"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. 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.
- 2 Success of Perkins' Sun Records release
- 3 Presley's RCA cover
- 4 Eddie Cochran version
- 5 Other 1956 recordings
- 6 Legacy
- 7 Selected list of recorded versions
- 8 Notes
- 9 External links
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,  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?"
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.
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. 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. According to Perkins, "On December 17, 1955, I wrote 'Blue Suede Shoes'. I recorded it on December 19," releasing the second take of the song. Producer Sam Phillipssuggested that Perkins's line "go cat go" be changed to "go man go", but it wasn't.
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.
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.
"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 on radio station KRLD (AM) in Dallas 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, 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."
On March 17, Perkins became the first country artist to reach the number three spot on the rhythm & blues charts. That night, Perkins and his band first performed "Blue Suede Shoes" on television on ABC-TV's Ozark Jubilee (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, earning Perkins a Gold Record. "Blue Suede Shoes" was the first million selling country song to cross over to both rhythm and blues and pop charts.
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.
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.
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.
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.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."
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."
"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.
RCA released the Presley version as a single on September 8. 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), 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. 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.
|"Blue Suede Shoes"|
|Song by Eddie Cochran from the albumNever to Be Forgotten|
|Genre||Rock and roll|
|Never to Be Forgotten track listing|
"Blue Suede Shoes" was recorded and released many times in 1956. February releases were by Delbert Barker and the Gateway All Stars on the Gateway and Big Hits labels, Thumper Jones (George Jones), Hank Smith, and Buzz Williams. RCA Victor released a Pee Wee King version on March 3 of that same year, the same date as aCapitol release by Bob Rubian. These releases were followed closely by the March 10 releases of a Boyd Bennett version on King and the Columbia release of a Sid King version. Decca, too, released a version by Roy Hall, and the Dot label then released a recording by Jim Lowe. 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), and Jerry Mercer (Mercury).
"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. 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." 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?"
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."
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.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:
- Carl Perkins, US No. 1 (3 weeks), Billboard Country & Western Chart, No. 2 (4 weeks), Billboard Juke Box chart, No. 3 Best Seller chart, No. 4 Top 100 chart, No. 5 Jockey chart, No. 2, R&B Chart; Cashbox pop singles chart, No. 2, 1956; UK, No. 10
- Elvis Presley, US, No. 20, Billboard Best Seller chart, No. 24 Top 100 chart, No. 24 Jockey chart; UK, No. 9, 1956
- Eddie Cochran,Recorded May/June 1956 Released on Never to be Forgotten Album January 1962 and Included on Eddie Cochran Legendary Masters Series # 4
- Bill Haley and His Comets, 1960, Warner Bros. album
- Buddy Holly as recorded on the Buddy Holly Story compilation and the 1964 LP Buddy Holly Showcase.
- The Dave Clark Five, 1965, Weekend in London; 1970, No. 7, UK singles chart, as part of medley "Good Old Rock 'n' Roll"
- The Beatles, 1969, Anthology 3
- Cat Mother & the All Night Newsboys, No. 21, Billboard, 1969, as part of medley "Good Old Rock 'n' Roll" produced by Jimi Hendrix
- Mountain, Woodstock, 1969
- Plastic Ono Band, with John Lennon, Eric Clapton, 1969, Live Peace in Toronto
- Ten Years After, Woodstock, 1969, as part of medley
- Albert King, 1970, Blues for Elvis – King Does the King's Things
- Black Sabbath on the Black Mass EP, 1970
- Jerry Lee Lewis, 1973, The London Rock and Roll Show
- Johnny Rivers, US No. 38, 1973
- Jimi Hendrix, Midnight Lightning, Hendrix in the West, Loose Ends, 1975
- Johnny Cash, 1976, in concert
- Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, Robbie Robertson, Paul Shaffer, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 1999
- Dion, 2008 Heroes: Giants of Early Guitar Rock album
- Bruce Springsteen, live in concert
- Grateful Dead, sound check
- Pat Boone
- Merle Haggard
- Conway Twitty
- Mary J. Blige
- Brian Setzer
- The Toy Dolls
- Helloween, 1991, "Kids of the Century" single
- Hasil Adkins, a previously unreleased version that was included on the 1990 Norton album, Peanut Butter Rock and Roll.