Carl Perkins, the son of Tiptonville sharecroppers, was Sun Record’s first certified million-selling artist. Perkins began his musical career by forming the Perkins Brothers–Jackson’s hottest honky-tonk group. The trio featured Carl as lead singer and songwriter, older brother Jay on rhythm guitar, and younger brother Clayton on guitar.
Through Clayton, Carl Perkins befriended Johnny Cash. Cash, who later hired Perkins to become part of his road show and eponymous ABC-TV series, inspired Perkins’s signature song, “Blue Suede Shoes.” Perkins and Elvis Presley were well acquainted long before Presley made “Blue Suede Shoes” a hit song.
Perkins lost the momentum of his early success when, en route to New York for his network television debut on The Perry Como Show, he was seriously injured in an automobile accident at Dover, Delaware. None of Perkins’s subsequent hits, including “Honey Don’t,” “Boppin’ the Blues,” and “Matchbox,” proved as popular as “Blue Suede Shoes.” Nevertheless, Perkins’s fans include a number of internationally known music stars who attribute their own musical style to his influence. The late Ricky Nelson, the Beatles, and the Stray Cats have been among his admiring peers.
Carl Perkins and his wife, Valda, were the parents of three sons and a daughter. The Perkinses lived in Jackson at the time of Carl’s death in 1998. In 1991 the city honored the singer with the establishment of the Exchange Club Carl Perkins Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse. The Carl Perkins Boyhood Home is a historic site in Tiptonville.