The Truth About Eddie Cochran
The Oklahoma City Connection


Research Documentary by Graham Pugh




Oklahomans are proud of their favorite sons.  If you are an “Okie”, you hear mention of names like Will Rogers, Patti Page, Garth Brooks and Vince Gill (to name a few) almost on a daily basis.  Having lived in Oklahoma for the past 30 years, I have always wondered why I never heard much about Eddie Cochran.  After all, from what I have read, he was born here!

You Remember Eddie …. He’s the guy that recorded the rock classic Summertime Blues back in 1958.  His life story reads like a movie script: From poverty to stardom, from hit records to movie contracts to an untimely death at age 21.  Rock historians consider Eddie as one of the most significant figures in rock music.  A young lad named Paul McCartney played one of Eddie’s songs on the guitar to audition for John Lennon’s group that later became The Beatles!

I have always heard that Eddie Cochran was from Oklahoma City. The rock n’ roll encyclopedia Rock On by Norm Nite says that Eddie was born and lived in Oklahoma City.  Other accounts tell of Eddie being born in Oklahoma City then moving to Albert Lea, Minnesota.  Yet other reports say  he was born in Albert Lea, Minnesota, and so on .........

Well, what about all of this?  To find the true story, I wound up taking a fascinating journey back to the 1920’s, drawing information from old city directories and telephone books, newspapers and Oklahoma City Public School records.  I was able to locate and interview family members, including two of Eddie’s first cousins who live in Oklahoma City.  I have also become acquainted with Bobby Cochran, Eddie’s nephew who lives in Nashville, Tennessee.




If you are interested in Eddie Cochran, a lot of biographies are available, both in print and on the Internet.  Some claim that he was born in Oklahoma City, moved to Minnesota in his early teens and then moved to Bell Gardens, California where he found his fame and fortune.  Others claim that he was born in Albert Lea and later moved to Oklahoma City! This dichotomy became the inspiration for a research project that took over five years to complete and led me through a fascinating journey into the1920’s!

In Oklahoma City back in the early 1900’s, the area north of present-day Interstate 40 and west of Western Avenue was a low-rent, working class neighborhood.  Here at 1012 West 1st Street lived Joseph and Corda Cochran with their children Frank, LaVerne, Flo and Trella Faye.  The year was 1922.  Not far away, and within easy walking distance was the family owned business J.T. Cochran & Son Auto Repair, 116 North Western Avenue.  Joseph’s eldest son Frank (17 years old at the time) was in partnership with his father and worked as a mechanic at the repair shop.  In 1923, the family moved two blocks west to 1200 W. 1st Street.  Frank married 16 year-old Alice Whitley later that year and the family moved to 1228 W. 1st Street.  This move was probably a downsizing of accommodations since Frank had moved out with his new bride.

By 1925, the family business had folded and both Frank and his father worked at various jobs as mechanics and laborers.  While living in Oklahoma City, Frank and Alice Cochran gave birth to three children: Gloria (1924), Bill (1925) and Bob (1928).  The era of the Great Depression was fast approaching, and times were getting tough for the Cochran Family.

The corporate offices of Wilson & Company, Inc. were located in Oklahoma City not far from the world famous Oklahoma City Stockyards.  Frank’s sister Flo and her husband Vance worked there, apparently holding positions in management.  As the Great Depression drew nigh, Flo and Vance were transferred to the Wilson & Co. plant in Albert Lea, Minnesota.  It is documented that in 1928 they were living in Albert Lea at 221 S.W. 2nd Avenue.  Knowing of the situation in Oklahoma City, Flo was able to secure a job for Frank at the Wilson meat processing plant in Minnesota. With few options, Frank and his family packed their bags and moved to Albert Lea, some 700 miles to the north.  This event is generally thought to have taken place in 1930, however, there is some inconclusive evidence that it could have happened a year or so later. 

Upon arrival in Albert Lea, the Cochran family lived at 108 Shell Rock, not far from the Wilson & Company processing plant where Frank worked as a “Houseman”.  While living at this address, their fourth child Patty was born.  In 1938, the family moved to 909 Marshall, a few blocks to the north of Shell Rock.  The Cochran’s fifth child, Ray Edward “Eddie” Cochran was born while the family lived at this address.  Eddie’s birth certificate shows that his mother Alice was a housewife and his father Frank was employed as a mechanic, probably at Wilson & Co. The Cochrans lived on Marshall for about three years before moving to a small two-story wooden house at 230 ˝ Charles Street.  The entire family lived at this address with the exception of Bill who was away in the service.  

Eddie’s life in Albert Lea is well documented and to the best of my knowledge, undisputed.   He attended school there, first at Ramsey Elementary School and then junior high school at Albert Lea Central.  His picture appears in both the 1952 and 1953 high school yearbooks.  Eddies picture also appears in the Albert Lea Methodist Church’s confirmation class photo of 1950.

Frank and Alice Cochran were homesick for Oklahoma and throughout 1940’s and early 50’s would often take Eddie back with them to Oklahoma City to visit family and friends. They would stay with Eddie’s grandmother, Corda Cochran at 620 S.W. 28th Street, and later at 515 S. W. 28th Street. 

It is unlikely that Eddie ever saw his grandfather Joseph Cochran.  When Eddie's aunt Trella Faye Hallmark died in 1939, it is known that Joseph had been estranged for several years.  Furthermore, he died that same year.  It is thought that he was living in Arkansas at the time of his death.  Eddie would have only been 3 years old at the time.

Eddie’s grandmother Corda Cochran lived at several addresses in Oklahoma City until her death in 1974 at the age of 91. Frank and Alice Cochran continued to visit Corda in Oklahoma City until Frank's death in November 1962.  Alice died on September 30, 1994 in Buena Park, California.

In 1952, Eddie’s brother Bill, now out of the service, had settled in Bell Gardens, California.  Bill suggested to his parents that they should consider moving there.  It would be a tough decision for Frank Cochran, as he was considering moving back to Oklahoma City to be with his 70-year-old mother.  What happened next, and heretofore unpublished, is that the Cochrans actually did move back to Oklahoma City!  According to the recollections of two of Eddie’s first cousins who live in Oklahoma City, the Cochran Family moved back to Oklahoma City sometime in 1953.  As teenage girls, they recall seeing their younger, handsome teenage cousin Eddie a number of times during this period.  Along with Corda Cochran, Frank, Alice and Eddie lived in apartment #6 at the Darliene Apartments, 215 N.W. 4th Street.  The Darliene Apartments stood at what is now the site of the Oklahoma City National Memorial in downtown Oklahoma City, former site of the Alfred P. Murrah Building  where 168 people lost their lives in the Oklahoma City Bombing!

Eddie's picture appears in both the Albert Lea and Bell Gardens 1953 school yearbooks. This pinpoints the year of the move and suggests that the Oklahoma City stay was brief, however it most likely lasted for several months.

The move back to Oklahoma City is further substantiated by Eddie's close friend, John Rook.  John told me Eddie's mother had said that the move to Albert Lea didn't work out well for them and that Frank wanted to move back to Oklahoma City to be with his aging mother.  After returning to Oklahoma City, they were encouraged by by friends and relatives to head west as the economy was starting to boom there.  Sometime in 1953, they packed their belongings and left Oklahoma City  for Bell Gardens, California.

The details of Eddie’s life after he left Oklahoma City are beyond the scope of this report.  It should be mentioned however, that early in his musical career, Eddie teamed up with Hank Cochran (no relation) to form a Country and Western duo.  During this period, Eddie told everyone that he was from Oklahoma City.  Bobby Cochran told me that he did this to lend authenticity to his C&W act; after all, who ever heard of a country guitar picker from Albert Lea, Minnesota?  Eddie's comments about Oklahoma City eventually wound up in print, thus contributing to the confusion of where he was really from. Hank Cochran went on to become a notable performer and songwriter, co-writing the Patsy Cline classic “I Fall to Pieces”.


This documentary is copyrighted  


Excerpts may be used with the author's permission.


The information used to prepare this documentary was obtained from the following sources:  Interviews with Bobby Cochran; Interviews with Eddie's cousins (names withheld by request); Interview with John Rook; Polk City Directories; Oklahoma Historical Society; Oklahoma County Library; Freeborn County Museum; Rose Hill Burial Gardens.   ©2000, 2002, 2003, 2004.


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