Gary James' Interview With
Carl Perkins

We are very proud to present a rare interview with one of Rock 'n' Roll's all time legends, Mr. Carl Perkins.

Carl Perkins has written songs that have been recorded by people like Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash and The Beatles. He penned "Blue Suede Shoes", "Daddy Sang Bass", "Matchbox", "Honey Don't" and "Everybody's Tryin' To Be My Baby".

At the time of this interview (1978), Carl Perkins was preparing for a tour of the United States.

Q - You have two sons working with you in the band. How does that work out?

A - It works out real good. They've been with me for four years this January. I've always had kin folk around me. I started in '55 with two Brothers, and of course Cash seemed like a brother to me.

Q - What would you like to happen with your new record album "Ol' Blue Suede's Back"?

A - It's the best thing I've done in years. If the thing could chart and get out enough so I wouldn't be a stranger. It's sold 100,000 copies in England so far and that's real good for England. In January, I'm having another album released in England, including three songs I wrote for Elvis, who was gonna record them. Jet Records believes in me. They are a young progressive label.

Q - Has anyone approached you yet about making a movie from your new autobiography Disciple In Blue Suede Shoes?

A - Nothing's been said about it. I'd feel honored about it if it did happen.

Q - Bob Dylan recorded your song "Matchbox" before he was famous. Did you ever meet him?

A - Oh yeah, several times in New york City when I was doing the (Johnny) Cash show. He came to the studio where we were rehearsing back in 1968 and I played guitar with him in the dressing rooms. In fact he wrote a song "Champaign, Illinois" and couldn't finish it. He told me to go ahead and finish it and I used it on my "On Top" album I believe. He's a fine dude - a Shakespeare with words - and one of the finest songwriters to come along.

Q - Did you know Hank Williams? Buddy Holly?

A - I saw four or five Hank Williams shows. He's one of our greatest songwriters. I knew Buddy Holly real well. I did two or three tours with him. He was a humble boy, a shy, quiet, likeable fellow.

Q - How is the court case coming along to release the tapes of the jam session with you, Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash?*

A - They're very close to a settlement according to Felton Jarvis. It should be coming out after the first of the year.

Q - Are you happy with today's Rock 'n' Roll?

A - Yeah, I like it. The recording techniques are better, the equipment is better and the songwriters are doing more than just rhymin' words.

Q - When you were touring with Chuck Berry in England in 1964, you met The Beatles. Did you think they would be big?

A - Truthfully, I knew they were talented boys. They were sharp boys with strong, sharp material. They told me they were trying to sound like all the old Sun Records. I didn't think they would become nearly as big as they became. The world never expected four guys from Liverpool to be that big.

Q - What do you think about musicians using drugs?

A - You can't rely on artificial stimulation to carry you very far in life. Musicians may think they play better when they use drugs, but they don't.

Q - Where were you headed when you had that serious automobile accident?

A - I was gonna do Perry Como's TV show. I would've been the first Rockabilly artist to appear on network televison. I was to appear on Como's show on Saturday night and two weeks after that, do Ed Sullivan's show. But it was never meant to happen.

Q - When you relax, who do you listen to?

A - Chet Atkins. I get soothed down listening to his music. I love the sound he gets. Also Ray Charles, Eagles, Larry Gatlin. If it's good, I like it. I like good Country stuff.

Q - Where does your tour take you?

A - Mt. Vernon, Indiana, Illinois, Springfield, Missouri, Oklahoma.

Q - Can you see someone or some group coming from the South, taking the music industry by storm?

A - I wouldn't be surprised if somewhere there's a country boy with something different ready to strike. I think it's time again for single acts to come on strong. And since Elvis passed on, people are looking for that very man...a key leader.

Q - How'd you meet Felton Jarvis, Elvis' record producer?

A - I met him once before Elvis died. He did nothing but produce Elvis for twelve years. The night Elvis died, Felton called me and said that Elvis had loved me...he loved me. Elvis was going to record my songs after he got off tour. He said he wanted to produce me, and I took him up on it.

Q - How do you explain your success?

A - I've always felt very fortunate. I've worked hard and I've had a lot of luck. The timing was right for "Blue Suede Shoes". My contribution has been small. I've never boasted about it.

Q - Is there anything you'd like to do that you haven't already done?

A - I'd like to take a pop at some little ole' movie. I was talking to Jerry Reed, who's going to produce a movie soon and he said he wanted me.

Q - When people listen to your music and see your name, what would you like them to think of?

A - A lucky old man of '46.

© Gary James. All rights reserved.

Carl Perkins died on January 19th, 1998 at the age of 65 after a long series of illness. "The Complete Million Dollar Quartet" album was finally released in September, 2006.