Elvis Presley had several hits, but one of the more famous is undoubtedly the “Blue Suede Shoes.” The King of Rock and Roll recorded the song in 1956, and it appeared as the opening track of his eponymous debut album Elvis Presley.
Though the song has been mostly associated with Presley – reaching No. 20 on the Billboard charts – he was not the first to record it.
The Story Behind Presley’s Famous “Blue Suede Shoes”
Written by Carl Perkins in 1955, “Blue Suede Shoes” is a stylish footwear for a night out and is considered a luxury item in the South. You had to be careful wearing them since suede isn’t easy to clean.
Though Perkins never owned a pair, American singer Johnny Cash told him a story about someone who did. While Cash, Perkins, Elvis Presley, and other Louisiana Hayride acts were touring throughout the South, Cash told Perkins about a black airman named C. V. White. Cash met White while serving in the military in Germany, and he recounted how White would refer to his military regulation airmen’s shoes as “blue suede shoes.”
Cash then suggested that Perkins write a song about the shoes – to which Perkins answered, “I don’t know anything about shoes. How can I write a song about shoes?”
Not until one night, when Perkins played at a high school sorority dance and noticed a couple dancing near the stage. Between songs, Perkins heard a stern, forceful voice saying, “Uh-uh, don’t step on my suedes!” When he looked down, he found the boy wearing blue suede shoes, and one had a scuff mark.
Perkins thought, “Good gracious, a pretty little thing like that, and all he can think about is his blue suede shoes.” That night, he began working on the song based on the incident. He hurriedly grabbed a brown paper potato sack, wrote the song down, and recorded it a few days later.
Perkins’ “Blue Suede Shoes” was released in early 1956. It quickly reached the top spot of the Memphis chart and remained there for the next three months. It also held the No. 2 position on the Billboard Hot 100 and country charts. Perkins then became the first country artist to reach the No. 3 spot on the rhythm and blues charts. This was the first song to hit the US Country, Pop, and R&B charts at the same time.
However, despite the song’s success, Perkins never attained Presley’s stardom, who Perkins described as someone who “had everything. He had the looks, the moves, the manager, and the talent. And he didn’t look like Mr. Ed, like a lot of us did. Elvis was hitting them with sideburns, flashy clothes, and no ring on the finger. I had three kids.”
After Presley’s “Blue Suede Shoes” hit the chart, Perkins became known more for his songwriting than for his performing. The song has since been recorded and released many times. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has chosen it as one of the “500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.” Perkins’ version was also inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1986.
“Well, you can knock me down. Step in my face. Slander my name. All over the place. Do anything that you want to do. But uh-uh, honey, lay off of my shoes. Don’t you step on my blue suede shoes. Well, you can do anything, but stay off of my blue suede shoes,” the song goes.
You can listen to Elvis Presley’s version in the video below.
carl perkins, Elvis Presley