Carl Perkins, The Complete Sun Singles

John Morthland

By John Morthland

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Perkins was one of the few Sun rockabilly artists to offer the complete package: He wrote and sang his own songs and (along with Scotty Moore) pretty much defined rockabilly guitar. But he arrived at Sun as a hard-edged honky-tonk man, echoing Hank Williams on early sides like "Turn Around" and "Let the Jukebox Keep on Playing." The breakthrough came with his bopcat anthem "Blue Suede Shoes," which quickly came to symbolize the entire rock & roll era. Yet many will argue, with no small justification, that "Dixie Fried," a harrowing celebration of the Saturday night juke-joint life, is the stronger (if less universal) song. An auto accident derailed Perkins 'career just as it was taking off — at the time, he rivaled Elvis, who nonetheless wound up with more of the "Blue Suede Shoes" glory than Carl — and there's no telling where he might have gone otherwise. But his "Honey Don't" was a staple of the Beatles 'early repertoire, and they also revived his arrangement of Blind Lemon Jefferson's "Matchbox." Countless others made standards out of songs like "Tennessee" and "Boppin 'the Blues," and there's hardly a rock or country guitarist alive who doesn't play some variation on Perkins 'licks. Carl's Sun singles represent the whole '50s Tennessee roadhouse world where country and rock came together.