Johnny Cash Said He Helped Inspire ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ Before It Was an Elvis Presley Song
“Blue Suede Shoes” is a song by Carl Perkins that was subsequently covered by Elvis Presley. In his autobiography, Johnny Cash said he helped inspire Perkins’ original version of the song. Cash said the song was influenced by a joke someone told him.
What Johnny Cash thought of Elvis Presley as a person and a performer
In Cash: The Autobiography, Cash has some glowing things to say about the “Kentucky Rain” singer. Cash said there was never anyone quite like Elvis. Cash described him as kind, charismatic, and talented. The “Ring of Fire” singer wasn’t very close to the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll; however, their interactions were always pleasant. The two icons performed together sometimes and Cash always watched Elvis sing from the wings.
Johnny Cash said this anecdote influenced Carl Perkins’ ‘Blue Suede Shoes,’ which later became a King of Rock ‘n’ Roll song
Cash said he indirectly inspired Perkins’ “Blue Suede Shoes,” which later became one of Elvis’ signature songs. “I told Carl about C. V. White and the blue suede shoes,” Cash wrote. “C. V. White was a Black airman from Virginia I’d known in Landsberg — he told us the initials stood for ‘Champagne Velvet,’ but none of us ever knew the truth — and one night he said this one thing that really struck me. When we got a three-day pass we’d get out our best uniforms, polish our brass, and spit-shine our shoes. C.V. would come by and say, ‘How do I look, man?’ ‘Like a million dollars,’ I’d tell him, and it was true.”
Later, White said something that would impact rock ‘n’ roll history. “One night he laid the line on me at that point,” Cash recalled. “‘Well,’ he said, ‘just don’t step on my blue suede shoes!’ ‘They’re not blue suede, C.V. They’re air force black, like everyone else’s.’ ‘No, man. Tonight they’re blue suede. Don’t step on ’em!'”
The way the world reacted to Carl Perkins’ and Elvis Presley’s versions of the song
Cash said this anecdote gave Perkins the idea for “Blue Suede Shoes.” Perkins released his version of the song in 1955. Elvis released his cover on his 1956 debut album Elvis Presley. Both of these renditions were released before the advent of the Billboard Hot 100 in 1958, so it’s difficult to know how successful they were in the United States.
On the other hand, The Official Charts Company reports Perkins’ “Blue Suede Shoes” peaked at No. 10 in the United Kingdom. It remained on the chart for eight weeks. It’s Perkins’ only charting single in the U.K.
Elvis’ rendition was far more popular. According to The Official Charts Company, the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s cover reached No. 9 in the U.K. in 1956 and lasted on the chart for 10 weeks. His estate re-released the track in 2007 and it became a hit in the U.K. again, this time reaching No. 13 and lasting on the chart for two weeks. Regardless of who sang it, “Blue Suede Shoes” is a classic of early rock ‘n’ roll and it might not exist without Cash’s input.