Carl Perkins is a rock and roll singer and guitarist. The son of a sharecropper in Tennessee and a recording artist with Sun Records in Memphis, he was popular in the second half of the 1950s. A rapidly rising star in 1956, his career was derailed by a serious car accident.
I first heard a Carl Perkins song by the Beatles when I was very young, maybe 6 or 7 years old. By then, my mother was faithfully acquiring every new Beatles album. “Honey Don’t” and “Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby” were released on Beatles ’65. Ringo sings “Honey Don’t”, while George takes the lead vocal on “Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby”. In particular, George idolized Carl Perkins, a direct influence on George’s economical soloing style. According to Carl Perkins’s biography on hotshotdigital.com, Harrison once told Perkins, “‘Man, you wrote your songs, you sang your songs, you played your guitar. That’s what we wanted to do.'”
Here Perkins plays “Matchbox”, a rockabilly version of “Match Box Blues”, recorded by both Ma Rainey and Blind Lemon Jefferson in the 1920s.
Here’s a nice three minute video which concludes with a discussion of “Honey Don’t”, the B-side of the “Blue Suede Shoes” single. They didn’t have much trouble selling that product. Nowadays they’d have figured out a way to sell three separate products so you could get the two great songs. These are two of the best, most important rock and roll songs of the 1950s.
The story is often told about Sun Records, and its decision to sell Elvis Presley’s contract to RCA Records. At the time, owner Sam Phillips thought Perkins would be just as popular. Sadly, Perkins and his brother Jay were seriously injured in March, 1956, and the momentum building after the release of “Blue Suede Shoes” was lost.
I love this rockabilly sound. It begs the listener to move and work off that nervous energy. Most of Perkins’s songs are concerned with courtship and maybe more. But his greatest song celebrates youthful defiance and vanity.
Notice that brother Jay is still wearing a neck brace from the accident. Also, the cameraman unfortunately focuses the camera on Jay’s guitar strumming rhythm during Carl’s solos. Brilliant.
His output of great songs is limited, but among the few he created are some strong ones. “Lend Me Your Comb” is similar to the Everly Brothers “Wake Up Little Susie”. Comb your hair and button those buttons, honey, we gotta get home. “Movie Magg” is old enough that Perkins describes taking his girl to the movies on horseback. There are two versions of both “Matchbox” and “Put Your Cat Clothes On”, featuring Jerry Lee Lewis driving the rhythm on piano.
I have three takes of “Blue Suede Shoes”. In the late 1980s, I bought a three album box set of his career at Sun Records, which has several alternate takes of his songs. These alternates are worthwhile; in particular, the three take progression of “Blue Suede Shoes” is very instructive. The famous version is take 3.
Here is your list of songs:
Blue Suede Shoes, Carl Perkins ✭✭✭✭✭
Matchbox (Alt), Carl Perkins ✭✭✭✭
Matchbox, Carl Perkins ✭✭✭✭
Blue Suede Shoes (Take 2), Carl Perkins ✭✭✭✭
Honey Don’t, Carl Perkins ✭✭✭✭
Lend Me Your Comb, Carl Perkins ✭✭✭
Put Your Cat Clothes On, Carl Perkins ✭✭✭
Put Your Cat Clothes On (Alt), Carl Perkins ✭✭✭
Blue Suede Shoes (Take 1), Carl Perkins ✭✭✭
Boppin’ The Blues, Carl Perkins ✭✭
Everybody’s Trying To be My Baby, Carl Perkins ✭✭
Movie Magg, Carl Perkins ✭✭
Glad All Over, Carl Perkins ✭✭
Honey Don’t (Alt) Carl Perkins ✭✭
Dixie Fried, Carl Perkins ✭
Gone Gone Gone, Carl Perkins ✭
Honey Don’t, The Beatles ✭✭✭
Honey Don’t (Live), The Beatles ✭
Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby, The Beatles ✭✭
Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby (Live), The Beatles ✭✭
The live versions are found on Live At The BBC. John not Ringo, sings lead on “Honey Don’t”.
Matchbox, The Beatles ✭
Match Box Blues, Blind Lemon Jefferson ✭✭
Blue Suede Shoes, Elvis Presley ✭✭✭