Eddie Cochran

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Eddie Cochran
Eddie Cochran 1950's.jpg
Background information
Birth nameEdward Raymond Cochran
Born(1938-10-03)October 3, 1938
Albert Lea, Minnesota, United States
DiedApril 17, 1960(1960-04-17) (aged 21)
Bath, Somerset, England
GenresRock and roll, rockabilly
OccupationsSinger-songwriter, musician
InstrumentsGuitar, vocals
Years active1953–1960
LabelsEkko, Crest, Liberty
Associated actsThe Cochran Brothers
Notable instruments
Gretsch 6120
 
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Eddie Cochran
Eddie Cochran 1950's.jpg
Background information
Birth nameEdward Raymond Cochran
Born(1938-10-03)October 3, 1938
Albert Lea, Minnesota, United States
DiedApril 17, 1960(1960-04-17) (aged 21)
Bath, Somerset, England
GenresRock and roll, rockabilly
OccupationsSinger-songwriter, musician
InstrumentsGuitar, vocals
Years active1953–1960
LabelsEkko, Crest, Liberty
Associated actsThe Cochran Brothers
Notable instruments
Gretsch 6120

Edward Raymond 'Eddie' Cochran (October 3, 1938 – April 17, 1960) was an American musician. Cochran's rockabilly songs, such as "C'mon Everybody", "Somethin' Else", and "Summertime Blues", captured teenage frustration and desire in the late 1950s and early 1960s.[1] He experimented with multitrack recording and overdubbing even on his earliest singles,[2] and was also able to play piano, bass and drums.[1] His image as a sharply dressed and good-looking young man with a rebellious attitude epitomized the stance of the 50s rocker, and in death he achieved an iconic status.[3]

Cochran was born in Minnesota and moved with his family to California in the early 1950s. He was involved with music from an early age, playing in the school band and teaching himself to play blues guitar.[4] In 1955, he formed a duet with the guitarist Hank Cochran (no relation), and when they split the following year, Cochran began a song-writing career with Jerry Capehart. His first success came when he performed the song "Twenty Flight Rock" in the movie The Girl Can't Help It, starring Jayne Mansfield. Soon afterwards, Liberty Records signed him to a recording contract.

Cochran died aged 21 after a road accident, whilst travelling in a taxi in the town of Chippenham, Wiltshire, during his British tour in April 1960, having just performed at Bristol's Hippodrome theatre. Though his best-known songs were released during his lifetime, more of his songs were released posthumously. In 1987, Cochran was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His songs have been much covered by bands such as The Who, The Beach Boys, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Move, Dick Dale & his Del-Tones, Blue Cheer, Led Zeppelin, Rush, Humble Pie, Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Teenage Head, Tiger Army, UFO, The White Stripes, the Stray Cats, and the Sex Pistols.

Early life[edit]

Cochran was born in Albert Lea, Minnesota, as Edward Raymond Cochran.[2] His parents were from Oklahoma, and he always said in interviews that he was from Oklahoma. He took music lessons in school but quit the band to play drums. Also, rather than taking piano lessons, he began learning guitar, playing the country music he heard on the radio.

Music career[edit]

Early career (1953-1956)[edit]

In 1953, Cochran's family moved to Bell Gardens, California. As his guitar playing improved, he formed a band with two friends from his junior high school. He dropped out of Bell Gardens High School in his first year to become a professional musician.[5] During a show featuring many performers at an American Legion hall, he met Hank Cochran (later a country music songwriter). Although they were not related, they recorded as The Cochran Brothers and began performing together.[6] They recorded a few singles from Ekko that were not successful but helped to establish them as a performing act. Eddie Cochran also worked as a session musician and began writing songs, making a "demo" with Jerry Capehart, his future manager. In July 1956, Eddie Cochran's first solo single was released on the Crest label.[7] It featured the rocking "Skinny Jim" and is now regarded as a rockabilly classic. In the Summer of 1956, Boris Petroff asked Cochran if he would appear in the musical comedy film The Girl Can't Help It. He agreed and sang a song called "Twenty Flight Rock" that was featured in the movie.

Later career (1957–1960)[edit]

In 1957, Cochran starred in his second film, Untamed Youth, and also had his first hit, "Sittin' in the Balcony", one of the few songs he recorded that were written by other songwriters (in this case John D. Loudermilk). "Twenty Flight Rock" was written by AMI staff writer Ned Fairchild (a pen name, her real name is Nelda Fairchild). AMI granted Cochran a co-writer credit but no royalties,[citation needed] a common arrangement by which publishers move songs from demos to commercial recordings.[citation needed] This allowed Cochran to rewrite or add to the song to turn it into a rock and roll song. Fairchild, who was not a rock and roll performer, merely provided the initial form of the song, and the co-writing credit reflects Cochran's changes and contributions to the final product.

In November 1957, Liberty Records released Cochran's only album released during his lifetime, Singin' to My Baby. The album included Eddie's first hit "Sittin' in the Balcony". There were only a few rockers on this album, and Liberty seemed to want to move Cochran more into the pop music direction. In 1958, however, Cochran seemed to find his stride in the famous teenage anthem "Summertime Blues" (co-written with Jerry Capehart). With this song, Cochran was established as an important influence on music in the late 1950s, both lyrically and musically. The song, released on Liberty recording No. 55144, charted at No. 8 on August 25, 1958. Cochran's brief career included only a few more hits, such as "C'mon, Everybody", "Somethin' Else", "Teenage Heaven", and his posthumous UK number one hit "Three Steps to Heaven." Eddie Cochran remained popular in the UK throughout the 1960s and scored more posthumous hits such as "My Way", "Weekend" and "Nervous Breakdown".

Another aspect of Eddie's short but brilliant career is his work as backup musician and producer. He played guitar on tracks by Ray Stanley, Lee Denson, Baker Knight, Bob Denton, Galen Denny, Don Deal, Troyce Key, Mike Clifford, Paula Morgan, Jody Reynolds, Johnny Burnette, Wynn Stewart, Ernie Freeman, Elroy Peace, Derry Weaver, Eddie Daniels, Jewel Akens, John Ashley, Jack Lewis, Lynn Marshall, Jess Willard, The Holly Twins, Barry Martin and Al Casey.[7] In 1959 he played lead for Skeets McDonald at Columbia's studios for "You Oughta See Grandma Rock" and "Heart Breaking Mama". In a session for Gene Vincent in March 1958 he contributed his trademark low bass voice as heard on Summertime Blues. The recordings were issued on the album A Gene Vincent Record Date.[8]

In early 1959, two of Cochran's friends, Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens, along with the Big Bopper, were killed in a plane crash while on tour. Eddie's friends and family later said that he was badly shaken by their deaths, and he developed a morbid premonition that he would also die young. It was shortly after their deaths that he wrote and recorded a tribute to them called "Three Stars". He was anxious to give up life on the road and spend his time in the studio making music, thereby reducing the chance of suffering a similar fatal accident while touring. However, financial responsibilities required that he continue to perform live, and that led to his acceptance of an offer to tour the United Kingdom in 1960.

UK tour and death[edit]

Memorial plaque at Rowden Hill, Chippenham

On Saturday, April 16, 1960, at about 11.50 p.m., while on tour in the United Kingdom, 21-year-old Cochran died as a result of a traffic accident in a taxi (a Ford Consul, not, as widely reported, a London hackney carriage) traveling through Chippenham, Wiltshire, on the A4. The speeding taxi blew a tire, lost control, and crashed into a lamp post on Rowden Hill, where a plaque now marks the spot. No other car was involved.[9] Cochran, who was seated in the centre of the back seat, threw himself over his fiancée Sharon Sheeley, to shield her, and was thrown out of the car when the door flew open. He was taken to St. Martin's Hospital, Bath, where he died at 4:10 p.m. the following day of severe head injuries.[10] Cochran's body was flown home and his remains were buried on April 25, 1960, at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Cypress, California.[11]

Songwriter Sharon Sheeley and singer Gene Vincent survived the crash, Vincent sustaining lasting injuries to an already permanently damaged leg that would shorten his career and affect him for the rest of his life. The taxi driver, George Martin, was convicted of dangerous driving, fined £50, disqualified from driving for 15 years, and sentenced to prison for six months (although by some accounts he served no prison sentence).[12] His driving licence was reinstated in 1969. The car and other items from the crash were impounded at the local police station until a coroner's inquest could be held. David Harman, a police cadet at the station who would later become known as Dave Dee of the band Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich, taught himself to play guitar on Cochran's impounded Gretsch.[13] Earlier in the tour, the same guitar had been carried to the car for Cochran by a young fan, Mark Feld, who would later be known as Marc Bolan of T. Rex and would also die in a car crash.[14]

A memorial stone to commemorate Eddie Cochran can be found in the grounds of St Martin’s Hospital in Bath.[15] The stone was restored in 2010 (on the 50th anniversary of his death) and can be found in the old chapel grounds at the Hospital. A memorial plaque can also be found next to the sundial at the back of the old chapel.[16]

Posthumous releases and honors[edit]

A posthumous album, My Way, was released in 1964.

Cochran was a prolific performer, and the British label Rockstar Records has released more of his music posthumously than had been released during his life. The company is still looking for unpublished songs.

One of his posthumous releases was "Three Stars," a tribute to J.P. Richardson, better known as The Big Bopper, and Eddie's friends Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens, who had all died together in a plane crash just one year earlier. Written just hours after the tragedy by disc jockey Tommy Dee, it was recorded by Cochran two days later (Dee recorded his own version several weeks later). His voice broke during the spoken lyrics about Valens and Holly.

In 1987, Cochran was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.[17] His pioneering contribution to the genre of rockabilly has also been recognized by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. Several of his songs have been rereleased since his death, such as "C'mon Everybody," which was a number 14 hit in 1988 in the UK. Rolling Stone ranked him number 84 on their 2003 list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time.

Cochran's life is chronicled in several publications, including Don’t Forget Me—The Eddie Cochran Story, written by Julie Mundy and Darrel Higham (ISBN 0-8230-7931-7), and Three Steps to Heaven, written by Bobby Cochran (ISBN 0-634-03252-6).

On June 2, 2008, The Very Best of Eddie Cochran was released by EMI Records.

Style and influence[edit]

One of the first rock and roll artists to write his own songs and overdub tracks, Cochran is credited also with being one of the first to use an unwound third string in order to "bend" notes up a whole tone—an innovation (imparted to UK guitarist Joe Brown, who secured much session work as a result) that has since become an essential part of the standard rock guitar vocabulary. Artists such as The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Van Halen, Tom Petty, Rod Stewart, Motörhead, Humble Pie, Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, Lemmy Kilmister, The Head Cat, The Damned, UFO (band), T. Rex, Stray Cats, Brian Setzer, Cliff Richard, The Who, The Beach Boys, The Beatles, Blue Cheer, Led Zeppelin, The White Stripes, The Sex Pistols, Rush, Buck Owens, Tiger Army, Dion, Simple Minds, Guitar Wolf, Paul McCartney, Alan Jackson, Keith Richards & The X-Pensive Winos, and Jimi Hendrix have covered his songs.

It was because Paul McCartney knew the chords and words to "Twenty Flight Rock" that he became a member of The Beatles. John Lennon was so impressed that he invited Paul to play with his band The Quarrymen. Jimi Hendrix performed "Summertime Blues" early in his career, and Pete Townshend of The Who was heavily influenced by Cochran's guitar style ("Summertime Blues" was a Who live staple at one time and is featured on their Live at Leeds album). Glam rock artist Marc Bolan had his main Les Paul model refinished in a transparent orange to resemble the Gretsch 6120 guitar played by Cochran, who was his music hero.[18] He was also a heavy influence on the nascent rockabilly guitar legend Brian Setzer from Stray Cats, who plays a 6120 almost like Cochran, whom he portrayed in the film La Bamba. Cochran is easily one of the first musicians, alongside Chuck Berry, whom the late Rory Gallagher was always quick to mention as a strong influence on his musical taste and performance.

In 1988 "C'mon Everybody" was used by Levi Strauss & Co. in an advertisement to promote its 501 Jeans catalogue and rereleased as a promotional single, hitting No. 14 in the UK charts. The advertisement told a story of how the narrator, Sharon Sheeley, attracted Cochran by wearing her 501s.

Wayne Smith's Jamaican riddim "Under Me Sleng Teng" was an attempt to recreate a riff from "Somethin' Else". It is widely considered to have sparked the digital reggae revolution.[citation needed]

Guitars[edit]

When playing with Hank Cochran, Eddie Cochran played a Gibson L-4C archtop acoustic guitar with a florentine cutaway and a DeArmond 'Rhythm Chief' pickup, which can be clearly seen in the Cochran Brothers publicity photograph.

Later, Cochran moved to a 1955 Gretsch 6120 Chet Atkins G-brand Western model, which Eddie had modified. He replaced the neck position De Armond Dynasonic pickup with a black covered Gibson P-90 pickup. He also used Martin acoustic guitars.

Filmography[edit]

YearFilmRoleDistributor
1956The Girl Can't Help Itas himself20th Century Fox
1957Untamed YouthBongWarner Bros.
1959Go, Johnny Go!as himselfHal Roach Productions

Discography[edit]

Chart positions are from the Billboard Hot 100.

U.S. singles[edit]

U.S. albums[edit]

UK albums[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Eddie Cochran Biography". The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Retrieved 2010-07-20. 
  2. ^ a b Bobby Cochran and Susan Van Hecke (2003). Three Steps to Heaven — The Eddie Cochran Story. Hal Leonard Corporation. Retrieved 2013-09-02. 
  3. ^ "allmusic ((( Eddie Cochran > Biography )))". www.allmusic.com. Retrieved 2010-07-20. 
  4. ^ Three steps to heaven: the Eddie ... - Google Books. books.google.com. Retrieved 2010-07-20. 
  5. ^ "Eddie Cochran". Gretsch Guitars. Retrieved 9 July 2012. 
  6. ^ Rockabilly HoF
  7. ^ a b The Eddie Cochran Story on Big Jamboree
  8. ^ Eddie Cochran's Sessions on Remember Eddie Cochran Retrieved 26 May 2013
  9. ^ Scott Stanton, The tombstone tourist: musicians, page 52. Simon and Schuster, 2003, ISBN 0743463307. Retrieved 2010-07-21. 
  10. ^ "Certified copy of an entry of death: Edward Ray Cochran". County Borough of Bath. 1960-07-02. Retrieved 2014-01-30. 
  11. ^ Bobby Cochran with Susan Van Hecke, Three Steps to Heaven: The Eddie Cochran Story, page 203, Milwaukee, Wisc., Hal Leonard 2003, ISBN 0-634-03252-6
  12. ^ Eddie Cochran's Dark Lonely Street on Remember Eddie Cochran
  13. ^ Ian Kimmet (9 October 2001). "Seance with a gretsch g 6120". 
  14. ^ "Marc Bolan". www.hackney.gov.uk. Retrieved 2010-07-20. 
  15. ^ All sizes | Eddie Cochran Memorial Plaque at St. Martin's Hospital in Bath | Flickr - Photo Sharing!. Flickr. Retrieved on 2013-02-13.
  16. ^ "Remembering Eddie Cochran". The Bath Chronicle. 19 April 2012. Retrieved 9 September 2012.  – via HighBeam Research (subscription required)
  17. ^ Rock and Roll HOF bio
  18. ^ Bacon, Tony. 50 Years of the Gibson Les Paul. Backbeat Books. p. 71. ISBN 0-87930-711-0. 
  19. ^ a b CD liner notes: Eddie Cochran, Singin' To My baby & Never To be Forgotten, 1993 EMI Records
Bibliography