We caught up with Matt Wycliffe, who will be playing the man behind “Blue Suede Shoes”, Carl Perkins, to discuss making music with his Velcro shoes and how he’s preparing for his role in the show.
When you found out you were going to be playing Carl Perkins, how did you feel?
Pretty cool actually! I’ve played a few other Rock and Roll heroes in my career so it’s really nice to be able to play another one, especially when I get to play all the solos as well.
What are you looking forward to about being in the show?
Playing live music with a bunch of really good musicians, which I think is one of the best parts of the show and one of the big selling points, so that’s going to be a lot of fun every single night. And for me, revisiting some of the songs, just playing brilliant music night after night.
Is there anything in particular you’re doing to prepare for this role?
Playing lots and lots of guitar, mainly! I’ve been listening to a lot of music from that era, like I said I’ve played a lot of Rock and Roll in my career so I’m quite familiar with that style anyway. But really getting back to the roots of Carl Parkins playing specifically, I’ve got a lot of footage of him. I’ll watch all of that and go over the guitar parts to make sure I get them note for note so it’s really authentic. What I really love about this style of music is that if you can really nail the authentic sound then you deliver more of an authentic performance. It’s really exciting!
Tell me about your character, Carl Perkins…
Carl Perkins is one of the fore-fathers of Rock and Roll, he wrote “Blue Suede Shoes” which is also an Elvis song, which is hotly contested by him in the show. He was a great guitarist, a nice guy I think, we’ll find out!
What was the first musical instruments you learnt to play?
I played the recorder when I was 4, I think I forgot it once when I was at school so wasn’t allowed at recorder practise with everyone else. I had Velcro on my shoes so I started using the Velcro as a rhythmic device and my shoes got confiscated. But my first real instrument was the violin, my uncle was a phenomenal violin player and I got really inspired by him. So I used to play that and then I picked up the piano as a kid and would just hammer away at it. It’s kind of my main instrument actually, I play a lot of Boogie Woogie and Jazz, Rock and Roll piano, that’s my passion. And then I found the guitar through various bits and pieces. When I was 22/23 I auditioned for The Buddy Holly Story and successfully won the role of Buddy Holly and ended up playing him for about 2 ½ years and got really good at the guitar.
Do you have a favourite songs from the era?
It’s probably a Buddy Holly song to be honest. My favourite song, it’s my favourite song to play, it’s called “Rock Around with Ollie Vee” and it’s just got a great riff to it. It’s a really cool little Rock and Roll number.
Why should people come and see Million Dollar Quartet?
I think people should come and see Million Dollar Quartet because if you like 50’s Rock and Roll, you’re going to hear some of the best songs of that era played live by a fantastic group of musicians. It’s also a snapshot into that time because it’s a true story and it’s a real snapshot into that time of the characters and their background, and so if you’re familiar with the songs you might not be familiar with how they came about. “Blue Suede Shoes” for instance is a bit of history that you find out about who wrote it and how it got taken over and things like that. It’s just going to be great fun!