Wednesday, March 25, 2009

"Underground Legends"

Gene Vincent (February 11, 1935 - October 12, 1971)

Known as one of the pioneers of Rock n Roll and in particular the style of Rockabilly, Vincent started had a huge impact on the rebellious nature of RocknRoll, especially with the style of leather jackets. Gene Vincent was born Vincent Eugene Craddock in Virginia. Since he was born in Virginia, Gene was surrounded by Country (His family owned a country store), Rhythm and Blues and Gospel music, which later helped him become influential in the Rockabilly style. He received his first guitar at the age of 12, which moved him more into RocknRoll instead of Country music. At first, Gene prepared to be a sailr and dropped out of school at seventeen to enlist in the Navy in 1952. while he was a good sailor (completed Korean War deployment), he was known as a troublemake on shore. In 1955, he used his Navy reenlistment bonus to buy a motorbike, but ended up invovled in a severe motorcycle accident in which he was hit by a car and damaged his leg. Vincent nearly lost his leg, but since he refused to have it amputated, the hospital saved it, leaving him with a limp and chronic pain for the rest of his life. Shortly after, he was medically discharged from the Navy.

Without his first choice in a career gone, Vincent turned to music. He changed his name and formed a Rockabilly band called the Bluecaps, including Willie Williams on rhythm guitar, Jack Neal on upright bass, Dickie Harrell on drums, Paul Peek singer and guitar and Cliff Gallup, who became an influential guitarist (watch out later for his "Underground Legends" feature). The group played in several country bands before entering a talent contest put together by local radio DJ "Sheriff Tex" Davis, who became their manager. In 1956, he wrote "Be-Bop-A-Lula" and signed a publishing contract with Bill Lowery of The Lowery Group of music publishers in Atlanta, Georgia. His recording of "Be-Bop-A-Lula" was sent to a Capitol Records A&R man and he signed a contract with the label. "Be-Bop-A-Lula," which was actually the B-side of another song "Woman Love," became a huge hit peaking at #7 and staying on the charts for 20 weeks. However, the group were unable to have any follow-up hits, still they had critical acclaim with songs like "Racing with the Devil" and "Bluejean Bop."

In 1957, the group managed to have another hit with "Lotta Lovin'," which peaked at #13 and was on the charts for 19 weeks. Altogether he sold over 3 million records of "Be-Bo-A-Lula" and "Lotta Lovin'." That year, he toured with Little Richard and Eddie Cochran (watch out later for his "Underground Legends" feature, too.) and also starred in the film "The Girl Can't Help It" with his tour mates. As an untypical Fifties rocker with an elaborate sound and messy look, Vincent was the image of rebellious youth. Gene Vincent and the Bluecap's last US single was "Dance to the Bop," peaking at #23 and staying 9 weeks on the charts. Capitol released six albums by Vincent and the Blue Caps between 1957 and 1960.

Gene visited Europe in 1959 and attracted new fans (as most singers who lose fame in US do). In 1960, Gene, songwriter Sharon Sheeley and her fiancee Eddie Cochran were in a serious car accident in which the taxi they were in blew a tire and swerved off the road slamming into a lamp-post. Vincent broke his ribs, collarbone, and further damaged his weak leg, Sheeley had a broken pelvis and Cochran later died from brain damage. After, Gene moved to England in 1963. During his British tours, he adopted the trademark leather outfit in RocknRoll and his stage shows later influenced many Rock stars today.

He tried to reestablish his career in the US in the Folk Rock and Country Rock genres, but could not regain the success he had in the fifties. Albums like, "Am I That Easy to Forget" and "I'm Back and I'm Proud" were critically acclaimed. Gene soon had a drinking problem as a result of his lack of success. A few weeks before he died, he recorded four tracks for Rockin' Ronny Weiser's Rolling Rock label in the US and five tracks in Britain in October (Later released as "The Final Sessions."). Gene Vincent died on October 12, 1971 from a ruptured stomach ulcer while visiting his father in California.

Vincent was the first inductee into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame in 1997 and the following year he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.


1) Gene Vincent was friends with Sam Cooke. He loved his music and recorded "Another Saturday Night" in 1964 and "Bring It On Home to Me" shortly before his own death in 1971.

2) Many artists have been inspired by Gene Vincent, including Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, The Beatles, the Stray Cats, The White Stripes and Bruce Springsteen.


Lotta Lovin'

Baby Blue

Rip It Up

Roll Over Beethoven (cover of Chuck Berry song; Gene reminds of Chuck in his style)

Dance to the Bop

BlueJean Bop

Race with the Devil

Say Mama

Pistol-Packing Mama (His only UK hit)

Over the Rainbow (Great cover!)

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