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Retro Redux: Puttin’ My Cat Clothes On

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One of the things I enjoy about digging through old pictures is how I inevitably stumble onto surprises, in some cases jaw-dropping ones. That would be a good description of how I reacted when I recently found a picture of myself from the Fifties, when I was a teenager and obviously fashion-challenged.

I think I remember the gaudy striped shirt, but I cannot believe that I ever wore those pants in public. It seems to me that they were called clamdiggers, or beachcombers, or maybe pedal pushers. And girls sometimes called their version Capri's — I think.

Like most teenagers — then and now — I was very insecure about things like that, so apparently I thought I was right in style or I would never have allowed that picture to be taken. And at least the pants were white, unlike those described in a song titled "Pink Pedal Pushers," by rockabilly legend Carl Perkins.

In fact, I'd like to think that another of ol' Carl's songs might have come closer to how I was feeling when the picture was taken. If you read the lyrics of his 1956 hit, "Put Your Cat Clothes On," his advice seems to be aimed at his girl, Kitty. (Get it?) But I think it was actually Carl's advice for anyone planning to go out and raise a little hell. After all, he also mentions how he gets himself 'slicked up to look like a dilly'.

It's a good song and I've always been a fan of Perkins, but I also like a modern cover — a live performance (clip) by retro-rockabilly Brian Setzer. In the last couple of decades, Setzer has probably done as much as anyone to keep the sounds of rockabilly alive.

If you can stop snickering at my picture for a few minutes, listen to each version and see which you like best.

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