The Eddie Cochran Story



Cochran and Vincent’s work permits had been extended to enable them to play one further week at the Hippodrome in Bristol, beginning April 11.  This done, Cochran and Vincent traveled to Bristol and checked into the city’s largest hotel, the Royal.  Cochran was experiencing depression and he and Vincent continued to drink heavily.  They were joined in Bristol three days later by Sharon Sheeley who seemed unwilling to let Eddie to let him out of her sight for long.

They went through their familiar twice-nightly stage routine, but Cochran seemed to have lost some of his enthusiasm and west-country audiences were treated to perfunctory rather than inspired performances. 


When the tour manager delivered the plane tickets to the singer’s hotel room on the last morning of the tour, Cochran ripped open the envelope while sitting in bed and exclaimed – “Take a look at these, boy, real genuine tickets to the USA.”

On the last day, British pop singer Johnny Gentle arrived in Bristol by car to deputize for one of the support acts who was taken ill.  He was accompanied by his girlfriend and another couple. Immediately after the curtain fell on the last show, at 10:30 PM on Saturday night, Gentle met Cochran in the corridor outside his dressing room:  “The rest of the show were traveling by coach but because I was only standing in for somebody, I had come by car.  Eddie knew this and asked me if I was going back to London and could I take him, Gene and Sharon.  Sharon was standing next to him and said “please”, but I had a full load and couldn’t take more than two.  I really would have driven them otherwise.  Eddie said he would take a cab”.

Cochran was booked on the one o’clock flight from Heathrow on Sunday and had originally intended to catch a train to London after the show but abandoned the idea after learning that services from the West Country shut down at night.  Instead, a cab was hired for the 100 mile journey.

 The Ford Consul which arrived was littered with confetti and the driver, a 19 year old named George Martin, explained that it had been used for a wedding earlier in the day.  After packing most of their baggage, Vincent, Cochran, Sheeley and Pat Thompkins left the Grand Hotel at 11 PM.   The cab hurtled through the dark Wiltshire night at 70 MPH winding its’ way through a series of small towns.  At approximately midnight, they reached the outskirts of Chippenham, a small town 20 miles from Bristol.  Passing under the narrow Chippenham railway viaduct, the car had to negotiate a gradual curve in the road leading up to a gentle uphill gradient called Rowden Lane.  “The road had recently been re-graveled” explains Hal Carter, who heard the story first hand from Pat Thompkins, “and the driver was racing like a madman to get Eddie back and he had taken a wrong turn and was doubling back on himself to Bristol.  When Pat saw the road signs, he said, “You’re going the wrong way, mate, and you should have turned left there somewhere.  We’re going back where we came from.  So the driver hit the brakes”.

Martin misjudged the curve of the road as the car emerged from the viaduct, lost control and hit the curb on the far side with his brakes locked.  The impact spun the car around and it went into a backward skid, bouncing uncontrollably of the curb on both sides of the road, careening crazily for about 150 yards before impacting a concrete lamp standard. The impact snapped the rear left roof support away from the body and badly buckled the left rear panel which bore a perfect imprint of the lamp post.  Cochran had been thrown upwards against the roof of the car by the force of the crash then propelled on to the road as the door burst open on contact.  Vincent sustained a broken collar bone while Sheeley received back injuries; Martin and Thompkins emerged unscathed.

The injured passengers were rushed to St. Martin’s Hospital in Bath where they were treated by emergency staff.  Cochran did not regain consciousness and died of severe brain lacerations at 4 PM Easter Sunday, sixteen hours after the crash.  Although his death made headlines in Britain, the news received only minor coverage in the USA.     

On Wednesday, April 20th after less than three days in the hospital, Vincent discharged himself with the apparent intention of flying back to Los Angeles with Cochran’s body.  He immediately rang his mother in Norfolk, Virginia.  Gene said “Eddie and I started together and we’re coming home together”.

Eddie Cochran was buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery, Cypress, California on Monday April 25, 1960.

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