April 9 in Memphis Music History
Everybody knows Elvis’ version of his song. Rather odd, considering the original spent 24 weeks on the country charts, peaking at number one; reached #2 on Billboard’s Most Played in Juke Boxes and Rhythm and Blues charts; and spent four weeks at the second position on the Hot 100. All of this without the support of a planned tour or television exposure, since the songwriter was recovering from an accident.
Like so many, he learned about music in church. He first learned guitar by spending time with a black sharecropper and being given an old guitar with worn out strings, while picking cotton himself as a child. Later, when the family moved into a house with electricity, he heard music from Nashville and Memphis. He liked to speed up those blues rhythms and liked the country sound. With electricity came his first electric guitar. From this home, he began playing country songs and original material at some nearby clubs with his brothers and a friend, learning how to drink and fight as a teenager. While he worked at a local bakery, he heard Elvis on a station from Memphis. He had sent out tapes in search of a studio willing to record his unique sound but with no success. His new wife urged him to go to Memphis and try the studio that was helping Elvis get his start. In 1954 he met Sam Phillips outside Sun Studio. In December 1955 he recorded that mega-hit which was Sun’s first million seller. The rest really is music history. He spent less than three years with Sam Phillips at Sun, but he and the rest of “the quartet” of Sun musicians recording in Memphis played key roles in the creation story of Memphis music. The sharecropper’s son and honky-tonk playing teen created a mix of blues and country with a danceable beat influenced and was covered by generations of musicians, from contemporaries to George Harrison to Dave Edmunds to Brian Setzer and hundreds in between and beyond...
Later of Bemis and Jackson, Tennessee, his adopted hometown who loves him still, the “Father of Rockabilly” Carl Lee Perkins was born on this day in 1932 in Tiptonville, Tennessee.