"Carl Perkins: The Essential Sun Collection," is a good compilation of the rockabilly star's early hits on Sam Phillips's 1950's Memphis- headquartered Sun label, when the awesome talent - think Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Perkins -- was busy inventing rockabilly. They melded country, rhythm and blues, and Texas swing, thereby creating rock and roll for the ages. Perkins was a guitar player, singer/songwriter who wrote most of his material, including his first hit single, written and recorded in 1955, released in 1956: the classic "Blue Suede Shoes," backed by "Honey Don't." The Perkins story is built largely around the "Blue Suede Shoes" story, which is recounted on the Internet. In the fall of 1955, Cash supposedly mentioned to Perkins, when the two, along with Presley and others, were trouping on "Louisiana Hayride," that, while serving in the military in Germany, he'd heard a black airman refer to his required military air shoes as "blue suede shoes." So Cash, the story goes, suggested to Perkins that he should write a song on the subject. To which Perkins supposedly replied, "I don't know anything about shoes. How can I write a song about shoes?" However, Perkins soon played a dance, on December 4, 1955 -- a very eventful day at Sun Studios. Perkins noted a beautiful girl dancing with a boy in blue suede shoes, and the boy was telling her, "Don't step on my suedes." Perkins thereupon sat down and wrote the song on a brown paper potato sack. He says he spelled "suede" "swade;" "I couldn't even spell it right." The single started selling slowly, but was finally selling 20,000 copies a day; country's first million selling song, also the first to cross over to the pop and rhythm and blues charts. Perkins was booked to perform on national American television, the Perry Como Show, and then the Ed Sullivan. But he had a serious automobile accident en route to New York; a truck driver was killed, and Perkins spent months in hospital, washing out both TV dates. Meanwhile, Presley, who'd supposedly promised Perkins never to take the song, recorded it in early 1956, as soon as he went to RCA Victor, and went on nationwide American TV three times that year to push it. Presley was to record it twice more, and to have a hit with it, though not as big as Perkins'; the Presley version reached only #20 on the charts, though it did eventually sell millions too. The song is a rock and roll standard, often referred to in other songs, recorded by many, sometimes called "Rock and Roll's National Anthem." The Presley take is, of course, still around, but it is Perkins' darker, closer to the bone original that has survived best. It has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's"500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll" honor roll; the Grammy Hall of Fame; and in 2006, the American Library of Congress's National Recording Registry. In 2004, Rolling Stone Magazine named it #95 on its list of the 500 greatest songs of all times; in 1999 America's National Public Radio named it to its "NPR Top 100" list. Perkins' bad luck cost him the stratospheric stardom he might have had, and he had some troubled years trying to live with that. But he did eventually carve out a career for himself. Also included here are his archival-quality "Boppin'The Blues;""Dixie Fried," a hard-edged, dark song about honkytonks and the men who patronize them; and the biting "All Mama's Children," co-written with Cash. The Tennessean must be honored as an essential figure in the creation of rock and roll, and this album is a good way to do it.
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