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Blue Suede Shoes

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Blue Suede Shoes

Thirty-odd years ago, an English reporter asked Carl Perkins, who was then in London promoting his new album Old Blue Suede’s Back, how many times he had performed his signature tune “Blue Suede Shoes.” He didn’t rightly know, Perkins replied, with a hint of a grimace crossing his face. He’d lost count, he continued, after the first couple of thousand.

Blue Suede Shoes

"Blue Suede Shoes" has been called the first true rock 'n' roll hit, in the sense that it was an "all market" hit. Some R&B hits had sold well in the pop market (most notably Chuck Berry's "Maybellene," which had even outsold the white cover versions); likewise, some country records had crossed over into the pop market, and Bill Haley had defined his own pop/R&B hybrid. But there had never been a record that had sold well in all three markets.

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Carl Perkins with blue suede shoe

Carl Perkins is regarded by many as one of the founding fathers of rock-and-roll. Although he placed only one record in the pop top forty "Blue Suede Shoes," it became a legendary one in the annals of rock-and-roll and propelled Perkins, one of the original rockabilly singers, into his legendary status.

Born Carl Lee Perkins near Tiptonville, Tennessee in 1932, the son of the only white sharecropper (Fonie "Buck" Perkings) on a cotton plantation and Louise Brantley. He kicked off his musical career in the mid 1940s, performing at local dances with his brothers Jay and Clayton as the 'Perkins Brothers Band'. In 1953 drummer W.S. 'Fluke' Holland joined.

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The Perkins Brothers Band

 

His first release was Movie Magg, written when he was fourteen, that sold slowly. However, it allowed him to get bookings where he opened for Elvis. According to Perkins, after a show in Jackson, Tennessee when he was touring with Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash, he wrote down the words of someone on the dance floor.

Johnny Cash was the first to give Perkins the idea for this song. He told Perkins about soldiers in the US army who wore their combat boots in the mess hall and would warn their fellow soldiers not to "step on my blue suede shoes." Perkins was watching a dancer at a high school sorority dance - he didn't pay too much attention to his date, but he kept everybody else away from his new shoes.

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Johnny Cash

 

At 3:00 a.m. the night of the dance, Perkins woke up and wrote the lyrics. He couldn't find any paper, so he wrote it on a potato sack. Perkins based the beginning of this song on a nursery rhyme: "One for the money, two for the show, three to get ready and four to go."

The Sun recording of "Blue Suede Shoes" was released on January 1, 1956. At first "Blue Suede Shoes" sold slowly. Early in 1956 Perkins began making regular appearances on "Big D Jamboree" on radio station in Dallas where he played the song every Saturday night. Slowly it began to catch on - first in the country market, then with teenagers and finally with rhythm and blues fans. By early May both Perkins and Sun Records have logged their first million-seller.

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Carl Perkins performs 'Blues Suede Shoes,' 1956

 

When someone is asked to name Elvis songs, "Blue Suede Shoes" is likely to be one of the first songs they come up with. Although it's certainly one of the songs most identified with Elvis, it was never technically a "gold record", since the single didn't sell over a million (during Elvis' lifetime.).

Elvis Presley recorded his version of "Blue Suede Shoes" on January 30, 1956, in his second session for RCA Victor. Elvis performed it on television in February and early March, and with each TV appearance, the song was beginning to be identified with Elvis as much as with Carl. On March 13, Elvis' version of "Blue Suede Shoes" kicked off Side 1 of his debut album, Elvis Presley.

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Elvis Presley

 

Although Carl's version is definitive rockabilly at its finest, Elvis takes it and makes it his own, vocally adding a lot more energy. Elvis does the intro differently, too. While Carl hits a dead stop after each of the first two lines, Elvis continues in rhythm through both lines, losing none of the momentum before launching into the main chorus. Together with Scotty Moore's guitar solos, it's turned into a rock-n-roll classic. Any Elvis "greatest hits" package available today almost certainly includes "Blue Suede Shoes".

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Carl Perkins & Elvis Presley, 1956

 

By the time of his death, Perkins had attained the status of rock & roll senior statesman, invited to lecture at universities and give keynote speeches at gatherings. He had recently recorded an album, Cat Go Go!, that showcased acolytes including Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Paul Simon, Willie Nelson, Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney, and Bono. In one of his last appearances, the September 1997 benefit concert, he earned a standing ovation after sharing the stage with McCartney, Eric Clapton, Elton John, Sting, and assorted other members of rock royalty. The tune he played, of course, was “Blue Suede Shoes.”

In 2004, Perkins' version was ranked No. 95 on Rolling Stone's list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.”

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Lewis, Perkins, Presley and Cash

 

"Blue Suede Shoes" Lyrics


Well, it's one for the money,
Two for the show,
Three to get ready,
Now go, cat, go.

But don't you step on my blue suede shoes.
You can do anything but lay off of my Blue suede shoes.

Well, you can knock me down, step in my face,
Slander my name all over the place.
Do anything that you want to do,
but uh-uh, honey, lay off of my shoes

Don't you step on my Blue suede shoes.
You can do anything but lay off of my blue suede shoes.

You can burn my house, steal my car,
Drink my liquor from an old fruitjar.
Do anything that you want to do,
but uh-uh, honey, lay off of my shoes

Don't you step on my blue suede shoes.
You can do anything but lay off of my blue suede shoes.

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Blue Suede Shoes

 

Last Updated (Tuesday, 23 October 2012 16:26)

 

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