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Carl Perkins

Who was he?

He grows up on a plantation, where a black sharecropper named John Westbrook teaches him to play the guitar and listen to the blues and gospel. On the radio at home, he listens to Bill Monroe's country music. Soon he's leaning towards John Lee Hooker and Hank Williams.

As a teenager he writes his own songs, he can sing and is good at the guitar. Together with his brother Jay, he plays country and blues in a different style that the record companies don't like. His character is reserved and modest.

Carl Perkins - Boppin' the Blues (1957)

Theme composed by Carl Perkins and Howard "Curley" Griffin. In it we discovered the influence of the black music he listened to on the plantation where he had grown up.


Carl Lee Perkins was born near Tiptonville, Tennessee, in 1932. Of humble origins, his father was a tenant farmer, Perkins grew up surrounded by gospel music sung by African Americans in the cotton fields. By the time he was seven years old, he was playing with a guitar his father made for him out of a cigar box and wires from a box. In 1947, the family moved near Jackson, where the brothers played in bars. When he was fourteen, he won a competition for new talent with a song of his, called Movie Magg.

When did he take off?

When you listen to Elvis Presley's That's All Right on the radio, you realize he's been making that music they now call rockabilly for years. He goes to Sam Phllips who signs him up for Sun Records. The doors finally opened for him.

In 1955, he composes and records Blue Suede Shoes. He puts it on the charts and it becomes the most important record on Sun Records. But it is temporary, its space is already occupied by Elvis Presley. He's a great musician with no luck.

Carl Perkins - Blue Suede Shoes (1955)

It reached number one and was the first album by a Sun label artist to reach one million copies sold. But he had turned pro too late and was eclipsed by Elvis.

Blue Suede Shoes is considered one of the first rockabilly albums. It incorporated elements of blues, country and pop. In 1956, a desperately poor and struggling Perkins wrote this song with Sam Phillips as producer. The album would be a resounding success, both in the United States and the United Kingdom. This song would later be performed by Elvis Presley, who made an excellent version with a more marked country style, which would also reach the charts.

How does he end?

At the height of his success, in 1956, he suffers a traffic accident when he goes to the program of Ed Sullivan, catapult of the emerging musicians. His brother Jay and his manager are killed in the accident. He is seriously injured and retires for a year.

When he reappears, in 1957, he makes memorable songs and recordings that will have a great influence on the sixties. But the general public knows them through great stars. Once again, he is relegated from his rightful position.

Carl Perkins - Matchbox (1957)

Adaptation of an old anonymous blues. It's another of the great rockabilly songs Perkins recorded for the Sun Records label.


It is said that Carl Perkins recorded Matchbox on December 4, 1956, when his father asked him to play the old Match Box Blues, recorded by Blind Lemon Jefferson in 1927. Since he only knew one line and was accompanied by the then session pianist, Jerry Lee Lewis, he improvised a lyric and accompanied it with a melody on the guitar. The song has become one of his best known recordings and has been covered by many artists, especially The Beatles. Perkins died, in 1998, at the age of 65.