Wymond Hurt Remembers Carl Perkins

By Henry H. Mitchell, Chatham, Virginia.

Wymond Hurt

Wymond Hurt, Christmas 2004.

A Chatham Visit

Wymond Hurt visited Chatham during Christmas 2004. Hurt has two connections to the town: first, his daughter, son-in-law, and two grandchildren live here; and second, he is a not-too-distant Tennessee cousin of the local Hurt family.

Hurt says, “I surely did enjoy my visit in Chatham. Number one, of course, was to visit my daughter and her family….” Besides a whirlwind of family activities, he did get to some of the local establishments: “We had breakfast one day at Pat's Place, and a couple of meals at Pino's. All in all, I got a good ‘feel’ of the town. I must say I was impressed.”

He continues, “Chatham is such a quaint, friendly town that seems to take you back to the early settlement days of Virginia with all the circa 1800 and 1900 homes which were decorated so nicely during the holidays. The countryside all around the town was so beautiful also and reminded me of my hometown of Halls down in west Tennessee.”

A Musical Reminiscence

During a late-December afternoon conversation with Hurt, the topic turned to Christmas music, to music in general, and then to Hurt's reminiscence of country music legend Carl Perkins:

After my stint in the Air Force, in which I spent my entire enlistment at Bolling AFB and Arlington Farms (where I assisted in opening a new finance office to pay the Pentagon personnel), I returned to Memphis, Tennessee. There I was hired by a fairly large finance company and put on a manager training program. After going through the departmental training in the home office, I was sent to one of their branches for my final training at Jackson, Tennessee. This involved training for the branch manager and also “outside” training — the tough part — collections, repossessions, etc.

I was sent out one day to collect the past due payments on a 1949 Ford. The owner lived at Bemis, Tennessee. The owner's name was Carl Perkins, which meant nothing to me at the time. His house was a four-room “shotgun” type house. When I knocked he came out and we sat on the front steps. We discussed the past due payments and he informed me the only income he had was the money he and his brothers made from playing music at some beer joints around Jackson, Tennessee.

Carl played lead guitar, Clayton the bass, and Jay the rhythm guitar. It was pretty obvious with no more income than they had coming in, paying for the car was totally out of the question, so I began talking about their music. I was raised in a musical family and had played the trumpet in the marching band and the dance band at Castle Heights Military Academy during my high school years. I later went on to the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and played trumpet in a Dixieland band and dance band. My Mother taught music her entire life and Dad was a saxophone-playing banker. So I love most all kinds and styles of music — some better than others, of course!

Back to Carl and his little family group of string-pickers — After talking music, he asked me if I would like to play with them Saturday night. I told him I would think about and let him know. I am not a big country music fan and had never heard of a country band having a trumpet in it, but after two or three days thinking about it, I decided it might be fun and I would give it a try. The next Saturday night I went out to this place they were going to play and I was almost afraid to get out of the car! It was a “low-end,” run-down, country beer joint. The only thing it didn't have was a dirt floor! Carl was there and he told me the owner couldn't pay me anything but I could have all the beer I wanted to drink. Well, I'm not much of a beer drinker at all but the owner might have come out ahead to have paid me money because it took a good bit of beer to get the “'fraid” out of me so I could play. I will have to admit though, I had a good time and the trumpet was the hit of the night. A lot of those folks had probably never heard a trumpet before. Anyway, Carl asked me to play the next week, which I did. Carl was writing a song and we would play it at those joints and those “rednecks” would go crazy. The name of the song: “Blue Suede Shoes.”

Carl was a good writer and a terrific guitar player and, as you know, Elvis Presley came along about that time and made the song an international hit, so he and Carl got rich. Carl never did pay for that old Ford, though.

I was transferred back to Memphis and later on to Tupelo, Mississippi. At the big annual fair in Tupelo, the county hired Carl, Elvis, and Jerry Lee Lewis to play. Carl and I talked at the fair. He said that he and his band were leaving from there to go to New York to cut a record, and he wanted me to go with them. I was married by this time and our first child was on the way so I told him I just couldn't go.

On the way to New York, they had a bad wreck in Delaware. The driver was killed, and both Carl and Jay were seriously injured. I would have been in that car if I had gone.


This webpage is sponsored by Mitchells Publications and the Sims-Mitchell House B&B in historic Chatham, Virginia.