Carl Perkins debuteerde net als Elvis Presley in de Sun Studios van Sam Phillips. Oorspronkelijk zag het er zelfs naar uit dat Perkins de eerste zou worden om het grote publiek te bereiken. Een zwaar auto-ongeval stelde hem echter buiten gevecht gedurende de kritieke periode.
After playing a show in Norfolk, Virginia on March 21, 1956, the Perkins Brothers Band headed to New York City for a March 24 appearance on NBC-TV’s Perry Como Show. Shortly before sunrise on March 22 on Route 13 between Dover and Woodside in Dover, Delaware, Stuart Pinkham assumed duties as driver. After hitting the back of a pickup truck, their car went into a ditch of water about a foot deep, and Perkins was lying face down in the water. Drummer Holland rolled Perkins over, saving him from drowning. He had suffered three fractured vertebrae in his neck, a severe concussion, a broken collar bone, and lacerations all over his body in the crash. Perkins remained unconscious for an entire day. The driver of the pickup truck, Thomas Phillips, a 40-year-old farmer, died when he was thrown into the steering wheel. Carl’s brother Jay had a fractured neck along with severe internal injuries, later dying from these complications.
On March 23, Bill Black, Scotty Moore and D.J. Fontana visited Perkins on their way to New York to appear with Presley the next day. D.J. Fontana recalled Perkins saying, “Of all the people, I looked up and there you guys are. You looked like a bunch of angels coming to see me.” Black told him, “Hey man, Elvis sends his love,” and lit a cigarette for him, even though the patient in the next bed was in an oxygen tent. A week later, Perkins was given a telegram from Presley (which had arrived on March 23), wishing him a speedy recovery.
Sam Philips had planned to surprise Perkins with a gold record on The Perry Como Show. “Blue Suede Shoes” had already sold more than 500,000 copies by March 22. Now, while Carl recuperated from the accident, “Blue Suede Shoes” scored No. 1 on most popular, R&B, and country regional music charts. It also scored No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and country charts. Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel” scored number one on the pop and country charts, while “Blue Suede Shoes” did better than “Heartbreak” on the R&B charts. By mid-April, more than one million copies of “Blue Suede Shoes” had been sold.
On April 3, while still recuperating in Jackson, Perkins would see Presley perform “Blue Suede Shoes” on his first appearance on The Milton Berle Show, which was his third performance of the song on national television. He also made references to it twice during an appearance on The Steve Allen Show. Although his version became more famous than Perkins’s, it only scored No. 20 on Billboard’s popular music chart.