Friday, March 3, 2006

50 years ago: Carl Perkins charted with “Blue Suede Shoes”

Blue Suede Shoes

Carl Perkins

Writer(s): Carl Perkins (see lyrics here)

Released: February 1956

First Charted: March 3, 1956

Peak: 2 US, 2 CB, 11 HR, 13 CW, 2 RB, 10 UK, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, 1.0 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 2.0 radio, 3.18 video, 28.23 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

The “most famous rockabilly record of all time” AMG owes its existence to Johnny Cash’s stint in the Air Force and a careless dancer. Cash, who at the time was a Sun Records label mate with Perkins, relayed the story to Perkins of servicemen lining up for food or pay with freshly-polished shoes HL and warning each other, “Don’t step on my blue suede shoes.” TC It was just a few weeks laterHL that Perkins heard someone in a crowd at a dance spit out a similar line TC to his date for scuffing his shoes. SA After the dance was over, Perkins supposedly scribbled down the song lyrics on an old potato sack. DJ

In rock and roll’s infancy, many songs were convinced it was devil’s music. SF With lyrical references to drinking and stealing cars, SF “Blue Suede Shoes” was certainly not exempt but it “swings easy with a knowing smile.” LW Regardless, or perhaps because of it, the song became Perkins’ biggest hit and the first song to hit the pop, R&B, and country charts in the U.S. RS500 It was also Sun Records’ first million seller. SS

It become “one of the national anthems of ‘50s rock & roll” AMG although it has been argued that the song “isn’t exactly rock ‘n’ roll…[but] a pioneering example of folk-rock.” TB As music critic Dave Marsh said, “Folk-rock explains ‘Blue Suede Blues’ better than anything.” DM

Perkins recorded the song at Sam Phillips’ Sun Records. At Phillips’ suggestion, Perkins upped the tempo from the slower version he originally wrote. Phillips was fresh off RCA Records buying Elvis Presley’s contract for $40,000 which put Sun Records on secure footing for the first time. AH Phillips’ “attention shifted to Perkins as the next big hope.” SS Interestingly, Perkins came to Sun Records in the first place after hearing what Phillips had done with Elvis’ cover of “Blue Moon of Kentucky.” AH

When “Blue Suede Shoes” looked like it was better in line for success than Elvis’ “Heartbreak Hotel,” which didn’t go over initially upon its January 1956 release. RCA’s A&R man Steve Sholes even wondered if he’d signed the wrong artist from Sun TB before “Hotel” found its way to the top of the charts.

Perkins missed a chance to perform “Blue Suede Shoes” on The Perry Como Show when his car crashed into a poultry truck while he was driving to New York for the performance. Were it not for the accident, “Blue Suede Shoes” almost certainly would have hit #1, TB something even Elvis acknowledged in a wire to Perkins. SS Perkins helplessly watched Elvis perform the song on The Milton Berle Show. RS500 Perkins’ career never truly recovered. Besides, Carl “was too much the country boy for the rock and roll crown” BD bestowed upon Elvis. However, no one could take the song away from Perkins, who pulled off a feat even Elvis couldn’t do – he gave Sun Records a top 10 U.S. pop hit. SJ Elvis’ version – released a few months’ later as a result of a gentleman’s agreement with Perkins – AH only reached #20 and “The King” confessed that he couldn’t top the original by Perkins. RS500


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Last updated 8/23/2023.

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