Carl Perkins was once a confirmed alcoholic. I am not sure he realized it then Out he does now since he doesn't drink anymore. I seem to remember that he preferred Jack Daniels' back on the tour when we crossed Canada in '56 and '57, but he bought whatever the government controlled liquor stores had for sale. Sundays were unusually bad days for Carl. The stores were closed and if he had forgotten to get a double supply on Saturday, he would tremble and sweat backstage. Once on the stage, the audience never knew how he was suffering. The power of his performance covered any hint the fans might have felt had they known he was without liquor.
We travelled together in his car or mine with the big bass fiddle strapped to the top of the car. One cold pay in Nebraska, we bought our regular fare of bologna and crackers for lunch. It wasn't until the '60's that we discovered steak, prime ribs and so forth. Unaccustomed to the Mid-Western blizzards, with Carl at the wheel we slid off the road and through a shallow ditch. Out of control, we came to a halt in a wheat field far off the highway, for a while everyone was quiet, then I asked,"What are we going to do now, Carl?" Finally, he said, "Johnny I'll figure that out as soon as I finish my bologna."
In 1968, genuinely repentant after a night of drinking, Carl threw his whiskey bottle into the Pacific Ocean at Ventura, California. Today Carl Perkins is a master of his art. The old death dealing habits are gone. And the excellence of his music is. reflected in the excellence of his countenance; that of a confident, mature man and musician. Still married to the wife of his youth, the kind understanding Valda no longer worries about her man. It's all a family affair — his sons Greg and Stan are with him performing as a part of the best band he ever had.
Remember the picture they called a million-dollar quartet: Jerry Lee, Carl, Elvis and myself? Elvis loved those gospel songs, as we did. New on the scene, Jerry Lee politely waited until the singing came to a casual halt. When Elvis stood up, Jerry Lee said "let me at that piano". We all knew we were seeing the master of the keyboard, when Jerry Lee began, he led and Carl, Elvis and I joined in whenever the key was right. I remember him singing THIS TRAIN IS BOUND FOR GLORY and VACATION IN HEAVEN. Nobody sang along. We all listened. It was his moment.
Check any of the hundreds of Jerry Lee Lewis stories you have heard, and you can be sure that some are true, and some are lies. You hear him praise God on this record, but you also hear him do a lot of shaking in a frenzy caught up in his own talent. I am not sure I can separate the two: his God-given talent and the shaking. Such talent is given to a special few. His personal relationship with the Giver of that talent is his personal affair. But that the Giver gave us such a talented man is our good fortune.
Carl's and Jerry Lee's appearance with me in Stuttgart, Germany on April 23, 1981, was a total surprise to the audience. We had been appearing separately in various cities doing music festivals. And on the 23rd, they happened to have a night Off. Midway into the first half of my show in Stuttgart, June Carter caught my eye from the sidelines and gave me the message that Carl and Jerry Lee were there. At intermission, Lou Robin, my producer, brought us together backstage. I asked them to sing with me in the second half of the show. What you hear on this recording is unrehearsed, and I might add each song is the one and only take.
My hat is off to Rodney Crowell who took this tape and edited and mixed it. Just a few months after that concert I stood by Jerry Lee's bedside in a Memphis hospital watching him fight for his life. I took his hand and spoke to him. He squeezed my hand and tried to talk. The power was still there in the grip of his hand. I marveled at his hands so deft yet so strong, and capable of bringing out music like no hands I have ever known. "June is here with me. Killer," I said. "We wanted you to know we care for you." He nodded and closed his eyes holding both our hands in a strong grip. "You will make it" I said, "you still have a lot to do."
We always wanted to sing gospel music and that is what brought us together at Stuttgart. John Carter and my daughter Cindy sang on the last song. They had watched the three of us from the side of the stage. When I took them back to join in on the encore number I SAW THE LIGHT, they were thrilled. Here's hoping the new generation survives the 80's and 90's along with us, the other Survivors.