters Foundation, Inc. in Nashville, Tennessee, United States. A non-profit organization, its objective is to honor and preserve the songwriting legacy that is uniquely associated with music community in the city of...

, and in 1987, wider recognition of his contribution to music came with his induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is a museum located on the shore of Lake Erie in downtown Cleveland, Ohio, United States. It is dedicated to archiving the history of some of the best-known and most influential artists, producers, engineers and others who have, in some major way,...

. In addition, "Blue Suede Shoes" was chosen as one of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll, and as a Grammy Hall of Fame Award
Grammy Hall of Fame Award
The Grammy Hall of Fame Award is a special Grammy award established in 1973 to honor recordings that are at least twenty-five years old and that have "qualitative or historical significance"...

 recipient. His pioneering contribution to the genre was also recognized by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame
Rockabilly Hall of Fame
The Rockabilly Hall of Fame was established on the internet on March 21, 1997, to present early rock and roll history and information relative to the artists and personalities involved in this pioneering American music genre....

.

Perkins' only notable film performance as an actor was in John Landis
John Landis
John David Landis is an American film director, screenwriter, actor, and producer. He is known for his comedies, his horror films, and his music videos with singer Michael Jackson.-Early life and career:...

' 1985 film Into the Night, a cameo-laden film that includes a scene where characters played by Carl and David Bowie
David Bowie
David Bowie is an English musician, actor, record producer and arranger. A major figure for over four decades in the world of popular music, Bowie is widely regarded as an innovator, particularly for his work in the 1970s...

 die at each other's hand.

As a guitarist Perkins used: finger picking, imitations of the pedal steel guitar, right-handed damping (muffling strings near the bridge with the palm), arpeggios, advantageous use of open strings, single and double string bending (pushing strings across the neck to raise their pitch), chromaticism
Chromaticism
Chromaticism is a compositional technique interspersing the primary diatonic pitches and chords with other pitches of the chromatic scale. Chromaticism is in contrast or addition to tonality or diatonicism...

 (using notes outside of the scale), country and blue licks, and tritone
Tritone
In classical music from Western culture, the tritone |tone]]) is traditionally defined as a musical interval composed of three whole tones. In a chromatic scale, each whole tone can be further divided into two semitones...

 and other tonality clashing licks (short phrases that include notes from other keys and move in logical, often symmetric patterns). A rich vocabulary of chords including sixth and thirteenth chords, ninth and add nine chords, and suspensions, show up in rhythm parts and solos. Free use of syncopations, chord anticipations (arriving at a chord change before the other players, often by a 1/8 note) and crosspicking
Crosspicking
Crosspicking is a technique for playing the mandolin or guitar using a plectrum or flatpick in a rolling, syncopated style across three strings. This style is probably best known as one element of the flatpicking style in bluegrass music, and it closely resembles a banjo roll, the main difference...

 (repeating a three 1/8 note pattern so that an accent falls variously on the upbeat or downbeat) are also in his bag of tricks.

During 1986, he returned to the Sun Studio in Memphis, joining Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Roy Orbison
Roy Orbison
Roy Kelton Orbison was an American singer-songwriter, well known for his distinctive, powerful voice, complex compositions, and dark emotional ballads. Orbison grew up in Texas and began singing in a rockabilly/country & western band in high school until he was signed by Sun Records in Memphis...

 on the album Class of '55
Class of '55
Class of '55 is a 1986 album by Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison and Carl Perkins.While the album was 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 record was a tribute to their early years at Sun and, specifically, the Million Dollar Quartet jam session
Jam session
Jam sessions are often used by musicians to develop new material, find suitable arrangements, or simply as a social gathering and communal practice session. Jam sessions may be based upon existing songs or forms, may be loosely based on an agreed chord progression or chart suggested by one...

 involving Perkins, Presley, Cash, and Lewis in 1956.

During 1989, Perkins co-wrote and played guitar on The Judds
The Judds
The Judds were an American country music duo composed of Naomi Judd and her daughter, Wynonna Judd. Signed to RCA Records in 1983, the duo released six studio albums between then and 1991. One of the most successful acts in country music history, The Judds won five Grammy Awards for Best Country...

' No. 1 country success, "Let Me Tell You About Love". During 1989, Perkins also signed a record deal with Platinum Records LTD for an album with the title Friends, Family, and Legends, featuring performances by Chet Atkins
Chet Atkins
Chester Burton Atkins , known as Chet Atkins, was an American guitarist and record producer who, along with Owen Bradley, created the smoother country music style known as the Nashville sound, which expanded country's appeal to adult pop music fans as well.Atkins's picking style, inspired by Merle...

, Travis Tritt
Travis Tritt
James Travis Tritt is an American country music singer from Marietta, Georgia. He signed to Warner Bros. Records in 1989, releasing seven studio albums and a greatest hits package for the label between then and 1999. In the 2000s, he released two albums on Columbia Records and one for the defunct...

, Steve Wariner
Steve Wariner
Steven Noel "Steve" Wariner is an American country music singer, songwriter and guitarist. He has released eighteen studio albums, including six on MCA Records, and three each on RCA Records, Arista Records and Capitol Records...

, Joan Jett
Joan Jett
Joan Jett is an American rock guitarist, singer, songwriter, producer and actress.She is best known for her work with Joan Jett & the Blackhearts including their hit cover "I Love Rock 'n' Roll", which was #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 from March 20 to May 1, 1982, as well as for their other popular...

 and Charlie Daniels
Charlie Daniels
Charles Edward "Charlie" Daniels is an American musician known for his contributions to country and southern rock music. He is known primarily for his number one country hit "The Devil Went Down to Georgia", and multiple other songs he has performed and written. Daniels has been active as a singer...

, along with Paul Shaffer
Paul Shaffer
Paul Allen Wood Shaffer, CM is a Canadian musician, actor, voice actor, author, comedian, and composer who has been David Letterman's sidekick since 1982.-Early years:...

 and Will Lee. During 1992, during the production of this CD, Perkins developed throat cancer
Esophageal cancer
Esophageal cancer is malignancy of the esophagus. There are various subtypes, primarily squamous cell cancer and adenocarcinoma . Squamous cell cancer arises from the cells that line the upper part of the esophagus...

.

He returned to Sun Studios to record with Scotty Moore, Presley's first guitar player. The CD was called 706 ReUNION, released on Belle Meade Records, and featured D.J. Fontana, Marcus Van Storey and The Jordanaires
The Jordanaires
The Jordanaires are an American vocal quartet, which formed as a gospel group in 1948. They are best known for providing vocal background for Elvis Presley, in live appearances and recordings from 1956 to 1972...

. During 1993, Perkins performed with the Kentucky Headhunters in a music video remake, filmed in Glasgow, Kentucky
Glasgow, Kentucky
Glasgow is a city in and the county seat of Barren County, Kentucky, United States. The population was 14,200 at the 2000 census. The city is well-known for its annual Scottish Highland Games. In 2007, Barren County was named the number one rural place to live by Progressive Farmer magazine...

, of his song "Dixie Fried." In 1994, Perkins teamed up with Duane Eddy
Duane Eddy
Duane Eddy is a Grammy Award-winning American guitarist. In the late 1950s and early 1960s he had a string of hit records, produced by Lee Hazlewood, which were noted for their characteristically "twangy" sound, including "Rebel Rouser", "Peter Gunn", and "Because They're Young"...

 and The Mavericks
The Mavericks
The Mavericks is a country music band founded in 1989 in Miami, Florida, United States. Between 1991 and 2003 they recorded six studio albums, in addition to charting 14 singles on the Billboard country charts...

 to contribute "Matchbox" to the AIDS
AIDS
Acquired immune deficiency syndrome or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome is a disease of the human immune system caused by the human immunodeficiency virus...

 benefit album Red Hot + Country
Red Hot + Country
Red Hot + Country was the follow-up to No Alternative in the Red Hot Series of compilation albums, a series produced to raise awareness and money to fight AIDS/HIV and related health and social issues...

 produced by the Red Hot Organization
Red Hot Organization
Red Hot Organization is a not-for-profit, 501 3, international organization dedicated to fighting AIDS through pop culture.Since its inception in 1989, over 400 artists, producers and directors have contributed to over 15 compilation albums, related television programs and media events to raise...

.

Perkins' last album, Go Cat Go!, was released during 1996, and featured new collaborations with many of the above artists, as well as George Harrison, Paul Simon
Paul Simon
Paul Frederic Simon is an American singer-songwriter and guitarist.Simon is best known for his success, beginning in 1965, as part of the duo Simon & Garfunkel, with musical partner Art Garfunkel. Simon wrote most of the pair's songs, including three that reached number one on the US singles...

, John Fogerty
John Fogerty
John Cameron Fogerty is an American rock singer, songwriter, and guitarist, best known for his time with the swamp rock/roots rock band Creedence Clearwater Revival and as a #1 solo recording artist. Fogerty has a rare distinction of being named on Rolling Stone magazine's list of 100 Greatest...

, Tom Petty
Tom Petty
Thomas Earl "Tom" Petty is an American singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. He is the frontman of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and was a founding member of the late 1980s supergroup Traveling Wilburys and Mudcrutch. He has also performed under the pseudonyms of Charlie T...

, and Bono
Bono
Paul David Hewson , most commonly known by his stage name Bono , is an Irish singer, musician, and humanitarian best known for being the main vocalist of the Dublin-based rock band U2. Bono was born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, and attended Mount Temple Comprehensive School where he met his...

. It was released by the independent label Dinosaur Records and distributed by BMG
BMG
Bertelsmann Music Group, , was a division of Bertelsmann before its completion of sale of the majority of its assets to Japan's Sony Corporation of America on October 1, 2008. It was established in 1987 to combine the music label activities of Bertelsmann...

.

His last major concert performance was the Music for Montserrat all-star charity concert at London's Royal Albert Hall
Royal Albert Hall
The Royal Albert Hall is a concert hall situated on the northern edge of the South Kensington area, in the City of Westminster, London, England, best known for holding the annual summer Proms concerts since 1941....

 on September 15, 1997.

Perkins died four months later, on January 19, 1998 at the age of 65 at Jackson-Madison County Hospital in Jackson
Jackson, Tennessee
Jackson is a city in Madison County, Tennessee, United States. The total population was 65,211 at the 2010 census. Jackson is the primary city of the Jackson, Tennessee metropolitan area, which is included in the Jackson-Humboldt, Tennessee Combined Statistical Area...

, Tennessee
Tennessee
Tennessee is a U.S. state located in the Southeastern United States. It has a population of 6,346,105, making it the nation's 17th-largest state by population, and covers , making it the 36th-largest by total land area...

 from throat cancer after suffering several stroke
Stroke
A stroke, previously known medically as a cerebrovascular accident , is the rapidly developing loss of brain function due to disturbance in the blood supply to the brain. This can be due to ischemia caused by blockage , or a hemorrhage...

s. Among mourners at the funeral at Lambuth University
Lambuth University
Lambuth University was a liberal arts university located in Jackson, Tennessee. It was supported by the Memphis Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. Lambuth's athletic teams participated in the NAIA's TranSouth and Mid-South Conferences...

 were George Harrison, Jerry Lee Lewis
Jerry Lee Lewis
Jerry Lee Lewis is an American rock and roll and country music singer-songwriter and pianist. An early pioneer of rock and roll music, Lewis's career faltered after he married his young cousin, and he afterwards made a career extension to country and western music. He is known by the nickname 'The...

, Wynonna Judd
Wynonna Judd
Wynonna Ellen Judd is an American country music singer. Her solo albums and singles are all credited to the singular name Wynonna. Wynonna first rose to fame in the 1980s alongside her mother, Naomi, in the country music duo The Judds...

, Garth Brooks
Garth Brooks
Troyal Garth Brooks , best known as Garth Brooks, is an American country music artist who helped make country music a worldwide phenomenon. His eponymous first album was released in 1989 and peaked at number 2 in the US country album chart while climbing to number 13 on the Billboard 200 album chart...

, Nashville Agent Jim Dallas Crouch, Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash
John R. "Johnny" Cash was an American singer-songwriter, actor, and author, who has been called one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century...

 and June Carter Cash
June Carter Cash
Valerie June Carter Cash was an American singer, dancer, songwriter, actress, comedienne and author who was a member of the Carter Family and the second wife of singer Johnny Cash...

. Perkins was interred at Ridgecrest Cemetery in Jackson.

His widow, Valda deVere Perkins, died November 15, 2005 in Jackson.

Legacy


Perkins collaborated on a 1996 biography, Go, Cat, Go, with New York–based music writer David McGee. Plans for a biographical film were announced by Santa Monica-based production company Fastlane Entertainment. was slated for release in 2009.

During 2004, Rolling Stone ranked Perkins number 69 on its list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

His version of "Blue Suede Shoes" was included by the National Recording Preservation Board
National Recording Preservation Board
The United States National Recording Preservation Board selects recorded sounds for preservation in the Library of Congress' National Recording Registry. The National Recording Registry was initiated to maintain and preserve "sound recordings that are culturally, historically or aesthetically...

 in the Library of Congress
Library of Congress
The Library of Congress is the research library of the United States Congress, de facto national library of the United States, and the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States. Located in three buildings in Washington, D.C., it is the largest library in the world by shelf space and...

 National Recording Registry in 2006.

The Perkins family still owns his songs, which are administered by former Beatle Paul McCartney
Paul McCartney
Sir James Paul McCartney, MBE, Hon RAM, FRCM is an English musician, singer-songwriter and composer. Formerly of The Beatles and Wings , McCartney is listed in Guinness World Records as the "most successful musician and composer in popular music history", with 60 gold discs and sales of 100...

's company MPL Communications
MPL Communications
MPL Communications is the holding company for the business interests of Sir Paul McCartney. In addition to handling McCartney's post-Beatles work, MPL is also one of the world's largest privately owned music publishers through its acquisition of numerous other publishing companies...

.

Drive-By Truckers
Drive-By Truckers
Drive-By Truckers are an alternative country/Southern rock band based in Athens, Georgia, though three out of six members are originally from The Shoals region of Northern Alabama, and the band strongly identifies with Alabama. Their music uses three guitars as well as bass, drums, and now...

, on their album The Dirty South
The Dirty South (album)
The Dirty South is the fifth album by Alabamian alternative country/Southern rock group Drive-By Truckers, released in 2004. The Dirty South is Drive-By Truckers' third concept album...

, recorded "Carl Perkins' Cadillac
Carl Perkins' Cadillac
A song from the Drive-By Truckers' 2004 album The Dirty South, Carl Perkins' Cadillac sympathetically tells the story of one of the giants of rock and roll, Sam Phillips of Sun Records, and the respect shown to him by his stable of artists in the mid-1950s. One of the lines in the song states, "Mr...

" that has a history of the artist and his relationships.

George Thorogood & the Destroyers covered "Dixie Fried" on their 1985 album, Maverick. The Kentucky Headhunters also covered the song as did Keith de Groot on a 1968 album entitled No Introduction Necessary that featured Jimmy Page
Jimmy Page
James Patrick "Jimmy" Page, OBE is an English multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and record producer. He began his career as a studio session guitarist in London and was subsequently a member of The Yardbirds from 1966 to 1968, after which he founded the English rock band Led Zeppelin.Jimmy Page...

 on lead guitar and John Paul Jones on bass.

Ricky Nelson
Ricky Nelson
Eric Hilliard Nelson , better known as Ricky Nelson or Rick Nelson, was an American singer-songwriter, instrumentalist, and actor...

 covered Perkins' "Boppin' The Blues" and "Your True Love" on his 1957 debut album Ricky
Ricky (album)
Ricky is the solo debut album by actor and singer Ricky Nelson, released in November 1957. Much of the album is in the pop-rock genre, focusing mostly on standards...

.

Perkins was portrayed by Johnny Saint Holiday in the 2005 Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash
John R. "Johnny" Cash was an American singer-songwriter, actor, and author, who has been called one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century...

 biopic Walk the Line
Walk the Line
Walk the Line is a 2005 American biographical drama film directed by James Mangold and based on the early life and career of country music artist Johnny Cash...

.

Charted albums

Year Album Peak positions Label
US Country
1969 Carl Perkins' Greatest Hits 32 Columbia
On Top 42
1970 Original Golden Hits 43 Sun
1974 My Kind of Country 48 Mercury
1982 The Survivors Live
The Survivors Live
The Survivors Live is a live album by country musicians Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis, released in 1982 on Columbia Records. It was recorded on April 23, 1981 in Böblingen, near Stuttgart, West Germany, when all three singers, who had been labelmates at Sun Records at the beginning...


(with Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash
John R. "Johnny" Cash was an American singer-songwriter, actor, and author, who has been called one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century...

 and Jerry Lee Lewis
Jerry Lee Lewis
Jerry Lee Lewis is an American rock and roll and country music singer-songwriter and pianist. An early pioneer of rock and roll music, Lewis's career faltered after he married his young cousin, and he afterwards made a career extension to country and western music. He is known by the nickname 'The...

)
21 Columbia
1986 Class of '55
Class of '55
Class of '55 is a 1986 album by Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison and Carl Perkins.While the album was 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...


(with Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison
Roy Orbison
Roy Kelton Orbison was an American singer-songwriter, well known for his distinctive, powerful voice, complex compositions, and dark emotional ballads. Orbison grew up in Texas and began singing in a rockabilly/country & western band in high school until he was signed by Sun Records in Memphis...

 and Johnny Cash)
15 America Smash

Charted singles

Year Single Peak chart positions Album
US Country
Hot Country Songs
Hot Country Songs is a chart published weekly by Billboard magazine in the United States.This 60-position chart lists the most popular country music songs, calculated weekly mostly by airplay and occasionally commercial sales...

US
Billboard Hot 100
The Billboard Hot 100 is the United States music industry standard singles popularity chart issued weekly by Billboard magazine. Chart rankings are based on radio play and sales; the tracking-week for sales begins on Monday and ends on Sunday, while the radio play tracking-week runs from Wednesday...

CAN Country
RPM (magazine)
RPM was a Canadian music industry publication that featured song and album charts for Canada. The publication was founded by Walt Grealis in February 1964, supported through its existence by record label owner Stan Klees. RPM ceased publication in November 2000.RPM stood for "Records, Promotion,...

1956 "Blue Suede Shoes
Blue Suede Shoes
"Blue Suede Shoes" is a rock and roll standard written and first recorded by Carl Perkins in 1955 and is considered one of the first rockabilly records and incorporated elements of blues, country and pop music of the time...

"A
1 2 Dance Album of...Carl Perkins
"Boppin' the Blues" 7 70
"Dixie Fried" 10 Original Golden Hits
"I'm Sorry, I'm Not Sorry" flip Blue Suede Shoes
1957 "Your True Love" 13 67 Dance Album of...Carl Perkins
1958 "Pink Pedal Pushers" 17 91 The King of Rock
1959 "Pointed Toe Shoes" 93
1966 "Country Boy's Dream" 22 Country Boy's Dream
1967 "Shine, Shine, Shine" 40
1969 "Restless" 20 Carl Perkins' Greatest Hits
1971 "Me Without You" 65 The Man Behind Johnny Cash
"Cotton Top" 53
1972 "High on Love" 60 Single only
1973 "(Let's Get) Dixiefried" (1973 version) 61 My Kind of Country
1986 "Birth of Rock and Roll" 31 44 Class of '55
1987 "Class of '55" 83
1989 "Charlene" 74 Born to Rock
  • A"Blue Suede Shoes" also peaked at No. 2 on the R&B charts and No. 10 in the United Kingdom.

External links