Carl Perkins: “Blue Suede Shoes”
Entered the chart on: 3/10/1956
Peaked on: 4/7/1956
Weeks at #2: 4 weeks
Song at #1: “The Poor People of Paris” by Les Baxter
Hey! The first song I’ve actually heard before doing this! I’m excited to refresh my memory of this one, so let’s get started.
And yes, the first real rock & roll number. Though this is by a white artist, it does not qualify as “whitewashing.” For you see, the “sophisticates” objections to rock & roll weren’t only racial. There was an element of class snobbery there as well. Perkins hails from Tennessee, and can’t hide his rural Southern accent, nor does he attempt to. It seems disenfranchised folks of all races excelled at rock & roll.
This is, of course, a Sun Records production courtesy of the legendary Sam Phillips. He was the man responsible for giving Elvis Presley his start. Elvis, of course, was quick to cover this song and made it his own (indeed, I originally heard Elvis’ version and heavily associate the song with him). But while Elvis certainly does a credible (read: excellent) version of this, Carl just owns it! As he ought to, it’s his song! (Trivia time: that’s Perkins’ brothers Jay and Clayton on rhythm guitar and bass.)
Considering I just got done reviewing a Four Lads tune, I can only imagine how this raw, ragged, stripped-down thing (it’s just guitar, bass and drums) must have sounded in comparison. This was really something very, very different.
No wonder the old guard were scared.