Influences #1

My Mother's Mandolin--Wards ca 1917

This is the first of some blogs I’ll do off and on about the influences in my music.  I love the story of the song, Blue Suede Shoes!  It is a story of both creativity and heartbreak, and triumph.  Songwriters Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins were friends, and the way the story goes, Johnny had heard a be bopper, exclaim to his date to, “keep off the suedes,” and he told Carl that here was an idea for a song that Carl should write.  I guess it rocked around in Carl’s head for awhile and then one night after a show he went home and started writing it.

The story goes on that Carl’s wife came down stairs and asked him what he was doing, because he was bothering the babies.  He said that he was writing a new song, and she said something like, “ok honey, you write that song, and I’ll rock the babies!”  It doesn’t hurt to have some family support.

According to Jerry Naylor and Steve Halliday, in The Rockabilly Legends: They Called it Rockabilly Long Before They Called it Rock and Roll, it seems, Elvis Presley heard the song and covered, Carl Released it first, but the song became linked to Elvis.  On the way to do a live performance on a Perry Como TV show, Carl was in a automobile accident, and later on as he laid in the hospital bed, he heard Elvis’s version of Blue Suede Shoes playing on the radio.  Tough luck Carl, but some irony is involved here, because later, when Carl’s own release of the song was a bigger seller than Elvis’s (.

If the truth be known, while Presley influenced many, Carl was more of an influence on my own songwriting.   We all have influences, some of them are major players, some are folks that others have never heard of.  Take Nellie June Marckx for example.  She was my mother, and led revivals up in the Ozark Mountains with my father in the middle to late forties.  She led the music with her mandolin.  I have that mandolin, and I have her strange sense of humor and music.  It was she who taught me to love the old songs, and it was she who sang me to sleep with the songs, “At Calvary,” “Oklahoma Hills,”  “New Moon over My Shoulder,”  “K-K-K-K-K-K Katie,” or whatever it is called, “Blood of the Lamb,” as well as “My Merry Oldsmobile.”  It’s no wonder I write gospel-based Americana!


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