Eddie Cochran was just 21 when he died in a car accident on April 17th 1960. He was travelling with Pat Thompkins (Tour manager), Gene Vincent and Eddie’s girlfriend Sharon Sheeley in a hired Ford Consul car from Bristol to London (Heathrow Airport) on the A4 when the driver lost control near Chippenham. Both Eddie and Sharon were badly injured and taken to St. Martin’s Hospital in Bath. The next day, Easter Sunday, Eddie lost his life but Sharon and Gene Vincent, who was also injured, made complete recoveries. Amazingly, Pat Thompkins, who was in the front passenger seat and the taxi driver George Martin were uninjured and later Martin, despite excessive speeding, only received a £50 fine and a driving ban.
I have long recognised how lucky I was to be a teenager at the time of a cultural revolution in music. The birth of Rock ‘n Roll, later to become Rock music evolved in the mid 1950’s and developed throughout the 1960’s to give us the basis of most modern music today. The roots lay primarily in ‘Rhythm and Blues’ Gospel, Jazz and Blues and emanated from the deep South of America where Black music was suppressed until underground radio stations began playing and exposing it to the world. Pioneers like Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard and Chuck Berry were hugely responsible for letting the cat out of the bag. The electric guitar, amplification of sound, emerging independent record companies and the advent of 45rpm records all developed during this period. The simultaneous deaths of Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper and Richie Valens in a plane crash in 1959 impacted heavily on the American Rock and Roll scene.
But Bob Dylan and the folk era emerged and then came the Beatles in 1961 who continued the evolution and development of music accompanied by the explosion throughout the 1960’s of many legendary British musicians and the super-groups. With improving technology and sound systems, highly skilled and many self-taught musicians took Rock and Blues music to new heights. It is a testament to their talent, skill and endurance that many from that era are still producing and performing wonderful music today. BB King, Eric Clapton, then Robert Plant and Jimi Page from Led Zeppelin, David Gilmour and Roger Waters from Pink Floyd, Paul Rodgers from Free to name but a few. Let’s not forget some of the other greats that left us too early – Jimi Hendrix, Paul Kossof, Otis Redding, Brian Jones, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, Mama Cass and Stevie Ray Vaughan were just a few whose lives ended young but who all had a major influence on the music of their generation. Now we have new influencers and guitar virtuosos like Joe Bonamassa perpetuating and building on the foundations of their heroes.
Eddie was born in 1938 and in his short career he became a rock ‘n roll star in the same era as Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Gene Vincent and other legends of that period. He was an accomplished guitarist with none of the modern technology and, unusual for the time, he wrote his own songs. For one so young he influenced many of his peers and other budding musicians in a time when, unaware, we were witnessing a music revolution. His many hit songs included ‘Three Steps to Heaven’, ‘Com’on Everybody’ and ‘Summertime Blues’. That last fateful night at the Bristol Hippodrome, Eddie was second on the bill to Gene Vincent but for me, a 17 year old fan in the audience, he was unquestionably the star turn. Access to Rock ‘n Roll artists wasn’t the same as it is today and British fans never had the chance to see Elvis perform as he never toured Europe. But many inside and outside the business believed he had a greater influence and may well have been a bigger star.
I remember how well I impressed my very first girlfriend, both of us just out of school, because I had managed to get us tickets for the show. We lived at opposite ends of the City and had to travel by bus to meet each other outside the Hippodrome. I was there first and was on tenterhooks, for what seemed like an eternity, worrying that she might not show up. But of course I was very cool and she never suspected a thing! I wonder where she is now, 53 years later, that bright, blue-eyed, curvaceous, blonde bombshell with the vibrant and captivating personality. Maybe curled up in front of a roaring fire surrounded by ten grandchildren, reading this story and reminiscing. How the mind can play tricks when one is in the seventh age of man. 2013 was the 75th anniversary of Eddie’s birth.