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Carl Perkins
Cancer/stroke. Died: Jan 19, 1998. Born: April 9, 1932.
                                When Mike Campbell, guitarist for superstars
                                Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, first played
                                alongside Carl Perkins two years ago for Perkins' Go,
                                Cat, Go! album, it was as if he were playing on stage
                                for the first time in his life.

                                Of course Campbell was thrilled to be recording with a
                                childhood hero -- but more than that, even after 20
                                years as a professional playing in one of rock's
                                premier bands, Campbell was in awe of Perkins' style
                                and technique.The 65-year-old forefather of rock 'n'
                                roll, who died in Jackson, Tenn., on Monday from
                                stroke-related complications, burned with fire until the
                                end, Campbell said.

                                "I could understand his left hand, the chording and
                                which notes he was picking," said Campell on
                                Tuesday by phone from his Southern California home.
                                "But the right hand -- the rhythm of his thumb, the
                                stroke of his fingers and the syncopation of his style --
                                was flabbergasting. Not only was it difficult, but the feel
                                and the swing of it was almost impossible to duplicate.
                                [Ex-Beatles guitarist] George Harrison got pretty close
                                to it, but he was probably the only one that really
                                approximated that."

                                Petty summed up his band's admiration succinctly in a
                                statement released Tuesday. "We all loved Carl,"
                                Petty said. "It's a great loss."

                                Along with such legends as Elvis Presley and guitar
                                great Chuck Berry, Perkins was a key figure in
                                shaping the meld of country and rhythm & blues that
                                took the United States and the world by storm in the
                                mid-'50s. Although "Blue Suede Shoes" (RealAudio
                                excerpt) was his biggest hit (and the song that helped
                                launch Presley), tunes such as "Honey Don't"
                                (RealAudio excerpt), "Matchbox" and "Everybody's
                                Trying To Be My Baby" influenced countless
                                musicians, most notably the Beatles, who later
                                recorded their own versions of several Perkins
                                classics.

                                A 1956 car accident prevented Perkins from fully
                                capitalizing on the success of "Blue Suede Shoes."
                                While his most famous work was recorded before the
                                end of 1957, Perkins' influence extended for decades
                                beyond that, as the guitarist (also known for his
                                country-western wardrobe and his large physical
                                stature), persevered through battles with alcoholism
                                and cancer.

                                In 1982, Dave Alvin, then guitarist for the Los Angeles
                                roots punk band the Blasters, had the opportunity to
                                invite two guests to join his band for a taping of PBS'
                                "Soundstage" program. He chose Willie Dixon and
                                Perkins, his favorite guitar player.

                                "It was one of the highlights of my career," Alvin
                                recalled from L.A. "I played with Carl for about nine
                                songs. He was a great, emotional guitar player, a very
                                good songwriter and a very sweet man. Carl got
                                banged up a lot -- through the sadness, the tragedy
                                and the success -- but he survived through it all."

                                After they recorded together, Tom Petty and the
                                Heartbreakers played two nights with Perkins during a
                                series of shows early last year in San Francisco.
                                Campbell echoed Alvin's awestruck memory of playing
                                with the legend who helped give birth to rock as we
                                know it, calling the moment "magical."

                                "There's only a handful of people that folks Tom's and
                                my age are influenced by and inspired by, and he was
                                one of them," Campbell said. "To play with him was
                                like the biggest thrill you could ever dream of. He was
                                really on both nights, and he seemed really happy to
                                be playing with us. It was almost overwhelming to be
                                on-stage with somebody like that."

                                Former Commander Cody and His Lost Planet
                                Airmen guitarist Bill Kirchen said that while some other
                                early rock heroes mellowed with age, Perkins still
                                attacked each and every show with vigor. As a
                                member of the Cody band in the late '60s, Kirchen
                                used to play many of Perkins' songs. He first saw the
                                guitarist perform in 1969 as a part of Johnny Cash's
                                touring group, then didn't see him again for 20 years.

                                "I don't think he'd lost a step, man!" Kirchen said. "Carl
                                was rocking out up there, playing fabulous guitar. Of all
                                the guys from the '50s who I saw, he was the closest to
                                always being on top of his game."

                                Another big fan of Perkins was Lee Rocker, who
                                Perkins chose as music supervisor for a planned
                                upcoming TV special, "Carl Perkins From The Cotton
                                Fields," which was to trace music through the legend's
                                eyes from gospel and blues to '40s honky tonk and
                                '50s rock straight through Beatles' covers of Perkins
                                classics and the rockabilly revival of the '80s and '90s.
                                In early production stages when Perkins had his first
                                massive stroke, the show piqued the interest of such
                                living legends as Jon Fogerty, Petty, Paul McCartney,
                                Van Morrison and Wynona Judd.

                                Reacting to the praise that Perkins recently bestowed
                                upon him following the release of Rocker's new album,
                                Rocker said in a prepared statement, "I am
                                overwhelmed by the compliment but no one can ever
                                do what Carl Perkins did for music. He is the legend."

                                Perkins' funeral will be held Friday at Womack Chapel
                                at Lambuth University in Jackson, Tenn. [Tues., Jan.
                                20, 1998, 6 p.m. PST]
 

                                                             Copyright © 1997 Addicted To Noise.


Rockabilly Legend Carl Perkins  Dead At 65
 Addicted To Noise  Staff Writer Chris Nelson reports :
 
                                He influenced the Beatles, John Fogerty, Chris Isaak
                                and, of course, his buddy Elvis.

                               Carl Perkins, one of rock 'n'
                                roll's founding fathers and the man who
                                famously warned the world to lay off of his
                                blue suede shoes, died Monday in Jackson, Tenn.
                                He was 65.

                                Mr. Perkins died at Jackson-Madison County Hospital
                                from complications related to several strokes he had
                                suffered since last November.

                                Musicians from around the world, including Johnny
                                Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis, have begun offering Mr.
                                Perkins' family condolences; many are expected to
                                attend his funeral on Friday in Jackson.

                                "All the old Sun Records people who are still living
                                have contacted us," said family spokesman Albert Hall
                                on Tuesday. Hall said he expected members of the
                                Beatles -- upon whom Mr. Perkins had profound
                                influence -- to be on hand for the musician's viewing or
                                funeral.

                                Mr. Perkins was part of the stable of rock 'n' roll
                                pioneers, including Elvis Presley, Lewis, Cash and
                                Roy Orbison, to arise from Memphis, Tenn.'s Sun
                                Records label in the mid-1950s.

                                "We have lost absolutely one of the people I say is as
                                responsible as anybody for rock 'n' roll," Sun Records
                                founder Sam Phillips told the Associated Press.

                                In 1955, Mr. Perkins recorded his first hit single for
                                Sun, the rockabilly anthem "Blue Suede Shoes." In its
                                introductory call to arms, "Go, cat, go!", Mr. Perkins
                                captured the rebel spirit of a cocksure hillbilly dressed
                                to the nines in his city-slicker shoes. The song also
                                introduced the world to Mr. Perkins' expert guitar
                                picking, which revealed more visible ties to country
                                and western music than did the work of other Sun
                                artists such as Presley or Lewis.

                                "Perkins' meat was his rockabilly," wrote Jimmy
                                Guterman in the liner notes to 1994's The Sun
                                Records Collection. "He repeatedly drove full speed
                                to the edge of the world, leaned over the cliff to enjoy
                                the view for a brief second, and then, as he knew he
                                must, pulled back and carefully headed home."

                                Although "Blue Suede Shoes" eventually sold two
                                million copies and was the first single to top
                                simultaneously the pop, country and R&B charts, Mr.
                                Perkins was prevented from fully capitalizing on the
                                song's success when he was in an automobile
                                accident in March 1956. While Mr. Perkins was laid up
                                in recovery, Presley recorded his own version of the
                                song and continued his assent to become the King of
                                Rock and Roll.

                                Despite his setback, Mr. Perkins, who toured the
                                South in the mid-'50s with Elvis in a Cadillac, went on
                                to record a string of influential songs for Sun over the
                                following two years. Cuts such as "Honey Don't,"
                                "Everybody's Trying To Be My Baby" and "Matchbox"
                                shaped the musical direction of the early Beatles (who
                                recorded their own versions of all three songs) as
                                much as the work of Little Richard and Chuck Berry.

                                In the mid-1960s, Mr. Perkins began a decade-long
                                stint as guitarist for Johnny Cash, who had a hit with
                                the Perkins-penned "Daddy Sang Bass."

                                "Carl was a very close friend over 40 years," Cash told
                                AP. "His musical legacy is certain to prevail forever."

                                During his tenure with Cash's band, Mr. Perkins
                                overcame a 15-year struggle with alcoholism. He then
                                largely avoided health problems until 1991, when he
                                was diagnosed with throat cancer. Mr. Perkins beat
                                the illness after a two-year battle. In June of last year,
                                he underwent surgery to clear a blocked carotid artery.

                                In 1996, Mr. Perkins released the album Go, Cat, Go!
                                in conjunction with an autobiography of the same title.
                                The album included many re-recordings of Mr. Perkins'
                                songs, with several notable musicians -- Cash, Tom
                                Petty, Bono, Willie Nelson, along with Beatles Paul
                                McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr --
                                stepping in to pay tribute to him.

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

                                In addition to devoting time to his career as a
                                musician, Mr. Perkins also supported efforts to relieve
                                the suffering of children. In the early 1980s, a benefit
                                concert he organized helped provide funds to open the
                                Carl Perkins Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse
                                in Jackson, Tenn.

                                Mr. Perkins is survived by his wife Valda, daughter
                                Debbie Swift, and sons Greg, Stan and Steve Perkins.

                                A public viewing for Mr. Perkins will be held on
                                Wednesday and Thursday at Smith North Chapel in
                                Jackson. A public funeral is scheduled for Friday at
                                Womack Chapel at Lambuth University in Jackson.

                                [Tues., Jan. 20, 1998, 9 a.m. PST]
 

                  Copyright © 1997 Addicted To Noise. All rights reserved.
                  Please do not reprint entire Addicted To Noise news stories without written permission from Addicted To
                  Noise. If you excerpt, rewrite, or in some way make use of portions of our news, attribute to: Addicted To
                  Noise, the on-line rock & roll magazine - http://www.addict.com/ 

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