Monday, 11 February 2013
Gene Vincent born 11 February 1935
Gene Vincent, real name Vincent Eugene Craddock, (February 11, 1935 - October 12, 1971) was an American rock'n'roll pioneer musician, best known for his hit "Be-Bop-A-Lula".
His parents, Ezekiah Jackson and Mary Louise Craddock, were shop owners in Norfolk, Virginia. He grew up in Virginia under the influence of country, rhythm and blues and gospel music. He received his first guitar as a gift from a friend at the age of 12.
In 1952, Gene left school and joined the Navy. In 1955 he was stationed in Korea. In July 1955, whilst in Norfolk, he was involved in a severe motorcycle accident that shattered his left leg. He refused to have it amputated, the leg was saved, but left him with a permanent limp and considerable chronic pain for the rest of his life.
He left the Navy and started playing in various country bands in his native Norfolk, Virginia. There, he won a talent contest organised by local radio DJ "Sheriff Tex" Davis, who became his manager.In 1956 he wrote "Be-Bop-A-Lula" and signed a recording contract with Capitol Records. "Be-Bop-A-Lula" was the "B-side" of the first single ("Woman Love"). "Be-Bop-A-Lula" was picked up and played by other U.S. radio stations (obscuring the original "A-side" song), became a hit and launched Gene Vincent as a pop star. Vincent's backing band included Willie Williams on rhythm guitar, Jack Neal on upright bass, Dickie Harrell on drums,Paul Peek singer/guitar and the innovative and influential lead guitarist, Cliff Gallup.
Gene Vincent & His Blue Caps were unable to follow it up with the same level of commercial success, but released critically acclaimed songs like "Race With The Devil" (#96 in Billboard) and "Bluejean Bop" (#49). The group had another hit with 1957's "Lotta Lovin'" (highest position #13 and spending 19 weeks in the charts).
Gene Vincent was awarded Gold Records for 2 million sales of Be-Bop-A-Lula and 1.5 million sales of Lotta Lovin'. The same year he toured the east coast of Australia with Little Richard and Eddie Cochran. Vincent also became one of the first rock stars to star in a film, The Girl Can't Help It together with Jayne Mansfield.
"Dance to the Bop" was released by Capitol records on October 28, 1957 and many other hits followed. Gene and His Bluecaps appeared several times on The "Town Hall Party" show, California's largest country music barndance held at the Town Hall which was at 400 Long Beach Boulevard in Compton, California. The Town Hall Party drew in excess of 2,800 paid admissions each Friday and Saturday with room for 1,200 dancers.
Departing from traditional naming conventions, he and his band are named "Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps", not "...the Blue Caps" as often stated. A dispute with the US Tax Authorities and The American Musicians' Union over payments to his band and his having sold the band's equipment to pay a tax bill led him to leave the USA and try his hand in Europe.
Following a visit to Europe in 1959, Vincent managed to attract a new huge and discerning audience there, especially in the United Kingdom and France. By that time his career had mostly ended in the US. In 1960, while on tour in the UK, Vincent and songwriter Sharon Sheeley were seriously injured in a high-speed traffic accident in a private hire taxi travelling through Chippenham, Wiltshire on the A4 on the journey to London Airport where they were set to return to the US that night. The car, a Ford Consul, suffered a blowout causing it to swerve and crash into a lamp post on Rowden Hill. Vincent broke his ribs, collarbone, and further damaged his weakened leg, and Sheeley suffered a broken pelvis. Both Vincent and Sheeley survived, but the accident killed Vincent's tourmate and Sheeley's fiancé, Eddie Cochran.
Vincent subsequently moved to England in 1963. His stage shows became "must see" events that greatly influenced some of the most respected players in the world today. It was during his early tours of Britain that he adopted the trademark leather outfit, at the suggestion of British rock 'n' roll impressario, Jack Good. British fans held in high regard the band that supported him, Sounds Incorporated - a six-piece outfit which included three saxophones, guitar, bass and drums. They later went on to play with The Beatles at their famed Shea Stadium concert.
His attempts to re-establish his American career recording in folk rock and country rock genres proved unsuccessful, he is best remembered today for his recordings of the 1950s and early 1960s which originally appeared on the Capitol Records label. He also put out some tracks on EMI's Columbia label, the best of which being his cover of Arthur Alexander's "Where Have You Been All My Life". A new backing band called The Shouts joined him at this time.
In 1966, back in the States, he recorded Am I That Easy to Forget for Challenge Records. On this, he was backed by ex-members of The Champs and Glen Campbell. Although critically well received, it did not sell very well either in the USA or Britain where it was released on the London label.
In 1969, he recorded the album "I'm Back and I'm Proud" for long-time fan John Peel's Dandelion label, which included backing vocals by Linda Ronstadt. He later recorded a further two albums for the Kama Sutra label.
He has achieved a genuine legendary status and his work is respected, and often copied, by singers and groups worldwide. His major hit, Be-Bop-A-Lula, is considered one of the great rock 'n' roll records. On his final tour of the UK, he was backed by The Wild Angels, a British band who had previously worked at the Royal Albert Hall with Bill Haley & His Comets and Duane Eddy. Because of pressure from his ex-wife, the Inland Revenue and promoter Don Arden, Gene had to return rather swiftly to the USA.
Gene Vincent died in 1971 from a ruptured stomach ulcer while visiting his father in California, and is interred in the Eternal Valley Memorial Park, Newhall, California. (Photo of Gene taken in January 1971)
He was the first inductee into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame on its formation in 1997. The following year he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. (info edited from Wikipedia)
Here's Gene Vincent singing Be-Bop-A-Lula (1st Appearance, Town Hall Party 1958)