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Carl Perkins (April 9, 1932-January 19, 1998) was an American Rockabilly singer and songwriter from Tennessee. Alongside the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, and Elvis Presley, he became most famous for writing and singing the song "Blue Suede Shoes." He was the first white country artist to cross over onto the R&B charts. Though Perkins never quite felt like he deserved his fame, he was hugely influential in others' music, including that of George Harrison, Rick Nelson, and Patsy Cline.

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Perkins was born to poor sharecroppers in Tiptonville, Tennessee. He spent much of his childhood working long hours in the cotton fields. His first guitar was made of a broomstick and a cigar box, which he used until he bought a real guitar, albeit worn out, from a neighbor. When he didn't have enough money for new strings, he would tie the strings, and to avoid sliding his fingers across the knots he had made, he would bend them--this is how he first came upon a kind of blue note.

Perkins' career began as a performer in various taverns around Jackson, Tennessee. He and his brothers would pay for tips and free booze. They were known as the Perkins Brothers Band. He had many day jobs, including one as a pan greaser for the Colonial Baking Company, but would begin to play taverns full time when his wife, Valda (Crider), convinced him to. He had married Valda in 1953.

 

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Later in 1953, he and his brothers drove to Memphis to audition for Sun Records producer Sam Phillips. They were signed, and soon after released "Movie Magg," a song Perkins wrote when he was just thirteen years old. By 1956, Perkins released "Blue Suede Shoes," and the song was a hit, carrying him to the top of the charts to compete with Elvis Presley. Perkins was allegedly inspired to write the song after seeing a dancer get upset with his date for scuffing up his shoes.

At the height of his success, Perkins and his brothers were in a terrible car accident in which the driver died and his brother died shortly after of a brain tumor. This spurred Perkins to drink heavily and he hit a low point in the early 1960s. But soon after he learned that the Beatles had been inspired by his music and he went on to tour with Johnny Cash. He continued to tour and record periodically throughout the rest of his life. Some artists he recorded with in later years included Willie Nelson, John Fogerty, Tom Petty, and Paul Simon. He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1985 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.

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Perkins was also civically engaged. In 1979, he was so moved by a story about a child who had died as a result of child abuse that he organized a concert to generate funds for a National Exchange Club Grant that ultimately founded the Carl Perkins Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse.

Some of his most notable works include:

"Blue Suede Shoes"

"Boppin' the Blues"

"Dixie Fried"

"Your True Love"

"Country Boy's Dream"

Additional Info

  • Birthday Date: Wednesday, 09 April 2014
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