Blue Suede Shoes

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"Blue Suede Shoes"
Single by Carl Perkins
B-sideHoney Don't
ReleasedJanuary 1, 1956
Format7" single, 78 RPM
RecordedDecember 19, 1955
GenreRockabilly
Length2:14
LabelSun Records, Sun 234
Writer(s)Carl Perkins
ProducerSam Phillips
Carl Perkins singles chronology
"Gone, Gone, Gone"
1955
"Blue Suede Shoes"
(1956)
"Tennessee"
(1956)
 
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"Blue Suede Shoes"
Single by Carl Perkins
B-sideHoney Don't
ReleasedJanuary 1, 1956
Format7" single, 78 RPM
RecordedDecember 19, 1955
GenreRockabilly
Length2:14
LabelSun Records, Sun 234
Writer(s)Carl Perkins
ProducerSam Phillips
Carl Perkins singles chronology
"Gone, Gone, Gone"
1955
"Blue Suede Shoes"
(1956)
"Tennessee"
(1956)
"Blue Suede Shoes"
Single by Elvis Presley
from the album Elvis Presley
B-side"Tutti Frutti"
ReleasedSeptember 8, 1956
Format7" single
RecordedJanuary 30, 1956
GenreRock and roll
Length1:58
LabelRCA Records, RCA 47-6636
Writer(s)Carl Perkins
ProducerSteve Sholes
Elvis Presley singles chronology
"Don't Be Cruel" / "Hound Dog"
(1956)
"Blue Suede Shoes" / "Tutti Frutti (song)"
(1956)
"I Got a Woman" / "I'm Counting on You"
(1956)
Elvis Presley track listing

"Blue Suede Shoes" is a rock and roll standard written and first recorded by Carl Perkins in 1955 and is considered one of the first rockabilly (rock and roll) records and incorporated elements of blues, country and pop music of the time. Perkins' original version of the song was on the Cashbox Best Selling Singles list for 16 weeks, and spent 2 weeks in the No. 2 position.[1] 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, [2] whom he had met when serving in the military in Germany, who had referred to his military regulation airmens 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?"[3]

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.[4]

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.[5] 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.[6] According to Perkins, "On December 17, 1955, I wrote 'Blue Suede Shoes'. I recorded it on December 19."[7] Producer Sam Phillips suggested that Perkins's line "go cat go" be changed to "go man go", but it wasn't.

Success of Perkins' Sun Records release[edit]

The Sun 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. Carl 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.[8]

In both Jackson, where Perkins lived, and in Memphis, radio stations were playing the flip side of the record, "Honey Don't." In Cleveland, Ohio, however, 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.[8]

"Shoes" became the side of choice throughout the South and Southwest. On February 11 it was the No. 2 single on Memphis charts, was number one the next week, and remained there for the next 3 months. Perkins made four appearances on the Big D Jamboree[9] on radio station KRLD (AM) in Dallas[10] where he played the song every Saturday night, and was booked on a string of one nighters in the Southwest. The Jamboree emanated 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 records,[11] and at one point the record was selling at a rate of 20,000 copies per day.

A Song Hits review of the song, published 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."[12]

On March 17, Perkins became the first country artist to reach the number three spot on the rhythm & blues charts.[13] That night, Perkins and his band first performed "Blue Suede Shoes" on television on ABC-TV's Ozark Jubilee[14] (coincidentally, Presley was on Stage Show on CBS-TV that same night, singing the song for a second time).

Perkins was booked to next appear on The Perry Como Show on NBC-TV on March 24, but on March 22 he and his band members had a serious automobile accident 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 the accident, "Blue Suede Shoes" rose to number one on most pop, R&B, and country regional charts. 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.

By mid-April, more than one million copies of "Shoes" had been sold,[15] earning Perkins a Gold Record.[16] "Blue Suede Shoes" was the first million selling country song to cross over to both rhythm and blues and pop charts.[17]

Sam Phillips retained the rights to the song, although it was represented by the New York house of Hill and Range as part of the agreement when Phillips sold Presley's contract. Perkins would acquire the rights to "Shoes," along with all of his Sun Records songs, in 1977.[18]

Presley's RCA cover[edit]

Recording cover versions of songs was standard practice during the 1940s and 1950s, and "Blue Suede Shoes" was one of the first tunes RCA wanted their new performer, Elvis Presley, to record. "Heartbreak Hotel" and "Shoes" rose on the charts at roughly the same time. RCA, with its superior distribution and radio contacts, knew it could probably steal a hit record from Phillips and Perkins. For his part, when Presley, who knew both Perkins and Phillips from his days at Sun Records, gave in to pressure from RCA, he requested that they hold back his version from release as a single. The Elvis version features two guitar solos by Scotty Moore, along with Bill Black on bass, and D.J. Fontana on drums.[19]

According to Scotty 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, RCA producer Steve Sholes agreed not to release Presley's version of the song as a single while Carl's release was hot.[20]

Presley performed the song on national television three times in 1956. The first was February 11 on Stage Show. He performed it again on his third Stage Show appearance on March 17, then again on the Milton Berle Show on April 3.[21] On July 1, Steve Allen introduced Elvis on The Steve Allen Show, and Presley, appearing in formal evening wear, stated "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 Steve Allen, Andy Griffith, and Imogene Coca, he delivers the line, "I'm a warnin' you galoots, don't step on my blue suede shoes."[22]

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."[23]

"Blue Suede Shoes" was the first song on the groundbreaking album Elvis Presley, which was released in March. RCA released two other records with "Blue Suede Shoes" the same month: one an Extended Play with four songs, RCA EPA 747, and a 2x extended play version with eight songs, RCA EPB 1254.[24]

RCA released the Presley version as a single on September 8.[25] This single reached No. 20, whereas the Perkins version had topped the chart.

In 1960, Presley re-recorded "Blue Suede Shoes" for the soundtrack of the film G.I. Blues. While Elvis' character's group "The Three Blazes" plays a ballad at a Frankfurt night club ("Doin' The Best I Can" by Doc Pomus & Mort Shuman[26]), a bored GI plays "Blue Suede Shoes" by Elvis Presley on the jukebox, remarking that he wants "to hear an original". When another soldier tries to unplug the jukebox, the entire place erupts into a fight.[27] This studio re-recording marked one of only a few occasions in Presley's career in which he agreed to re-record a previously issued song.

In 1999, Presley's version was certified Gold by the RIAA.[28]

Eddie Cochran version[edit]

"Blue Suede Shoes"
Song by Eddie Cochran from the album Never to Be Forgotten
ReleasedJanuary 1962
RecordedMay/June 1956
GenreRock and roll
Length1:48
LabelLiberty Records
WriterCarl Perkins
ProducerEddie Cochran
Never to Be Forgotten track listing
"Love Again"
(11)
"Blue Suede Shoes"
(12)

Rockabilly artist Eddie Cochran recorded his version in May or June 1956.[29] It was first released in 1962.[30]

Other 1956 recordings[edit]

"Blue Suede Shoes" was recorded and released many times in 1956.[25][31] February releases were by Delbert Barker and the Gateway All Stars on the Gateway[32] and Big Hits labels, Thumper Jones (George Jones),[33][34] Hank Smith,[35] and Buzz Williams.[36][37] RCA Victor released a Pee Wee King version on March 3 of that same year,[38][39] the same date as a Capitol release by Bob Rubian.[40][41] These releases were followed closely by the March 10 releases of a Boyd Bennett version on King[42] and the Columbia release of a Sid King version.[43][44] Decca, too, released a version by Roy Hall,[45][46] and the Dot label then released a recording by Jim Lowe.[47][48] The song was also recorded in 1956 by Loren Becker with the Light Brigade on Waldorf Music Hall Records and Bob Harris and the John Weston Orchestra on Sapphire. By April there were also recorded versions of by Lawrence Welk (Coral), Sam Taylor (MGM),[49] and Jerry Mercer (Mercury).[50]

The Boyd Bennett and his Rockets version was also issued by Parlophone (R4167 MSP 6233) in the UK.[51]

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

Legacy[edit]

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

"Blue Suede Shoes" was chosen as one of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 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 Library of Congress National Recording Registry in 2006.[52] The board selects songs on an annual basis that are "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

In 2004, Perkins' version was ranked No. 95 on Rolling Stone's list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time."[53] It is his only song on that list. Presley's recording of the song was also on the list at No. 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 hit "U.S. Blues" features the line "Red and white, blue suede shoes, I'm Uncle Sam, how do you do?"[54]

The song is referenced in 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 referenced with "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 trying to survive "these cold gray days."

Additionally, the song is referenced in Marc Cohn's signature track, "Walking in Memphis," which begins, "Put on my blue suede shoes, and I boarded the plane."

The song appears in the TV miniseries Elvis, where Jonathan Rhys Meyers, portraying Presley, performs the song on stage 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,[55] which opened in New York in April 2010.[56]

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'.

Selected list of recorded versions[edit]

1956 sheet music cover, Hill and Range, NY.

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

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ http://cashboxmagazine.com/archives/50s_files/1956.html retrieved 10.2012
  2. ^ Johnny Cash: the Autobiography by Patrick Carr, p. 127
  3. ^ Rockabilly Legends by Jerry Naylor and Steve Halliday p.131
  4. ^ Go, Cat, Go! by Carl Perkins and David McGee 1996 p.129 Hyperion Press ISBN 0-7868-6073-1
  5. ^ Go, Cat, Go! by Carl Perkins and David McGee 1996 p.130 Hyperion Press ISBN 0-7868-6073-1
  6. ^ Rockabilly Legends by Jerry Naylor and Steve Halliday p.131; also on DVD
  7. ^ The Top Beats the Bottom: Carl Perkins and his Music. The Atlantic. December 1970. page 100.
  8. ^ a b Go, Cat, Go! by Carl Perkins and David McGee 1996 pp.152,153 Hyperion Press ISBN 0-7868-6073-1
  9. ^ Go, Cat, Go! by Carl Perkins and David McGee 1996 p.157 Hyperion Press ISBN 0-7868-6073-1
  10. ^ "Big D Jamboree". Rockabillyhall.com. Retrieved 2011-04-21. 
  11. ^ Go, Cat, Go! by Carl Perkins and David McGee 1996 pp.154 Hyperion Press ISBN 0-7868-6073-1
  12. ^ Go, Cat, Go! by Carl Perkins and David McGee 1996 p.158 Hyperion Press ISBN 0-7868-6073-1
  13. ^ Rockabilly Legends by Jerry Naylor page 137 ISBN 978-1-4234-2042-2
  14. ^ Go, Cat, Go! by Carl Perkins and David McGee 1996 p. 163 Hyperion Press ISBN 0-7868-6073-1
  15. ^ Go, Cat, Go! by Carl Perkins and David McGee 1996 p.187 Hyperion Press ISBN 0-7868-6073-1
  16. ^ The Atlantic. December 1970. page 102
  17. ^ NPR story on Blue Suede Shoes
  18. ^ Go, Cat, Go! by Carl Perkins and David McGee 1996 pp.188, 344 Hyperion Press ISBN 0-7868-6073-1
  19. ^ The Blue Moon Boys – The Story of Elvis Presley's Band. Ken Burke and Dan Griffin. 2006. Chicago Review Press. pages 87,88. ISBN 1-55652-614-8
  20. ^ "Go, Cat, Go! by Carl Perkins and David McGee 1996 pp.162, 163 Hyperion Press ISBN 0-7868-6073-1
  21. ^ "Elvis' Television Appearances 1956–1973". Kki.pl. Retrieved 2011-04-21. 
  22. ^ Elvis Volume 1 Home Video Syndications, Ltd 1990
  23. ^ The Blue Moon Boys – The Story of Elvis Presley's Band. Ken Burke and Dan Griffin. 2006. Chicago Review Press. page 88. ISBN 1-55652-614-8
  24. ^ "Elvis Discography 1956". Sergent.com.au. Retrieved 2011-04-21. 
  25. ^ a b "Search Results for BLUE SUEDE SHOES". Rockin' Country Style. 
  26. ^ "Songwriters Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman – Elvis Articles, By: Elvis Australia". Elvis.com.au. Retrieved 2011-04-21. 
  27. ^ G.I. Blues DVD
  28. ^ "American certifications – Elvis Presley – Blue Suede Shoes". Recording Industry Association of America. 
  29. ^ "Eddie Cochran 1957 Sessions on www.eddiecochran.info". Eddiecochran.info. Retrieved 2012-01-04. 
  30. ^ LIBERTY LRP 3220 – January 5, 1962. Long Play – "Never To Be Forgotten" http://www.eddiecochran.info/Discography/USA/III.htm
  31. ^ Carl Perkin's Smash! (sic) Billboard April 14, 1956. page 36.
  32. ^ "RCS Label Shot for Gateway (Ohio) 1162". rcs-discography.com. Retrieved April 21, 2011. 
  33. ^ "Jones, George (RCS Artist Discography)". rcs-discography.com. Retrieved April 21, 2011. 
  34. ^ "RCS Label Shot for Dixie (mail) (Ill.) 502". rcs-discography.com. Retrieved April 21, 2011. 
  35. ^ Ted Barron (July 26, 2007). "Boogie Woogie Flu: Who Are The Mystery Guests?". Boogiewoogieflu.blogspot.com. Retrieved 2011-04-21. 
  36. ^ "Barker, Delbert (RCS Artist Discography)". rcs-discography.com. Retrieved April 21, 2011. 
  37. ^ "RCS Label Shot for Big 4 Hits (Ohio) 185". rcs-discography.com. Retrieved April 21, 2011. 
  38. ^ "King, Pee Wee (RCS Artist Discography)". rcs-discography.com. Retrieved April 21, 2011. 
  39. ^ "RCS Label Shot for RCA Victor (N.J.) 6450". rcs-discography.com. Retrieved April 21, 2011. 
  40. ^ "Roubian, Bob (RCS Artist Discography)". rcs-discography.com. Retrieved April 21, 2011. 
  41. ^ "RCS Label Shot for Capitol (Calif.) 3373". rcs-discography.com. Retrieved April 21, 2011. 
  42. ^ "RCS Label Shot for King (Ohio) 4903". rcs-discography.com. Retrieved April 21, 2011. 
  43. ^ "King, Sid (RCS Artist Discography)". rcs-discography.com. Retrieved April 21, 2011. 
  44. ^ "RCS Label Shot for Columbia (N.Y.) 21505". rcs-discography.com. Retrieved April 21, 2011. 
  45. ^ "Hall, Roy (RCS Artist Discography)". rcs-discography.com. Retrieved April 21, 2011. 
  46. ^ "RCS Label Shot for Decca (N.Y.) 29880". rcs-discography.com. Retrieved April 21, 2011. 
  47. ^ "Lowe, Jim (RCS Artist Discography)". rcs-discography.com. Retrieved April 21, 2011. 
  48. ^ "RCS Label Shot for Dot (Calif.) 15456". rcs-discography.com. Retrieved April 21, 2011. 
  49. ^ Always "The Man" : Sam Taylor
  50. ^ Billboard April 7, 1956. page 21 http://books.google.com/books?id=ZB8EAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA20&dq=%22lindy+hop%22&as_pt=MAGAZINES&cd=8#v=onepage&q=%22lindy%20hop%22&f=false
  51. ^ http://www.globaldogproductions.info/p/parlophone-uk4000.html 78 & 45 Discography for Parlophone Records UK – 4000 series 3.2012
  52. ^ 2006 National Recording Registry choices
  53. ^ "The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2007-06-02. 
  54. ^ "Grateful Dead Movie – U.S. Blues". 
  55. ^ 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.
  56. ^ Zielinski, Peter James (April 12, 2010). "Photo Coverage: Million Dollar Quartet Opens on Broadway". 
  57. ^ Cashbox Best Selling Singles.

External links[edit]