Carl Perkins

Rockabilly legend Carl Perkins, who died in January following a stroke,

was born on this day in 1932 in Lake City, Tenn. He began his

career performing at hometown dances and on local radio shows with his

brothers, Jay and Clayton. In 1955, he was signed by Sam Phillips'

legendary Sun Records in Memphis, Tenn., and Clayton recorded his song

"Blue Suede Shoes," which became the first record to top the pop, country and

R&B

charts simultaneously. At Sun, Perkins shared studio space with future

music giants Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Roy

Orbison. His raw, rockabilly music and good looks bode well for his

musical future, but he was sidelined by a car crash while driving to New

York to appear on crooner Perry Como's TV show. The accident put Perkins

out of commission for a month and led to the early death of his brother

Jay two years later from a brain tumor sustained in the crash. While Perkins

was still recovering from a skull fracture suffered in the car accident, Presley

covered "Blue Suede Shoes"; Presley's cover of the tune became an even

bigger hit than the composer's version and led to a

stratospheric rise for the King that eclipsed Perkins' career. Upon recovering

from the crash, Perkins had a few more minor hits such as "Boppin' the Blues,"

but his life fell into decline, due primarily to an alcohol

addiction. On a U.K. tour with Chuck Berry in 1963, Perkins met the

Beatles, big fans of his. He joined them in the studio to

oversee their recording of some of his songs, including "Honey Don't,"

"Everybody's Tryin' To Be My Baby" and "Matchbox." The next year, he turned

to country

music and joined Cash's touring band. During this time, the two men

began conquering their booze and pills addictions together and Perkins

frequently appeared on Cash's hit TV show. Perkins wrote "Daddy Sang

Bass" for Cash and hit the country charts with songs such as "Restless"

and "Cotton Top."

In 1978, Perkins released a rock album, Ol' Blue Suedes Is Back, which

sold 100,000 copies in the U.K., buoyed by that country's renewed

interest in rockabilly. He also toured with his sons as backing

musicians. In 1981, he played on Paul McCartney's Tug of War,

then spent the early part of the decade touring. Perkins was inducted

into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 and continued to perform in

clubs throughout the '90s. His biography, "Go, Cat, Go," was

published in 1995. That same year, Perkins released an album

with the same title that featured collaborations with Cash, McCartney,

George Harrison, Tom Petty, John Fogerty and Paul Simon. In the summer

of '97, Perkins recovered from carotid-artery surgery and defeated throat

cancer.

Other birthdays: Kevin Martin (Candlebox), 29.