The Eddie Cochran Story



In April 1959, British TV director Jack Good, whose weekly show “Oh Boy!” had revolutionized television pop in the 50’s, announced that he was seeking to recruit top-line American stars for “Oh Boy!”.  He was evidently frustrated by the limited selection of British acts available to him and longed to feature the Real American McCoy.  Unfortunately, all of the “hot” American acts were busy cashing in on their home territory to consider a trip to England. 

After an 8 month run, “Oh Boy!” was superceded by a new Jack Good TV pop extravaganza called “Boy Meets Girl”.  At Good’s behest, the search for American acts continued.  Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent and Ronnie Hawkins would be available towards the end of 1959 and in October it was confirmed that Vincent had been booked to appear on “Boy Meets Girl” sometime in December.

Vincent was quite unprepared for the impressive reception which awaited him and in effect, his arrival at Heathrow Airport on December 5, 1959 had all the comic overtones of a blind date.  Capitol had gone to some lengths to take commercial advantage of the impending visit.  In an early attempt of “pop hype”, they had even sponsored the formation of a nominal fan club to bolster interest in their star and on the morning of Vincent’s arrival, a coach load of fans was driven to Heathrow Airport at EMI’s expense.

Gene Vincent presented Jack Good with his greatest challenge yet.  Handicapped by a marked limp, a braggy countenance replete with bad teeth and unruly hair, Vincent was the antithesis of the 50’s pop stereotype.  As nothing could be done to disguise these imperfections, Good decided to exaggerate them by persuading Vincent to discard his homely woolen sweaters in favor of a creaky leather suit complete with gauntlets and topped off with a large silver medallion.

Vincent’s initial 12 day tour proved so successful that fresh bookings were quickly arranged announcing “The Gene Vincent Show”, an 11 week nationwide tour in which Gene would co-star with Eddie Cochran who was coming to Britain for Jack Good on January 10.  Cochran had recently completed a tour of the American Mid-West and managed to squeeze in a recording session at Goldstar Studio on the eve of his visit, which produced three titles: “Cut Across Shorty”, “Cherished Memories” and “Three Steps to Heaven”.

Cochran flew into London on Sunday January 10th, and was given an official reception at the Albert Embankment headquarters of Decca Records on the 11th.  While Vincent continued his concert schedule, Cochran was in Manchester rehearsing for two appearances on “Boy Meets Girl” which were transmitted on January 16th and 23rd.  Cochran and Vincent played their first show together at the Gaumont, Ipswitch on January 24th before taking a three day break to rehearse with their British backing group, The Wildcats, on loan from Marty Wilde.

Now, the big moment had arrived. “And now … direct from the U.S.A., the recorder of “C’mon Everybody” and “Summertime Blues”, the great EDDIE COCHRAN!!!”

A wall of sound greeted the opening of the curtain and then came the familiar driving opening of “Something Else”.  Wearing a white shirt with grey leather jeans, the star was playing a light brown guitar.  With the Wildcats providing a driving backing, he rocked through “Something Else”, “Hallelujah”, “Sweet Little Sixteen”, What’d I say”, “Fever” and “C’mon Everybody”.

His Singing was strong, gritty and powerful, just like the records: his guitar playing superb, flowing through his arms into his guitar.  His fingers seemed to glide over the instrument.  As he sang and played, he was up on his toes, all the while playing the most driving rock imaginable.  Throughout his act, there was a pandemonium, screaming and cheering with the audience on their feet from start to finish.  An unforgettable tour-de-force by this incredible artist.  Peter Jamieson, Manchester Hippodrome, April 1st, 1960.

Cochran and Vincent were seen together on “Boy Meets Girl” on February 20th.  The following day at the annual NME Poll winners Concert at the Empire Pool, Wembly.  The month closed with a second appearance on “Boy Meets Girl” followed by a series of one week engagements in Leeds, Birmingham, Liverpool, Newcastle and Manchester which took them into early April.

“Eddie and I were as close as two guys can get without being queer” Vincent once revealed, adding that the few short weeks spent touring with Cochran were probably the happiest of his life. Not since the heady days of 1957 had he enjoyed such acclaim and the money that went with it.  On a personal level, the self-doubt which loomed large in the Vincent psyche was offset by the reassuring presence of Cochran who Gene regarded as his fraternal alter-ego. If Vincent’s pained rough-hewn looks set him apart from the mainstream, Cochran’s stocky, well-scrubbed demeanor symbolized the pop idol of the time; and whereas Vincent was hesitant and fey in his dealing with the media, never uttering more than a few barely audible words, Cochran spoke with a relaxed, eloquent manner which came over well in interviews.  He was brighter and more musicianly than Vincent who worked strictly by ear, and was held in high regard not only by Gene, but all musicians who came into contact with him.  For his part, Cochran looked on Gene as a drinking buddy whose disregard for the conventional mores of showbiz distinguished him from the dozens of ingratiating showbiz types Cochran normally met in his travels.

The ground-breaking tour took place during a transitory period in British pop music.  As the rock n’ roll era drew to a close hits such as “Save The Last Dance For Me” signaled the arrival of more sophisticated production techniques and the emergence of A&R men and arrangers as the inspirational force behind pop music.  This kind of recorded chicanery did not translate at all well to the live stage and Cochran and Vincent came  as revelation to British audiences to whom they were the keepers of the sacred flame of rock n’ roll.

The continued success of the tour prompted arrangement of further concerts with an almost indecent haste although allowances had to be made for Cochran’s American commitments; he was scheduled to the States on Sunday, April 17th for recording sessions.