It was about five years ago that Lou Sordo took a bar in Bethesda called The Psyche Delly and established it as an important gig for any local band wanting serious attention.

The Delly's rise locally was paralleled by an up-and-coming blues band, The Nighthawks, who have never stopped playing there.

Under new management, a greatly expanded Psyche Delly opened a new era last night with a show featuring rockabilly legend Carl Perkins and, appropriately enough, The Nighthawks. The crowd that came for the opening show gave both acts a standing ovation.

The Hawks kicked off the action with a blazing version of a Little Walter instrumental, "Juke." Throughout the band's set of mostly blues covers, harpist Marc Wenner and guitarist Jimmy Thackery traded leads, paying homage to classic blues players like Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson, Hubert Sumlin, and Muddy Waters.

Although the Hawks play the electric blues pretty much as intended, it was Carl Perkins and a few others who took the same black blues as a source for creating a distinctive white form of rock 'n' roll called rockabilly. Perkins, one of rockabilly's most original practitioners, has been playing this musical hybrid for 25 years.

With his sons backing him on bass and drums, Perkins proved the continued vitality of this music, running through his '50s classics like "Honey Don't" "Blue Suede Shoes" and "Matchbox." His staccato, spluttering guitar style is as unmistakable as Chuck Berry's, and his singing, particularly on the honkytonk ballad "Miss Misunderstood," was strong and plaintive. By the time he got to a '50s medley, much of the audience was dancing and cheering wildly for this modest and reserved southerner who helped invent a wild new music called rock 'n' roll.