by Robert Wilkinson
Continuing our musical weekend, Carl Perkins was one of the true originals! He was there at the beginning in “the club” with Elvis, Jerry Lee, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, and the rest of the Sun Records bunch that made rock and roll history. We have rockabilly on the jukebox!
Carl Perkins (April 9, 1932 – January 19, 1998) started off in rockabilly, and gave us “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Matchbox,” “Honey Don’t,” “Boppin’ The Blues,” and “Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby,” along with a bundle of other immortal tunes. From Wikipedia,
According to Charlie Daniels, "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, the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and Johnny Cash, which further cemented his place in the history of popular music. Paul McCartney even claimed that "if there were no Carl Perkins, there would be no Beatles."
To which I’ll add, John noted that “before Elvis, there was nothing.” Seems Sun Records set some things into motion! And yes, the Beatles really did like Carl’s music, which is why they included three of his songs on the US albums “Something New” and “Beatles ’65.” Carl was so influential that he was called "the King of Rockabilly." He was inducted into all the Halls of Fame dedicated to his style of music, and even made the Grammy HOF.
He was a kid that was extraordinarily “dirt poor,” the poorest of the poor, and yet lifted himself into the musical pantheon to a rarified atmosphere that extremely few share. He took it from zero to sixty in a heartbeat, and set us all dancing happy to a sound he helped create.
And he hung with Johnny, Elvis, and Roy. These were the originals, in every sense of the word. They kicked open the door to the musical world that we all know. Without them, we don’t really know if any of what has been could have been made real. Thank heaven we don’t have to wonder!
Today I’ll just give you a few, but what great ones they are!
Shot a few weeks after the tune peaked on the charts, here's Carl live on the Perry Como Show in May 1956 cranking out THE song that kicked a few doors down! “Blue Suede Shoes”
Here's a great score! From 1957 on the Tex Ritter “Ranch Party” television show, here’s Carl performing that breakthrough hit, followed by another classic rockabilly tune! “Blue Suede Shoes” and “Your True Love” (Check out his lead playing on both tunes! What he was doing was revolutionary in 1957!)
I found the entire clip from that classic Tex Ritter show, and after Carl, it features a VERY young Johnny Cash (not dressed in black!) doing "I Walk the Line" and Patsy Cline at the beginning of her career performing "I've Loved and Lost Again." Enjoy a slice of history from 60 years ago! Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, and Patsy Cline on Tex Ritter's "Ranch Party" - 1957
Of course, a hit as big as “Blue Suede Shoes” had to be done by others, since that was the fashion of the times. For your enjoyment, live on an aircraft carrier in April 1956 on the Milton Berle television show, here's Elvis live cranking out "Blue Suede Shoes" and yes, that's Scotty Moore cranking out those great prototypical leads!
Here’s Elvis screen test for Paramount performing “Blue Suede Shoes” and from the legendary “Live Peace in Toronto” in 1969, here’s John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band giving us his version of “Blue Suede Shoes”
Here’s another early video performance by Carl and the Perkins Brothers Band. From 1957 on Tex Ritter's Ranch Party, the band gives us the birth of rock and roll! “Dixie Fried”
Live in 1958 on LA tv, an early video of the Master! “Boppin’ the blues”
This song was part of the Beatles' original set list! Here’s an undated early live radio show performance (probably in 1964) with Ringo singing lead on “Matchbox”
From their live Star Club sessions in 1962, here are the Beatles with John singing lead on “Matchbox”
From his 2002 tour and DVD, here’s Macca live cranking out a great version of “Matchbox”
Here’s the original Sun studio version of Carl’s hit “Honey Don’t”
Here are the Beatles live on the BBC in 1965 giving us their version of “Honey Don’t” (The video is to “Act Naturally,” but there are no other videos of the Beatles doing this song.)
And though Carl didn’t write the tune, he made it big! For your enjoyment, the original Sun studio version of “Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby”
From Paris (probably 1965), a great live audio performance by the Beatles with George singing lead on “Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby”
Here’s a lousy video of a great live performance by the Beatles boppin’ in 1965 at Atlanta! "Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby”
From 1971, live in Denmark, Carl cranking out "Matchbox."
From 1979, here’s Carl and the Killer offering up “Blue Suede Shoes”
From 1985, here’s 46 minutes of Carl Perkins and Friends in Passaic, NJ, with George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, Dave Edmunds, Roseanna Cash and many more! “Blue Suede Shoes: A Rockabilly Session with Carl Perkins and Friends.”
From that show, here’s one that rocks! “Gone Gone Gone”
2 years ago I had 57 golden minutes of Carl Perkins and Friends in the UK, with the same lineup as the previous clip, but this year the whole show is nowhere to be found, nor is the great clip from last year with George and Eric cranking out great leads on “Blue Suede Shoes.”
So let’s have some fun with clips of Derek and the Dominos on the Johnny Cash tv show featuring Carl Perkins! Here’s a great video of Carl, Johnny Cash, and Eric Clapton in 1970 cranking out “Matchbox”
Here’s the whole appearance. Enjoy sounds from another age as you hear the Chuck Willis 1956 R&B standard followed by Carl’s rockabilly standard! “It’s Too Late” and “Matchbox”
Live on BBC tv in 1987, here’s Carl whipping out “That’s All Right Mama” and from a 1988 special, here’s Carl and George Harrison doing a great performance of “That’s All Right Mama” and “Honey Don’t”
From 1989, a golden 26 minutes of live music on Austin City Limits! Carl Perkins on ACL 1989
From 1990 on Letterman, Carl giving us a great performance of “Honey Don’t”
From 1993, a 46 minute documentary! Paul McCartney with Carl Perkins: My Old Friend
From Nashville in 1994, with Duane Eddy and the Mavericks! “Matchbox”
For our closer, from 1997 on Leno, Carl and the great Dave Edmunds giving us “Blue Suede Shoes”
I found a great encore! When Elvis died in 1977, a few old friends got together. Here are the Sun originals offering up one to their old friend, the King of Rock and Roll! “This Train Is Bound to Glory” – Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Roy Orbison
A couple of brief rare deserts! Old friends Scotty and Carl hanging out! Scotty Moore and Carl Perkins Talking About Whatever Legends Talk About
And finally, this is one of the rarest of rare treats! Welcome to Oklahoma in 1955, where we have what is said to be the first film footage of Elvis AND Buddy with Carl! Of course, Bill Black, Scotty Moore, the Crickets, and other are also here. Wow. Set to Buddy’s version of “Baby Let’s Play House,” which of course had been a huge hit for Elvis on Sun. Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly – First film footage
Thanks for being there, Mister Carl Perkins. You took country and rockabilly and made it into rock and roll!
© Copyright 2017 Robert Wilkinson