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‘Rockabilly’ Pioneer Carl Perkins Dies Songwriter Remembered For His ‘Blue Suede Shoes’

Tue., Jan. 20, 1998

Carl Perkins, pioneer of “rockabilly” music remembered for his classic song “Blue Suede Shoes” and for his influence on mega-stars Elvis Presley and the Beatles, died Monday. He was 65.

Perkins died at Jackson-Madison County General Hospital in Nashville, Tenn., of complications following three strokes that he suffered in November and December. He had also endured bouts with lung and throat cancer.

His recording of “Blue Suede Shoes” - which sold 2 million copies before Presley performed the song - was the first and one of the few records ever to reach the top of the sales charts in all three major categories: pop, country and rhythm and blues.

The son of a Tennessee tenant farmer, Perkins by age 7 started playing a guitar that his father made from a cigar box, broomstick and baling wire.

Perkins’ first recording, “Movie Magg,” and second earned few sales. The third, on Dec. 19, 1955, was “Blue Suede Shoes.”

Johnny Cash suggested writing a song about such shoes, Perkins told Los Angeles Times pop music critic Robert Hilburn in 1969.

“I didn’t know what he (Cash) meant at first,” Perkins related. “A few nights later, though, I saw this boy dancing with the cutest girl you ever saw and he was telling her to keep off his shoes. Could you imagine this beautiful girl and all this guy was worried about was his shoes?”

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