Born on April 9, 1932, in Tiptonville, Tennessee, Carl Perkins began performing live as a teenager.
Like his father, Perkins fell in love with country music, and by the age of 10 was entertaining classmates with his twangy sounds. Teaming up with his brothers, Jay and Clayton, he formed the Perkins Brothers band and began playing in small clubs around Jackson, Tennessee. Later, his younger brother Lloyd, a bass player, joined the group
The game changer for Carl Perkins came in 1954 when he heard Elvis Presley’s “Blue Moon of Kentucky” on the radio. He soon piled into a car with his brothers and drove to Memphis, Tennessee. There, they managed to audition for Sam Phillips, owner of Sun Records, the label that had released the Presley hit.
He signed with Sun Records and in 1956 released the highest-selling single of his career, “Blue Suede Shoes.” It became a monster hit which would go on to sell more than a million copies. The song reached No. 2 on both the pop and R&B charts and was a No. 1 country hit.
During a one-day session for the single “Matchbox,” Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis joined Perkins in the studio with a local newspaper quickly, and famously, dubbing the group “The Million Dollar Quartet.”
While the music-buying public failed to adore the Perkins rockabilly sound, fellow musicians did. John Fogerty and Ricky Nelson credited him as a major influence. Perkins also became a favorite of the Beatles, George Harrison in particular, and in 1964 sat in on a session as the band recorded Perkins compositions such as “Matchbox,” “Everybody’s Tryin’ to Be My Baby” and “Honey Don’t.” Later, Perkins performed on Paul McCartney’s 1981 album, Tug of War.
Deemed the “Father of Rockabilly,” Perkins helped pioneer the rockabilly music genre and influenced a generation of rock musicians, including the Beatles.
Perkins was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.
Excerpt from The Rockabilly Legends DVD Documentary 2-DVD Set.