CARL PERKINS: |
(Wikipedia, 2020): In January 1947, the Perkins family moved from Lake County, Tennessee, to Madison County, Tennessee. A new radio that ran on house current rather than a battery and the closeness to Memphis exposed Perkins to a greater variety of music. At age fourteen, using the I-IV-V chord progression common in country music of the day, he wrote a song that came to be known around Jackson as "Let Me Take You to the Movie, Magg" (the song later persuaded Sam Phillips to sign Perkins to his Sun Records label).
Perkins and his brother Jay had their first paying job (in tips) as entertainers at the Cotton Boll tavern on Highway 45, twelve miles south of Jackson, starting on Wednesday nights during late 1946. Perkins was 14 years old. One of the songs they played was an up-tempo country blues shuffle version of Bill Monroe's "Blue Moon of Kentucky". Free drinks were one of the perks of playing in a tavern, and Perkins 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 around Bemis and Jackson, including El Rancho, the Roadside Inn, and the Hilltop, as they became better known. Carl persuaded his brother Clayton to play the upright bass to complete the sound of the band.
Perkins began performing regularly on WTJS in Jackson during the late 1940s as a sometime member of the Tennessee Ramblers. He also appeared on Hayloft Frolic, on which 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. Positive listener response resulted in a 15-minute segment sponsored by Mother's Best Flour. By the end of the 1940s, the Perkins Brothers were the best-known band in the Jackson area.
Perkins had day jobs during most of these early years, picking cotton and later working at Day's Dairy in Malesus, at a mattress factory and in a battery plant. He worked as a pan greaser for the Colonial Baking Company in 1951 and 1952.
In January 1953, Perkins married Valda Crider, whom he had known for a number of years. When his job at the bakery was reduced to part-time, Valda, who had her own job, encouraged Perkins to begin working the taverns full-time. He began playing six nights a week. Later the same year he added W.S. "Fluke" Holland to the band as a drummer. Holland had no previous experience as a musician but had a good sense of rhythm.
Malcolm Yelvington, who remembered the Perkins Brothers when they played in Covington, Tennessee, in 1953, noted that Carl had an unusual blues-like style all his own. By 1955 Perkins had made tapes of his material with a borrowed tape recorder, and he sent them to companies such as Columbia and RCA, with addresses like "Columbia Records, New York City". "I had sent tapes to RCA and Columbia and had never heard a thing from 'em."
In July 1954, Perkins and his wife heard a new release of "Blue Moon of Kentucky" by Elvis Presley, Scotty Moore and Bill Black on the radio. As the song faded out, Perkins said, "There's a man in Memphis who understands what we're doing. I need to go see him." According to another telling of the story, it was Valda who told him that he should go to Memphis. Later, Presley told Perkins he traveled to Jackson and had seen Perkins and his group playing at El Rancho.
Years later the musician Gene Vincent told an interviewer, rather than "Blue Moon of Kentucky" being a "new sound", "a lot of people were doing it before that, especially Carl Perkins."
Perkins successfully auditioned for Sam Phillips at Sun Records in early October 1954. "Movie Magg" and "Turn Around" were released on the Phillips-owned Flip label (151) on March 19, 1955. "Turn Around" became 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 and West Memphis, Arkansas. 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 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 and Forrest City, Arkansas and to Corinth and Tupelo, Mississippi. Again performing at El Rancho, the Perkins brothers were involved in an automobile accident in Woodside, Delaware. 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 song, "Gone Gone Gone", released by Sun in October 1955, was also a regional success. It was a "bounce blues in flavorsome combined country and r.&b. idioms". It was backed by the more traditional "Let the Jukebox Keep On Playing", complete with fiddle, "Western boogie" bass line, steel guitar and weepy vocal.
Commenting on Perkins's playing, Sam Phillips has been quoted as saying, "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."
Also in the autumn of 1955, Perkins wrote "Blue Suede Shoes" after seeing a dancer get angry with his date for scuffing up his 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 RCA 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 reached number 1 on Billboard magazine's country music chart (the only number 1 success he would have) and number 2 on the Billboard Best Sellers popular music chart. On March 17, Perkins became the first country artist to reach number 3 on the rhythm and blues charts. That night, Perkins performed the song on ABC-TV's Ozark Jubilee, his television debut (Presley performed it for the second time that same night on CBS-TV's Stage Show; he'd first sung it on the program on February 11).
Car accident 1956;
After playing a show in Norfolk, Virginia, on March 21, 1956, the Perkins Brothers Band headed to New York City for a March 24 appearance on NBC-TV's Perry Como Show. Shortly before sunrise on March 22, on Route 13 between Dover and Woodside, Delaware, Stuart Pinkham (also known as Richard Stuart and Poor Richard) assumed duties as driver. After hitting the back of a pickup truck, their car went into a ditch containing about a foot of water, and Perkins was left lying face down in the water. Drummer Holland rolled Perkins over, saving him from drowning. He had sustained three fractured vertebrae in his neck, a severe concussion, a broken collar bone, and lacerations all over his body in the crash. Perkins 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. Jay Perkins had a fractured neck and severe internal injuries; he never fully recovered and died in 1958.
On March 23, Bill Black, Scotty Moore and D.J. Fontana, the members of Elvis's band, visited Perkins on their way to New York to appear with Presley the next day. 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 March 23), wishing him a speedy recovery.
Sam Philips had planned to surprise Perkins with a gold record on The Perry Como Show. "Blue Suede Shoes" had sold more than 500,000 copies by March 22. Now, while Perkins recuperated from his injuries, "Blue Suede Shoes" reached number 1 on regional pop, R&B, and country charts. It also reached number 2 on the Billboard pop and country charts. Elvis Presley's "Heartbreak Hotel" was number one on the pop and country charts at that time, but "Blue Suede 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 watched Presley perform "Blue Suede Shoes" on his first appearance on The Milton Berle Show, 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. Although his version became more famous than Perkins's, it reached only as high as number 20 on the Billboard pop chart.
Perkins returned to the Sun Studio in Memphis in 1986, joining Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Roy Orbison on the album Class of '55. The record was a tribute to their early years at Sun and, specifically, the Million Dollar Quartet jam session involving Perkins, Presley, Cash, and Lewis in 1956.
In 1989, Perkins co-wrote and played guitar on the Judds' number 1 country hit, "Let Me Tell You About Love". Also in that year, he signed a record deal with Platinum Records for the album Friends, Family, and Legends, featuring performances by Chet Atkins, Travis Tritt, Steve Wariner, Joan Jett and Charlie Daniels, along with Paul Shaffer and Will Lee. During the production of this album, Perkins developed throat cancer.
He again returned to Sun Studio to record with Scotty Moore, Presley's first guitar player, for the album 706 ReUNION, released by Belle Meade Records, which also featured D.J. Fontana, Marcus Van Storey and the Jordanaires.
In 1993, Perkins performed with the Kentucky Headhunters in a music video remake of his song "Dixie Fried", filmed in Glasgow, Kentucky, In 1994, he teamed up with Duane Eddy and the Mavericks to contribute "Matchbox" to the AIDS benefit album Red Hot + Country, produced by the Red Hot Organization.
His last album, Go Cat Go!, released by the independent label Dinosaur Records in 1996, features Perkins singing duets with Bono, Johnny Cash, John Fogerty, George Harrison, Paul McCartney, Willie Nelson, Tom Petty, Paul Simon, and Ringo Starr.
His last major concert performance was the Music for Montserrat all-star charity concert at London's Royal Albert Hall 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, Tennessee, from throat cancer. He had suffered several minor strokes the previous month.