Blue Suede Shoes

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"Blue Suede Shoes"
Single by Carl Perkins
from the album Dance Album of Carl Perkins
B-side Honey Don't[1]
Released January 1, 1956
Format CD single, cassette single, 7" single, 78 RPM, 12" single
Recorded December 19, 1955, Sun Studio, Memphis, Tennessee
Genre Rockabilly, rock and roll, country blues
Length 2:14
Label Sun Records, Sun 234
Writer(s) Carl Perkins
Producer(s) Sam Phillips
Carl Perkins singles chronology
"Gone, Gone, Gone"
1955
"Blue Suede Shoes"
(1956)
"Tennessee"
(1956)

"Blue Suede Shoes" is a rock-and-roll standard written and first recorded by Carl Perkins in 1955. It is considered one of the first rockabilly (rock-and-roll) records, incorporating elements of blues, country and pop music of the time. Perkins's original version of the song was on the Cashbox Best Selling Singles list for 16 weeks and spent two weeks in the number 2 position.[2] Elvis Presley performed his version of the song three different times on national television. It was also recorded by Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran, among many others.

Origin[edit]

Shoes in Elvis exhibit similar to those that inspired the song

Johnny Cash planted the seed for the song in the fall of 1955, while Perkins, Cash, Elvis Presley, and other Louisiana Hayride acts toured throughout the South. Cash told Perkins of a black airman, C. V. White,[3] whom he had met when serving in the military in Germany, who had referred to his military regulation airmen's shoes as "blue suede shoes." Cash suggested that Carl write a song about the shoes. Carl replied, "I don't know anything about shoes. How can I write a song about shoes?"[4]

When Perkins played a dance on December 4, 1955, he noticed a couple dancing near the stage. Between songs, Carl heard a stern, forceful voice say, "Uh-uh, don't step on my suedes!" Carl looked down and noted that the boy was wearing blue suede shoes and one had a scuff mark. "Good gracious, a pretty little thing like that and all he can think about is his blue suede shoes", thought Carl.[5]

That night Perkins began working on a song based on the incident. His first thought was to frame it with a nursery rhyme. He considered, and quickly discarded "Little Jack Horner..." and "See a spider going up the wall...", then settled on "One for the money..." Leaving his bed and working with his Les Paul guitar, he started with an A chord. After playing five chords while singing "Well, it's one for the money... Two for the show... Three to get ready... Now go, man, go!" he broke into a boogie rhythm.[6] He quickly grabbed a brown paper potato sack and wrote the song down, writing the title out as "Blue Swade"; "S-W-A-D-E – I couldn't even spell it right," he later said.[7] According to Perkins, "On December 17, 1955, I wrote 'Blue Suede Shoes'. I recorded it on December 19,"[8] for Sun Records, which released the second take of the song.[1] Sun's producer, Sam Phillips, suggested that the lyric "go cat go" be changed to "go man go", but the suggestion was not taken.

Success of Perkins's Sun Records release[edit]

Perkins's recording of "Blue Suede Shoes" was released on January 1, 1956, as Sun 234. Two copies of the song on 78-rpm records were sent to Perkins but arrived broken. He soon discovered that the song was available in the newer 7" microgrooved 45-rpm format and was disappointed that he didn't have a copy in the older, more substantial 78-rpm format.[9]

In Jackson, where Perkins lived, and Memphis, radio stations were playing the flip side of the record, "Honey Don't." In Cleveland, Ohio, however, the disc jockey Bill Randle was featuring "Blue Suede Shoes" prominently on his nightly show, and before January was over, the Cleveland distributor of the record asked Phillips for an additional 25,000 copies of the record.[9]

"Shoes" became the side of choice throughout the South and Southwest. On February 11 it was the number 2 single on Memphis charts; it was number one the next week and remained there for the next three months. Perkins made four appearances on the radio program Big D Jamboree[10] on station KRLD (AM) in Dallas,[11] where he played the song every Saturday night and was booked on a string of one-nighters in the Southwest. The Jamboree was broadcast from the Dallas Sportatorium, with about four thousand seats, and it sold out for each of Perkins' performances. Music shops in Dallas ordered a huge number of copies of the record,[12] and at one point it was selling at a rate of 20,000 copies per day.

A Song Hits review of the song, published on February 18, stated that "Perkins has come up with some wax here that has hit the national retail chart in almost record time. Interestingly enough, the disk has a measure of appeal for pop and r.&b. customers."[13]

On March 17, Perkins became the first country artist to reach the number three spot on the rhythm & blues charts.[14] That night, Perkins and his band first performed "Blue Suede Shoes" on television, on ABC-TV's Ozark Jubilee[15] (coincidentally, Presley was on Stage Show on CBS-TV that same night, for which he also performed the song).

Perkins was booked to appear on The Perry Como Show on NBC-TV on March 24, but on March 22 he and his band were in a serious automobile crash on the way to New York City, resulting in the death of a truck driver and the hospitalization of both Perkins and his brother. While Perkins recuperated from his injuries, "Blue Suede Shoes" rose to number one on most pop, R&B, and country regional charts. "I was a poor farm boy, and with 'Shoes' I felt I had a chance but suddenly there I was in the hospital," Perkins recalled bitterly.[16] It also held the number two position on the Billboard Hot 100 and country charts. Presley's "Heartbreak Hotel" held the number one position on the pop and country charts, while "Shoes" did better than "Heartbreak" on the R&B charts.

Perkins never attained the stardom of Presley, who, according to Perkins, "had everything. He had the looks, the moves, the manager, and the talent. And he didn't look like Mr. Ed, like a lot of us did, Elvis was hitting them with sideburns, flashy clothes, and no ring on the finger. I had three kids." After Presley hit the chart with his version of "Blue Suede Shoes," Perkins became known more for his songwriting than for his performing.[17]

By mid-April, more than one million copies of "Shoes" had been sold,[18] earning Perkins a gold record.[19] "Blue Suede Shoes" was the first million-selling country song to cross over to both the rhythm and blues and the pop charts.[20]

Sam Phillips retained the rights to "Blue Suede Shoes", although it was represented by the New York house of Hill & Range as part of the agreement when Phillips sold Presley's contract. Perkins acquired the rights to the song, along with all of his other songs recorded for Sun Records, in 1977.[21]

Presley's RCA Victor cover[edit]

"Blue Suede Shoes"
Single by Elvis Presley
from the album Elvis Presley
B-side "Tutti Frutti"
Released September 8, 1956
Format 7" single, 12" single
Recorded January 30, 1956, RCA Studios, New York City, New York
Genre Rockabilly, rock and roll
Length 1:58
Label RCA Victor
Writer(s) Carl Perkins
Producer(s) Steve Sholes
Certification Gold (RIAA)
Elvis Presley singles chronology
"Shake, Rattle and Roll"
(1956)
"Blue Suede Shoes" / "Tutti Frutti (song)"
(1956)
"I Got a Woman" / "I'm Counting on You"
(1956)
Elvis Presley track listing

Recording cover versions of songs was a common practice during the 1940s and 1950s, and "Blue Suede Shoes" was one of the first songs RCA Victor wanted its newly contracted artist, Elvis Presley, to record. "Heartbreak Hotel" and "Shoes" rose on the charts at roughly the same time. RCA Victor, with its superior distribution and radio contacts, knew it could probably steal a hit record from Phillips and Perkins. Presley, who knew both Perkins and Phillips from his days at Sun Records, gave in to pressure from RCA, but he requested that the company hold back his version from release as a single. Presley's version features two guitar solos by Scotty Moore, with Bill Black on bass and D.J. Fontana on drums.[22]

According to Moore, when the song was recorded, "We just went in there and started playing, just winged it. Just followed however Elvis felt." According to reports confirmed by Sam Phillips, the RCA Victor producer Steve Sholes agreed not to release Presley's version of the song as a single while Perkins's release was hot.[23]

Presley performed the song on national television three times in 1956. The first was February 11 on Stage Show. He also performed it again on his third appearance on Stage Show, on March 17, and again on the Milton Berle Show on April 3.[24] On July 1, Steve Allen introduced Presley on The Steve Allen Show, and Presley, dressed in formal evening wear, said, "I think that I have on something tonight that's not quite right for evening wear." Allen asked, "What's that, Elvis?" "Blue suede shoes" was the answer, as he lifted his left foot to show the audience. Presley mentioned blue suede shoes a second time on this show: in a song during the "Range Roundup" comedy skit with Allen, Andy Griffith, and Imogene Coca, he delivered the line, "I'm a-warnin' you galoots, don't step on my blue suede shoes."[25]

Moore has said that Presley recorded the song to help out Perkins after his accident. "Elvis wasn't really thinking at that time that it was going to make money for Carl; he was doing it as more of a tribute type thing. Of course Carl was glad he did. It really helped as his record started going down."[26]

"Blue Suede Shoes" was the first song on the groundbreaking album Elvis Presley, which was released in March. RCA Victor released two other records with "Blue Suede Shoes" the same month: an extended play with four songs (RCA Victor EPA 747) and a double extended play with eight songs (RCA Victor EPB 1254).[27]

RCA Victor released the Presley version as a single on September 8, one of a number of singles RCA issued simultaneously, all culled from the album Elvis Presley.[28] This single reached number 20, whereas Perkins's version had topped the chart.

In 1960, Presley re-recorded "Blue Suede Shoes" for the soundtrack of the film G.I. Blues. While Presley's character and his band, the "Three Blazes", play a ballad at a Frankfurt night club ("Doin' the Best I Can", by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman),[29] a bored GI plays Presley's version of "Blue Suede Shoes" on the jukebox, remarking that he wants "to hear an original". When another soldier tries to unplug the jukebox, the audience erupts in a fight.[30] This studio re-recording was one of the few occasions in Presley's career in which he agreed to re-record a previously issued song. He did it on this occasion because the rest of the soundtrack was recorded in stereo, and thus a stereo version of "Blue Suede Shoes" was required. The 1960 version uses virtually the same arrangement as the 1956 recording. This version was included on the soundtrack album to G.I. Blues but was never released as a single in the United States.

In 1985, RCA issued a music video of Presley's original version of "Blue Suede Shoes". The video featured a contemporary setting and actors (and Carl Perkins in a cameo appearance), with Presley shown in archival footage.[31]

In 1999, Presley's version was certified as a gold record by the RIAA.[32]

Eddie Cochran version[edit]

"Blue Suede Shoes"
Song by Eddie Cochran from the album Never to Be Forgotten
Released January 1962
Recorded May/June 1956
Genre Rock and roll
Length 1:48
Label Liberty Records
Writer(s) Carl Perkins
Producer(s) Eddie Cochran
Never to Be Forgotten track listing
"Love Again"
(11)
"Blue Suede Shoes"
(12)

The rockabilly artist Eddie Cochran recorded his version in May or June 1956.[33] It was first released in 1962.[34]

Other 1956 recordings[edit]

"Blue Suede Shoes" was recorded and released many times in 1956.[28][35] February releases were by Delbert Barker and the Gateway All Stars on the Gateway[36] and Big Hits labels, Thumper Jones (George Jones),[37][38] Hank Smith,[39] and Buzz Williams.[40][41] RCA Victor released a version by Pee Wee King on March 3 of that same year,[42][43] the same date as a Capitol release by Bob Rubian.[44][45] These were followed by the March 10 releases of a version by Boyd Bennett on King[46] and a version by Sid King on Columbia.[47][48] Decca released a version by Roy Hall,[49][50] and the Dot label then released a recording by Jim Lowe.[51][52] The song was also recorded in 1956 by Loren Becker with the Light Brigade on Waldorf Music Hall Records and by Bob Harris and the John Weston Orchestra on Sapphire. By April there were also recorded versions by Lawrence Welk (Coral), Sam Taylor (MGM),[53] and Jerry Mercer (Mercury).[54]

A version by Boyd Bennett and His Rockets was issued by Parlophone (R4167 MSP 6233) in the UK.[55]

"Blue Suede Shoes" was one of many songs that were included in the mashup novelty record "The Flying Saucer", which was a No. 3 hit in 1956. It was referenced in the record as "Shoes", by Pa Gherkins.

Legacy[edit]

"Blue Suede Shoes" has been referred to in other songs, including Chuck Berry's "Roll Over Beethoven" ("I'm giving you the warning, don't you step on my blue suede shoes").

"Blue Suede Shoes" was chosen by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as one of the "500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll". In 1986 Perkins' version was inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame, and was included by the National Recording Preservation Board in the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress in 2006.[56] The board annually selects songs that are "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

In 2004, Perkins's version was ranked number 95 on Rolling Stone's list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time."[57] It is his only song on that list. Presley's recording of the song was also on the list, ranked number 423.

In 1999, National Public Radio included "Blue Suede Shoes" in the NPR 100, in which NPR's music editors sought to compile the 100 most important American musical works of the 20th century.

The Grateful Dead's "U.S. Blues" features the lyric "Red and white, blue suede shoes, I'm Uncle Sam, how do you do?"[58]

The song is referred to by the Beastie Boys song "Johnny Ryall", from their album Paul's Boutique. The title character, a homeless man, "claims that he wrote the Blue Suede Shoes".

It is also referred to ("maybe some blue suede shoes") in The Lowest of the Low's 1991 song "Henry Needs a New Pair of Shoes", about a homeless man.

The song is referred to by Marc Cohn in "Walking in Memphis," which begins, "Put on my blue suede shoes, and I boarded the plane."

In 1971 Kevin Ayers recorded Stranger in Blue Suede Shoes which included the line (from the bartender) "we don't serve strangers in blue suede shoes".

The song appears in the TV miniseries Elvis, in which Presley (played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers) performs the song at the Chicago International Auditorium in his famous gold lamé suit.

"Blue Suede Shoes" is the opening number of the Broadway musical Million Dollar Quartet,[59] which opened in New York in April 2010.[60]

A similar version of the song, with different lyrics, is performed by Susan Cabot twice in the movie Carnival Rock (1957) (at approx. 0:30 and 1:03) under the name "Ou-Shoo-Bla-D".

This Morning presenter Matt Johnson performed the song as part of a medley, performed as Elvis Presley on week 3 of the ITV show 'Your Face Sounds Familiar'.

"Blue Suede Shoes" can also be found in the game World of Warcraft as an item with the flavor text "Keep Off".[61]

Selected list of recorded versions[edit]

1956 sheet music cover, Hill and Range, New York

The song is a rock-and-roll standard and has been performed and recorded by many artists, including:

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Carl Perkins interviewed on the Pop Chronicles (1969)
  2. ^ retrieved 10.2012
  3. ^ Johnny Cash: the Autobiography by Patrick Carr, p. 127
  4. ^ Rockabilly Legends by Jerry Naylor and Steve Halliday p.131
  5. ^ Go, Cat, Go! by Carl Perkins and David McGee 1996 p.129 Hyperion Press ISBN 0-7868-6073-1
  6. ^ Go, Cat, Go! by Carl Perkins and David McGee 1996 p.130 Hyperion Press ISBN 0-7868-6073-1
  7. ^ Rockabilly Legends by Jerry Naylor and Steve Halliday p.131; also on DVD
  8. ^ The Top Beats the Bottom: Carl Perkins and his Music. The Atlantic. December 1970. p. 100.
  9. ^ a b Perkins, Carl; McGee, David (1996). Go, Cat, Go! Hyperion Press. pp.152,153. ISBN 0-7868-6073-1.
  10. ^ Perkins, Carl; McGee, David (1996). Go, Cat, Go! Hyperion Press. p.157. ISBN 0-7868-6073-1.
  11. ^ "Big D Jamboree". Rockabillyhall.com. Retrieved 2011-04-21. 
  12. ^ p.154. ISBN 0-7868-6073-1.
  13. ^ Perkins, Carl; McGee, David (1996). Go, Cat, Go! Hyperion Press. p.158. ISBN 0-7868-6073-1.
  14. ^ Naylor, Jerry. Rockabilly Legends. p. 137, ISBN 978-1-4234-2042-2.
  15. ^ Perkins, Carl; McGee, David (1996). Go, Cat, Go! Hyperion Press. p. 163. ISBN 0-7868-6073-1.
  16. ^ Szatmary, David P. (2014). Rockin' in Time. Pearson. p. 38. ISBN 978-0-205-93624-3. 
  17. ^ Szatmary, David P. (2014). Rockin' in Times. Pearson. p. 38. ISBN 978-0-205-93624-3. 
  18. ^ Perkins, Carl; McGee, David (1996). Go, Cat, Go! Hyperion Press. p.187, ISBN 0-7868-6073-1.
  19. ^ The Atlantic. December 1970. p. 102.
  20. ^ "The Story of 'Blue Suede Shoes'". NPR.org. February 7, 2000. 
  21. ^ Perkins, Carl; McGee, David (1996). Go, Cat, Go! Hyperion Press, Go, Cat, Go! pp.188, 344. ISBN 0-7868-6073-1.
  22. ^ Burke, Ken; Griffin, Dan (2006). The Blue Moon Boys: The Story of Elvis Presley's Band. Chicago Review Press. pp. 87,88. ISBN 1-55652-614-8.
  23. ^ "Perkins, Carl; McGee, David (1996). Go, Cat, Go! Hyperion Press. pp.162, 163. ISBN 0-7868-6073-1.
  24. ^ "Elvis' Television Appearances 1956–1973". Kki.pl. Retrieved 2011-04-21. 
  25. ^ Elvis. Vol. 1. Home Video Syndications, 1990.
  26. ^ Burke, Ken; Griffin, Dan (2006). The Blue Moon Boys: The Story of Elvis Presley's Band. Chicago Review Press. p. 88. ISBN 1-55652-614-8.
  27. ^ "Elvis Discography 1956". Sergent.com.au. Retrieved 2011-04-21. 
  28. ^ a b "Search Results for Blue Suede Shoes". Rockin' Country Style. 
  29. ^ "Songwriters Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman – Elvis Articles". Elvis.com.au. Retrieved 2011-04-21. 
  30. ^ G.I. Blues DVD
  31. ^ "'Blue Suede Shoes' by Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley". Elvis Presley History Blog, Profiling the King of Rock and Roll. Retrieved 26 July 2015. 
  32. ^ "American certifications – Elvis Presley – Blue Suede Shoes". Recording Industry Association of America. 
  33. ^ "Eddie Cochran 1957 Sessions on www.eddiecochran.info". Eddiecochran.info. Retrieved 2012-01-04. 
  34. ^ Liberty LRP 3220. January 5, 1962. Long play – "Never to Be Forgotten"
  35. ^ Carl Perkin's Smash! (sic) Billboard April 14, 1956. page 36.
  36. ^ "RCS Label Shot for Gateway (Ohio) 1162". rcs-discography.com. Retrieved April 21, 2011. 
  37. ^ "Jones, George (RCS Artist Discography)". rcs-discography.com. Retrieved April 21, 2011. 
  38. ^ "RCS Label Shot for Dixie (mail) (Ill.) 502". rcs-discography.com. Retrieved April 21, 2011. 
  39. ^ Ted Barron (July 26, 2007). "Boogie Woogie Flu: Who Are The Mystery Guests?". Boogiewoogieflu.blogspot.com. Retrieved 2011-04-21. 
  40. ^ "Barker, Delbert (RCS Artist Discography)". rcs-discography.com. Retrieved April 21, 2011. 
  41. ^ "RCS Label Shot for Big 4 Hits (Ohio) 185". rcs-discography.com. Retrieved April 21, 2011. 
  42. ^ "King, Pee Wee (RCS Artist Discography)". rcs-discography.com. Retrieved April 21, 2011. 
  43. ^ "RCS Label Shot for RCA Victor (N.J.) 6450". rcs-discography.com. Retrieved April 21, 2011. 
  44. ^ "Roubian, Bob (RCS Artist Discography)". rcs-discography.com. Retrieved April 21, 2011. 
  45. ^ "RCS Label Shot for Capitol (Calif.) 3373". rcs-discography.com. Retrieved April 21, 2011. 
  46. ^ "RCS Label Shot for King (Ohio) 4903". rcs-discography.com. Retrieved April 21, 2011. 
  47. ^ "King, Sid (RCS Artist Discography)". rcs-discography.com. Retrieved April 21, 2011. 
  48. ^ "RCS Label Shot for Columbia (N.Y.) 21505". rcs-discography.com. Retrieved April 21, 2011. 
  49. ^ "Hall, Roy (RCS Artist Discography)". rcs-discography.com. Retrieved April 21, 2011. 
  50. ^ "RCS Label Shot for Decca (N.Y.) 29880". rcs-discography.com. Retrieved April 21, 2011. 
  51. ^ "Lowe, Jim (RCS Artist Discography)". rcs-discography.com. Retrieved April 21, 2011. 
  52. ^ "RCS Label Shot for Dot (Calif.) 15456". rcs-discography.com. Retrieved April 21, 2011. 
  53. ^ "Untitled Document". 
  54. ^ "Billboard". 
  55. ^ 78 & 45 Discography for Parlophone Records UK – 4000 series 3.2012
  56. ^ "About This Program". The Library of Congress. 
  57. ^ "The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2007-06-02. 
  58. ^ "Grateful Dead Movie – U.S. Blues". 
  59. ^ MDQ Merchandising LLC (2010). “Song List” and “Performing Credits”. In Million Dollar Quartet (p. 5) CD booklet. New York City: Avatar Studios; and Chicago: Chicago Recording Company.
  60. ^ Zielinski, Peter James (April 12, 2010). "Photo Coverage: Million Dollar Quartet Opens on Broadway". 
  61. ^ "Blue Suede Shoes". Wowhead. 
  62. ^ Cashbox Best Selling Singles.

External links[edit]