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Jan. 1: If not for this and numbers like it, we might never have heard the Nashville Sound, the fiddle and steel guitar might not have spent a decade or more in the wilderness, and the world might have been deprived of some of the hottest licks ever committed to tape — many of them here in Nashville — in support of the rockabillies. Today’s the 54th anniversary of the release date of this supremely influential record, an eventual country chart-topper that would be the only No. 1 in Carl Perkins’ long career.

What does it say about the state of modern country music that this Sun Records release, one of the linchpins of rock ‘n’ roll, sounds too country to be played on country radio? (Makes the changes undertaken in country music back then to battle the rock ‘n’ roll onslaught seem tame in comparison.) Besides soaring to the top of Billboard‘s country chart, it went No. 2 pop and — in a first for a country artist — No. 3 on the R&B chart. Most people are more familiar with Elvis Presley’s cover, which is a bit faster and more “in your face.” That might not be so, had Perkins and his band not been in a horrific car wreck en route to New York City to debut the number on the Perry Como TV show. By the time of the makeup gig on Como, Elvis had performed the song on television more than once — leaving Perkins to a career of exceptional acclaim among other performers but less popular success than he deserved.

Carl Perkins’ story is one of the most fascinating tales in popular music. Check it out. And go, cat, go.

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