When RCA approached Sun Records owner Sam Philips about buying Elvis Presley's contact (for a paltry $35,000) Phillips took the money without revealing his secret. He had another singer under contract who he thought was going to be even bigger. Carl Perkins never came close to the Presley heights but not due to a lack of talent.
First, Perkins wrote and recorded the classic "Blue Suede Shoes" and was about to appear on national TV to promote the song. On the way to New York, he was involved in a serious car wreck that sidelined him for several months.
Perkins' version of "Blue Suede Shoes," which was written at Johnny Cash's suggestion and based on a mutual acquaintance, did well; but it didn't do all it could have. Presley also had success with his cover of the song.
And even though Perkins wrote and recorded hits including "Matchbox" and "Honey Don't" which were covered by The Beatles (Ringo on lead vocals), his career never shifted into high gear.
Perkins started out as a Country singer, with some R&B leanings, playing the low pay honky-tonk circuit in Tennessee and Mississippi, thinking he was the only one doing what he was doing. But after hearing Presley on Sun Records he made a beeline for the Memphis studios and impressed Phillips. Not only was Perkins a strong singer and guitarist, he was also a gifted songwriter.
Since Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis generally didn't write their own material this was a huge advantage. In fact, Perkins legacy was his songs more than anything else.
After suffering a series of strokes in the late '90s one of Rock n' Roll's pioneers passed away on January 19th, 1998.
"Blue Suede Shoes" is Carl Perkins' legacy. But there's more. "Original Sun Greatest Hits" shows off Perkins' abilities as a singer, songwriter and guitarist. Today, it may sound odd that Sun Records owner Sam Phillips thought Perkins was going to be a bigger star than Presley but this album goes a long way toward justifying that belief. Not opting for Country as Cash and Lewis did, Perkins kept recording his Rock-A-Billy music for the next two decades. The results are solid if not astounding. "The Best Of Carl Perkins" set should be avoided. Apparently, shoddy products and second rate compilations were integral part of Curb Records' business plan.
Most tribute albums, where all-star musicians back a legendary performer (Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee, etc,), usually fall flat. The one notable exception is "Go Cat Go!" which features the surviving Beatles, Johnny Cash and Tom Petty. The album contains original material and serves as Perkins' final recording.