Carl Perkins

Induction Year: 1985

Birth Name: Carl Lee Perkins

Birth Date: 04-09-1932

Place of Birth: Tiptonville, Tennessee

Death Date: 01-19-1998

Place of Death: Jackson, Tennessee

An influential guitar stylist and a major player in rock & roll's first wave, Carl Perkins was also a deft songwriter who penned timeless hits including "Blue Suede Shoes" and "Daddy Sang Bass" and had more songs covered by the Beatles than any writer who wasn't a member of that legendary band.

Perkins was raised in rural northwestern Tennessee, and his first musical experiences were listening to church hymns and workers in the cotton fields. After years of playing around Jackson, Tennessee, Perkins and his band of brothers (guitarist Jay and bassist Clayton) headed to Memphis and Sun Records in 1954 after hearing Elvis Presley's incendiary first records on the radio. Initially, Perkins' sound was based solidly in the honky-tonk tradition of Hank Williams and Ernest Tubb. But, inspired by Presley, he worked to retool and supercharge his sound to join the rockabilly hot-rod race. His third single, "Blue Suede Shoes," roared to the top of the charts as the #1 country and #2 pop song in America. It was also covered by Presley and numerous other artists, and it launched Perkins as a rock & roll teen idol.

A March 1956 car wreck on the way to network TV appearance on the Perry Como Show in New York sent Perkins and his two brothers to the hospital and cost him some momentum, but, once recovered, he continued writing, recording and touring. His 1950s records for the Sun label melded hopped-up bluesy guitar with a rock & roll backbeat (provided by drummer W. S. "Fluke" Holland) and clever, breezy lyrics. In the 1960s, the Beatles' faithful, energetic covers of Perkins' records "Honey Don't," "Matchbox" and "Everybody's Tryin' to Be My Baby" made those songs a permanent part of the rock & roll canon.

Perkins performed as a featured musician and singer in Johnny Cash's road show from 1965 to 1975, and Perkins' "Daddy Sang Bass" became a #1 country hit for Cash. In 1989, Perkins scored a #1 country hit when the Judds released "Let Me Tell You About Love," co-written with Paul Kennerley and Brent Maher. In 1991, Perkins landed on the country charts again when fiddler extraordinaire Mark O'Connor had a #25 hit and won a Grammy Award with a blazing recording of Perkins' "Restless" featuring Vince Gill, Ricky Skaggs and Steve Wariner.

Perkins is a member of the Rock and Roll, Rockabilly and Nashville Songwriters Halls of Fame.

"Birth of Rock 'n' Roll"

(written with Gregg Perkins)

Carl Perkins1986 

"Blue Suede Shoes"

Carl Perkins1956 #1 country, #2 pop, #3 R&B
Elvis Presley1956 #20 pop
Thumper Jones (George Jones)1956 
Pee Wee King1956 
Bill Haley & the Comets1960 
Conway Twitty1960 
Eddie Cochran1962 
Plastic Ono Band1969 
Albert King1970 
Black Sabbath1970 
Johnny Rivers1973 #38 pop

"Boppin' the Blues"

(written with Howard )

Carl Perkins1956 #7 country, #70 pop
Ricky Nelson1957 
Robert Gordon with Link Wray1977 
Commander Cody1988 
Brian Setzer2005 

"Champaign, Illinois"

(written with Bob Dylan)

Carl Perkins1969 

"Daddy Sang Bass"

Johnny Cash1968 #1 country, #42 pop
Kitty Wells1969 
Skeeter Davis1969 
Glen Campbell1970 
Leon Russell1998 

"Dixie Fried"

(written with Howard )

Carl Perkins1956 #10 country
Jimmy Page1984 
Kentucky Headhunters1993 
Chris Isaak2011 

"Gone, Gone, Gone"

Carl Perkins1957 
Jason & the Scorchers1996 

"Honey Don't"

Carl Perkins1956 
Ronnie Hawkins1960 
The Beatles1964 
Wanda Jackson1964 
Ringo Starr1990 
Johnny Rivers1991 
T. Rex1971 
Shakin' Stevens1971 
Eugene Chadbourne1980 
Joe Walsh with Steve Earle1993 

"Let Me Tell You About Love"

(written with Paul Kennerley, Brent Maher)

The Judds1989 #1 country


Carl Perkins1957 
Jerry Lee Lewis1958 
The Beatles1964 
Ronnie Hawkins1970 

"Pink Pedal Pushers"

Carl Perkins1958 #17 country, #91 pop


Carl Perkins1969 #20 country
George Thorogood1980 
Emmylou Harris1982 
Mark O'Connor1991 #25 country

"Rise and Shine"

Tommy Cash1970 #9 country

"So Wrong"

(written with Mel Tillis, Danny Dill)

Patsy Cline1962 #14 country, #85 pop

"True Love Is Greater Than Friendship"

Arlene Harden1971 #22 country

"Your True Love"

Carl Perkins1957 #13 country, #67 pop
Rick Nelson1957 
Billy Swan1975 
Jerry Lee Lewis2009 

Carl Perkins

Induction Year: 1985