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Carl Perkins
Carl Perkins
Cancer/stroke. Died: Jan 19, 1998, Age 65.


Carl Perkins
(1932 - 1998)
                                             By Ken Barnes
                             He didn't invent rockabilly, but Carl Perkins, who
                             died Monday (Jan. 19) at the age of 65 of
                             complications from a series of recent strokes, may
                             have been that guitar-ignited, blues-fueled hillbilly
                             rave-up music's purest exponent. Where Elvis was
                             a musical sponge, Johnny Cash an amped-up
                             country balladeer and Jerry Lee Lewis a maniacal
                             pianist/theological battleground, Perkins was a
                             sharecropper's son who grew up with the blues and
                             country and synthesized them in a natural, no-frills
                             fashion. His clean, clipped guitar lines and finely
                             observed song lyrics (his deadpan description of
                             Dan, the razor-toting sociopath in "Dixie Fried," is
                             as chilling as a passage from "In Cold Blood")
                             established him as a classic stylist whose influence
                             was both immediate and enduring.

                             Presley covered Perkins' unforgettably introed
                             signature song, "Blue Suede Shoes" (although
                             Perkins enjoyed by far his biggest hit with his
                             version). The Beatles were raving Perkins fanatics,
                             "officially" recording not only "Honey Don't,"
                             "Matchbox," and "Everybody's Trying To Be My
                             Baby," but performing "Sure To Fall," "Lend Me
                             Your Comb" and "Glad All Over" in BBC sessions
                             (Lennon later covered "Blue Suede Shoes" as a
                             solo artist). Perkins was also part of the legendary
                             "Million Dollar Quartet" (actually a trio, with
                             Presley and Lewis).

                             Perkins' own career was thrown off course by a
                             near-fatal 1956 auto accident, and its last four
                             decades were pretty much a postscript to his two
                             glory years at Sun Records, although not without
                             accomplishment and honor. He toured the world
                             (on his own and as part of Johnny Cash's revue);
                             made some great, underappreciated records
                             (notably for Columbia); and collaborated with all
                             manner of musicians (an album with NRBQ, a pair
                             of rockabilly-alumni sessions Survivors with
                             Cash and Lewis, Class of '55 with Cash, Lewis
                             and Orbison) and in 1996 released his last album,
                             Go Cat Go!, with appearances from admirers
                             including John Fogerty (whose "Bad Moon Rising"
                             and other hits owe a clear debt to Perkins), Bono,
                             Willie Nelson, Tom Petty, George, Paul and Ringo,
                             and many more. The album's material was a
                             mixture of new songs and old, leaning heavily on
                             the Sun classics. Which was perfectly justified
                             their appeal is undying, and likely will resonate far
                             into the next century.

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 Beatle Harrison sings at funeral of Carl Perkins
 January 24, 1998

 JACKSON, Tenn. (AP) George Harrison
 took acoustic guitar in hand and paid
 musical tribute to rock 'n' roll pioneer
 Carl Perkins, singing Perkins' early tune
 "Your True Love'' at his funeral.

 Harrison was among fans and
 entertainers who packed a Lambuth
 University auditorium Friday to
 remember Perkins, a contemporary of
 Elvis Presley he wrote "Blue Suede
 Shoes'' and a key influence on generations of rockers.

 Known for his lightning-quick guitar playing, Perkins was famed as
 one of the proponents of rockabilly, a cross of rhythm-and-blues
 and country music that came out of Sun Records in Memphis,
 Tenn., in the mid-1950s.

 "Carl was the coolest cat I know,'' Wynonna Judd said in her
 eulogy. "When I watched him, I realized I could only wish to be
 that cool.''

 Perkins, 65, died Monday from complications from a series of

 Among the hundreds of mourners at the funeral were entertainers
 Garth Brooks, Ricky Skaggs, Billy Ray Cyrus, Jerry Lee Lewis,
 Johnny Rivers and Judd. About 200 people watched on TV
 monitors in another building.

 Musical tributes came from Elton John and Eric Clapton; Paul
 McCartney sent a videotape in which he recounted the Beatles'
 fascination with Perkins' music while growing up in Liverpool,
 England. Bob Dylan sent a note, which Judd read.

 "He really stood for freedom. That whole sound stood for all the
 degrees of freedom. It would just jump right off the turntable. We
 wanted to go where that was happening,'' Dylan wrote.

 None of Perkins' rock and country standards was as well known as
 "Blue Suede Shoes,'' which was hit for Presley and was recorded
 by John Lennon and Jimi Hendrix. The Beatles recorded his
 "Honey Don't,'' "Matchbox'' and "Everybody's Trying to Be My
 Baby.'' Johnny Cash scored a No. 1 country hit with "Daddy Sang
 Bass.'' On the way out, Harrison gave a bear hug to Lewis, who
 was part of the Sun Records stable of
 artists at the same time as Perkins,
 Presley and Cash.

 Perkins was inducted into the Rock and
 Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.

                  © 1998 Associated Press. All rights reserved.
          This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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Rockabilly Pioneer Carl Perkins Dead at 65
January 19, 1998
NASHVILLE, Tennessee (CNN) -- Carl Perkins, the Tennessee sharecropper's son
whose first guitar was made from a cigar box and a broomhandle and whose famous
"Blue Suede Shoes" was  written on a potato sack, died Monday at the age of 65.
Perkins died at Jackson-Madison County General Hospital from complications
related to a recent series of strokes, according to family spokesman Albert Hall.
The tall, broad-shouldered Perkins was famed as one of the proponents of
rockabilly music, a cross of rhythm-and-blues and country music  that came out
of Sun Records in Memphis in the mid-1950s.

He also wrote some of the top hit records in rock 'n' roll and country music. A near-fatal traffic
accident in 1956, coupled with alcoholism and Elvis Presley's rise, kept
him from achieving the kind of stardom some thought was his due.
Perkins wrote and recorded "Blue Suede Shoes" in 1956, and his version sold
2 million copies before Presley's rendition became a hit. He also wrote the rockabilly standard
"Dixie Fried" and the songs "Honey Don't,"  "Matchbox" and "Everybody's
Trying to Be My Baby," which were later covered by the Beatles.

His relationship with the Beatles lasted long after the group's breakup in 1970. Perkins sang
a duet with Paul McCartney on the country ballad "Get It," a song off McCartney's
1982 album, "Tug of War." On the same record,  he played rhythm guitar on the
McCartney-Stevie Wonder hit duet, "Ebony and Ivory."
Praised Beatles, Rolling Stones
Beatles George Harrison and Ringo Starr appeared with him in a
cable TV special in London, "Carl Perkins and Friends: A Rockabilly Session."
"George Harrison told me 'Man, you wrote your songs, you sang your songs,
you played your guitar,'" Perkins said once in an interview. "'That's what we wanted to do.'"
Perkins credited the Beatles and the Rolling Stones with taking rockabilly further than he
thought it could go. "They advanced it so much," he said. "That rockabilly sound wasn't as simple as
I thought it was."

"They put a nice suit on rockabilly," he said in another interview. "They never
really strayed from the simplicity of it. They just beautified it."

The son of a tenant farmer, Perkins grew up picking cotton, and was fascinated by the gospel music
sung by blacks working in the cotton fields. He would also go behind the family chicken house
and pretend he was singing on Nashville's Grand Ole Opry.

At 7, he began playing a guitar that his father had made from a cigar box, broomstick
and baling wire. He wrote "Blue Suede Shoes" after hearing a boy telling his prom date
not to step on his blue suede shoes.  Perkins went back to his home a housing project
and wrote the song on a brown potato sack.
Had a renaissance in the '80s
Shortly after recording the song, Perkins was hurt in a traffic accident and spent a year recovering.
It not only prevented him from capitalizing on his fame, but also marked the start of a long struggle
with alcoholism.  He said he finally overcame the addiction after throwing his last bottle of whisky
into the Pacific Ocean near Encino, California, in 1967.

But it was during the hiatus caused by the accident that Presley recorded "Blue Suede Shoes" and
capitalized on the popularity Perkins had been building.   "I was bucking a good-looking cat called
Elvis who had beautiful hair, wasn't married, and had all kinds of great moves," Perkins said years later.
The '80s provided a renaissance of sorts for Perkins. In 1985, he taped the cable TV special that
included famous musicians such as Beatles George Harrison and Ringo Starr who were
influenced by his pioneering style.  In 1986, he joined Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis
and Roy Orbison on the album "Class of  '55."  It was a reprise of an  informal jam session he,
Presley, Cash and Lewis had done in the 1950s that was later released as an album.
Gold record his biggest thrill
Perkins was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987  but said his biggest thrill
was getting a gold record for "Blue Suede Shoes."   "After all those days in the cotton fields,
the dreams came true on a  gold record on a piece of wood," he said. "It's in my den where I
can look at it every day. I wear it out lookin' at it."  Perkins is survived by his wife, Valda, three
sons and a daughter.  Funeral arrangements were not immediately available.

Correspondent Mark Scheerer and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
 © 1998 Cable News Network, Inc.
All Rights Reserved.

Blue Suede Shoes Story
verbatim from Rockabilly Hall of Fame


While doing a show with Johnny Cash in 1955, Cash suggested that Carl write a song based on a saying he had heard in the chow line while he was in the service, "don't step on my blue suede shoes." A few nights later Perkins noticed a dancer in the crowd trying to keep his girlfriend away from his new blue sueded shoes. This sparked the idea Cash had given him and at three o'clock the next morning he wrote out the lyrics to "Blue Suede Shoes" on an empty potato bag.


Carl Perkins BIOGRAPHY

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