When Perkins played a dance on December 4, 1955, he noticed a couple dancing near the stage. The girl was gorgeous, he thought, and the boy wore blue suede shoes. As they danced the boy cautioned his date "don't step on my suedes." Perkins was bewildered that a guy would value shoes over a beautiful girl.
Later that night, while in bed, Perkins began working on a song based on that incident. His first thought was to frame it with a nursery rhyme. He considered, and quickly discarded "Little Jack Horner...", and "See a spider going up the wall...". Then settled on "One for the money..." Leaving his bed and working with his Les Paul guitar, he started with an A chord. After playing five chords while singing "Well, it's one for the money... Two for the show... Three to get ready... Now go, man, go!" and broke into a boogie rhythm. He quickly grabbed a brown paper potato sack and wrote the song down, writing the title out as "Blue Swade, S-W-A-D-E". "I couldn't even spell it right", he has said.
The song was recorded weeks later and producer Sam Phillips suggested that Perkins's line "go boy go" be changed to "go cat go".
At one point the record was selling at a rate of 20,000 copies per day, and Perkins and his band were booked to appear on two nationally broadcast television shows: Ozark Jubilee and Perry Como Show. Carl and the rest of the Perkins Brothers Band performed "Blue Suede Shoes" on the Jubilee on Saturday night, February 11, 1956. The show was broadcast by the ABC television network. A Song Hits review of the song, published February 18 states that "Perkins has come up with some wax here that has hit the national retail chart in almost record time. Interestingly enough, the disk has a measure of appeal for pop and r.&b. customers.
Unfortunately for Perkins and his band members, they would have a serious automobile accident on the way to New York City, resulting in the death of a truck driver and the hospitilisation of both Perkins and his brother. While Perkins recuperated from the accident, "Blue Suede Shoes" rose to number one on most pop, R&B, and country regional charts. It also held the number two position on the Billboard Hot 100 and country charts. Elvis Presley's "Heartbreak Hotel" held the number one position on the pop and country charts, while "Shoes" did better than "Heartbreak" on the R&B charts. By mid-April, more than one million copies of "Shoes" had been sold. "Blue Suede Shoes" was the first million selling country song to cross over to both rhythm and blues and pop charts.
Sam Phillips retained the rights to the song, although it was represented by the New York house of Hill and Range as part of the agreement when Phillips sold Elvis Presley's contract. Perkins would not acquire the rights to "Shoes", along with all of his Sun Records songs until 1977.
Elvis performed the song to nation wide television audiences three times in 1956. The first time was on February 11, 1956 on the Dorsey Brother's Stage Show. Elvis performed it again on his third Stage Show appearance on March 17, then again on the Milton Berle Show on April 3. On July 1 Steve Allen introduced Elvis on the Steve Allen show, and Elvis, appearing in formal evening wear, stated "I think that I have on something tonight that's not quite right for evening wear." Allen asked, "What's that, Elvis?" "Blue Suede shoes" was the answer, as Elvis lifted his left foot to show the audience. Elvis mentions Blue Suede shoes a second time on this show. In a song during the "Range Roundup" comedy skit with Steve Allen, Andy Griffith, and Imogene Coca, he delivers the line, "I'm a warnin' you galutes, don't step on my blue suede shoes. These performances and mention of Blue Suede Shoes on nationally broadcast shows were seen by millions of Americans.
Meanwhile, although Presley is supposed to have promised Perkins that he wouldn't cover the song on a single record, "Blue Suede Shoes" was the first song on the first ground breaking album Elvis Presley, which was released in March. RCA released two other records with "Blue Suede Shoes" the same month: one an Extended Play with 4 songs, and a 2x extended play version with 8 songs.
In 1960, Presley re-recorded "Blue Suede Shoes" for the soundtrack of the film G.I. Blues. While Elvis' character's group "The Three Blazes" plays a ballad at a Frankfurt night club ("Doin' The Best I Can" by Doc Pomus & Mort Shuman ), a bored GI plays "Blue Suede Shoes" by Elvis Presley on the juke box, remarking that he wants "to hear an original". When another soldier tries to unplug the juke box, the entire place erupts into a fight. This studio re-recording marked one of only a few occasions in Presley's career in which he agreed to re-record a previously issued song.
"Blue Suede Shoes" was recorded and released many times in 1956. February releases were by Delbert Barker and the Gateway All Stars on the Gateway and Big Hits labels, Thumper Jones (aka George Jones), Hank Smith , and Buzz Williams. RCA Victor released a Pee Wee King version on March 3 of that same year, the same date as a Capital release by Bob Rubian. These releases were followed closely by the March 10 releases of a Boyd Bennett version on King, and the Columbia release of a Sid King version. Decca, too, released a version by Roy Hall, and the Dot label then released a recording by Jim Lowe.
"Blue Suede Shoes" was chosen as one of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. In 1986 Perkins' version was inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame, and was included by the National Recording Preservation Board in the Library of Congress National Recording Registry in 2006. The board selects songs on an annual basis that are "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." It is his only song on that list. Presley's recording of the song was also on the list at number 423.
In 1999, National Public Radio included "Blue Suede Shoes" in the "NPR 100," in which NPR's music editors sought to compile the one hundred most important American musical works of the 20th century.