Gene Vincent

Last updated

Gene Vincent
Gene Vincent photo.jpg
Vincent in 1957
Born
Vincent Eugene Craddock

(1935-02-11)February 11, 1935
DiedOctober 12, 1971(1971-10-12) (aged 36)
OccupationSinger, songwriter
Spouse(s)
Ruth Ann Hand
(m. 1956;div. 1956)
Darlene Hicks
(m. 1958;div. 1961)
Margaret Russell
(m. 1963;div. 1965)
Jackie Frisco
(m. 1966)
[1]
Musical career
Genres
Instruments
  • Vocals
  • guitar
Years active1955–1971
Labels
Military service
AllegianceFlag of the United States.svg  United States
Service/branchFlag of the United States Navy (official).svg  Navy
Years of service1952–1955
Rank E3 SM USN.png Seaman
Battles/wars Korean War
Awards U.S. Navy Good Conduct Medal ribbon.svg Good Conduct Medal
National Defense Service Medal ribbon.svg National Defense Service Medal
Korean Service Medal ribbon.svg Korean Service Medal
United Nations Medal ribbon.svg United Nations Medal
Presidential Unit Citation (South Korea).svg Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation [2]

Vincent Eugene Craddock (February 11, 1935 – October 12, 1971), known as Gene Vincent, was an American musician who pioneered the styles of rock and roll and rockabilly. [3] His 1956 top ten hit with his Blue Caps, "Be-Bop-a-Lula", is considered a significant early example of rockabilly. [4] He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. He is sometimes referred to by his somewhat unusual nickname/moniker The Screaming End. [5]

Contents

Biography

Early life

Craddock was born February 11, 1935, in Norfolk, Virginia, [3] to Mary Louise and Ezekiah Jackson Craddock. [6] His musical influences included country, rhythm and blues, and gospel. His favorite composition was Beethoven's Egmont overture. He showed his first real interest in music while his family lived in Munden Point (now Virginia Beach), in Princess Anne County, Virginia, near the North Carolina line, where they ran a country store. He received his first guitar at the age of twelve as a gift from a friend.

Vincent's father volunteered to serve in the U.S. Coast Guard and patrolled American coastal waters to protect Allied shipping against German U-boats during World War II. Vincent's mother maintained the general store in Munden Point. His parents moved the family to Norfolk, the home of a large naval base, and opened a general store and sailors' tailoring shop.

Vincent dropped out of school in 1952, at the age of seventeen, and enlisted in the United States Navy. As he was under the age of enlistment, his parents signed the forms allowing him to enter. He completed boot camp and joined the fleet as a crewman aboard the fleet oiler USS Chukawan, with a two-week training period in the repair ship USS Amphion, before returning to the Chukawan. He never saw combat but completed a Korean War deployment. He sailed home from Korean waters aboard the battleship USS Wisconsin but was not part of the ship's company.

Craddock planned a career in the Navy and, in 1955, used his $612 re-enlistment bonus to buy a new Triumph motorcycle. On July 4, 1955, while he was in Norfolk, his left leg was shattered in an auto crash. [7] He refused to allow the leg to be amputated, and the leg was saved, but the injury left him with a limp and pain. He wore a steel sheath around the leg [8] for the rest of his life. Most accounts relate the accident as the fault of a drunk driver who struck him, but some claim Craddock had been riding drunk. Years later in some of his music biographies, there is no mention of an accident, but it was claimed that his injury was due to a wound incurred in combat in Korea. [9] He spent time in the Portsmouth Naval Hospital and was medically discharged from the Navy shortly thereafter. [3]

Early music career

Craddock became involved in the local music scene in Norfolk. He changed his name to Gene Vincent and formed a rockabilly band, Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps (a term used in reference to enlisted sailors in the U.S. Navy). [10] The band included Willie Williams on rhythm guitar (replaced in late 1956 by Paul Peek), Jack Neal on upright bass, Dickie Harrell on drums, and Cliff Gallup on lead guitar. [3] He also collaborated with another rising musician, Jay Chevalier of Rapides Parish, Louisiana. Vincent and His Blue Caps soon gained a reputation playing in various country bars in Norfolk. There they won a talent contest organized by a local radio DJ, "Sheriff Tex" Davis, who then became Vincent's manager. [11]

Biggest hits

In 1956 he wrote "Be-Bop-a-Lula", which drew comparisons to Elvis Presley [4] and which Rolling Stone magazine later listed as number 103 on its "500 Greatest Songs of All Time". [12] Local radio DJ "Sheriff Tex" Davis arranged for a demo of the song to be made, and this secured Vincent a contract with Capitol Records. [3] He signed a publishing contract with Bill Lowery of the Lowery Group of music publishers in Atlanta, Georgia. "Be-Bop-a-Lula" was not on Vincent's first album and was picked by Capitol producer Ken Nelson as the B-side of his first single, "Woman Love". Prior to the release of the single, Lowery pressed promotional copies of "Be-Bop-a-Lula" and sent them to radio stations throughout the country. By the time Capitol released the single, "Be-Bop-a-Lula" had already gained attention from the public and radio DJs. The song was picked up and played by other U.S. radio stations (obscuring the original A-side song) and became a hit, peaking at number 7 and spending 20 weeks on the Billboard pop chart [13] and reaching number 5 and spending 17 weeks on the Cash Box chart, [14] and launching Vincent's career as a rock-and-roll star. [15]

After "Be-Bop-a-Lula" became a hit, Vincent and His Blue Caps were unable to follow it up with the same level of commercial success, although they released critically acclaimed songs like "Race with the Devil" (number 96 on the Billboard chart and number 50 on the Cash Box chart) and "Bluejean Bop" (number 49 on the Billboard chart and another million-selling disc). [16]

Cliff Gallup left the band in 1956, and Russell Williford joined as the new guitarist for the Blue Caps. Williford played and toured Canada with Vincent in late 1956 but left the group in early 1957. Gallup came back to do the next album and then left again. Williford came back and exited again before Johnny Meeks joined the band. [17] [18] The group had another hit in 1957 with "Lotta Lovin'" (highest position number 13 and spending 19 weeks on the Billboard chart and number 17 and 17 weeks on the Cashbox chart). Vincent was awarded gold records for two million sales of "Be-Bop-a-Lula", [16] and 1.5 million sales of "Lotta Lovin'".[ citation needed ] The same year he toured the east coast of Australia with Little Richard and Eddie Cochran, drawing audiences totaling 72,000 to their Sydney Stadium concerts. Vincent also made an appearance in the film The Girl Can't Help It , with Jayne Mansfield, performing "Be-Bop-a-Lula" with the Blue Caps in a rehearsal room. [3] "Dance to the Bop" was released by Capitol Records on October 28, 1957. [19] On November 17, 1957, Vincent and His Blue Caps performed the song on the nationally broadcast television program The Ed Sullivan Show. [20] The song spent nine weeks on the Billboard chart and peaked at number 23 on January 23, 1958 and reached number 36 and spent eight weeks on the Cashbox chart. It was Vincent's last American hit single. [21] The song was used in the movie Hot Rod Gang for a dance rehearsal scene featuring dancers doing the West Coast Swing. [19] [22] [23]

Vincent and His Blue Caps also appeared several times on Town Hall Party , California's largest country music barn dance, held at the Town Hall in Compton, California. [24] Vincent and His Blue Caps appeared on October 25, 1958, and July 25 and November 7, 1959. [25]

Europe

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 Vincent to leave the United States for Europe. [26]

On December 15, 1959, Vincent appeared on Jack Good's TV show, Boy Meets Girl, his first appearance in England. He wore black leather, gloves, and a medallion, and stood in a hunched posture. [3] Good is credited with the transformation of Vincent's image. [3] After the TV appearance he toured France, the Netherlands, Germany and the UK performing in his US stage clothes. [27]

On April 16, 1960, while on tour in the UK, Vincent, Eddie Cochran and the songwriter Sharon Sheeley were involved in a high-speed traffic accident in a private-hire taxi in Chippenham, Wiltshire. Vincent broke his ribs and collarbone and further damaged his weakened leg. [3] Sheeley suffered a broken pelvis. Cochran, who had been thrown from the vehicle, suffered serious brain injuries and died the next day. Vincent returned to the United States after the accident.[ citation needed ]

Promoter Don Arden had Vincent return to the UK in 1961 to do an extensive tour in theatres and ballrooms, [3] including the Agincourt Ballroom, Camberley [28] with Chris Wayne and the Echoes. In 1962 Vincent was on the same bill as the Beatles in Hamburg; McCartney recalled an incident with a pistol at Vincent girlfriend's Hotel. [28] In 1963 Vincent appeared in court for pointing a gun at his then wife Margaret Russell and threatening to kill her, though his wife said in court that she had forgiven him. [29] After the overwhelming success of the UK tour, Vincent moved to Britain in 1963. On a UK tour Vincent had pulled a gun on Jet Harris, Harris hid behind John Leyton, the situation was defused and the three would later become friends. [30] His accompanying band, Sounds Incorporated, a six-piece outfit with three saxophones, guitar, bass and drums, went on to play with the Beatles at their Shea Stadium concert. Vincent toured the UK again in 1963 with the Outlaws, featuring future Deep Purple guitar player Ritchie Blackmore, as a backing band. Vincent's alcohol problems marred the tour, resulting in problems both on stage and with the band and management. [31]

Later career

Vincent's attempts to re-establish his American career in folk rock and country rock proved unsuccessful; he is remembered today for recordings of the 1950s and early 1960s released by Capitol Records. [3] In the early 1960s, he also put out tracks on EMI's Columbia label, including a cover of Arthur Alexander's "Where Have You Been All My Life?" A backing band called the Shouts joined him.

Gene Vincent 1967 Genevincent015e.jpg
Gene Vincent 1967

In 1966 and 1967, in the United States, he recorded for Challenge Records, backed by ex-members of the Champs and Glen Campbell. Challenge released three singles in the US, and the UK London label released two singles and collected recordings on to an LP, Gene Vincent, on the UK London label in 1967. Although well received, none sold well. In 1968 in a hotel in Germany, Vincent tried to shoot Gary Glitter. He fired several shots but missed and a frightened Glitter left the country the next day. [32]

In 1969, he recorded the album I'm Back and I'm Proud for long-time fan John Peel's Dandelion Records, [3] produced by Kim Fowley with arrangements by Skip Battin (of the Byrds), Mars Bonfire on rhythm guitar, Johnny Meeks (of Blue Caps and Merle Haggard's The Strangers) on lead guitar, Jim Gordon on drums, and backing vocals by Linda Ronstadt and Jackie Frisco. [33] While recording the track "Sexy Ways" for the album Vincent threatened to get a gun from his car and shoot Paul A. Rothchild and John Densmore if they did not leave the studio; the pair then left the studio quickly. [34] He recorded two other albums for Kama Sutra Records, reissued on one CD by Rev-Ola in March 2008. On his 1969 tour of the UK he was backed by the Wild Angels, a British band that had performed at the Royal Albert Hall with Bill Haley & His Comets and Duane Eddy. Because of pressure from his ex-wife Margaret Russell, the Inland Revenue and promoter Don Arden, Vincent returned to the US. [35]

His final US recordings were four tracks for Rockin' Ronny Weiser's Rolling Rock label, a few weeks before his death. These were released on a compilation album of tribute songs, including "Say Mama", by his daughter, Melody Jean Vincent, accompanied by Johnny Meeks on guitar. On 19 September 1971, he began his last series of gigs in Britain. [36] He was backed by Richard Cole and Kansas Hook (Dave Bailey, Bob Moore, and bass player Charlie Harrison from Poco and Roger McGuinn's Thunderbyrd). They recorded four tracks (Say Mama, Be-Bop-A-Lula, Roll Over Beethoven, Distant Drums ) at the BBC studios in Maida Vale, London, for Johnnie Walker's Radio 1 show. The fifth record ( Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On ) remained unfinished. [37] He managed one show at the Garrick Night Club in Leigh, Lancashire, and two shows at the Wookey Hollow Club in Liverpool on October 3 and 4. Vincent then returned to the US and died a few days later. In September, 1974, BBC launched pop label BEEB with a maxi single by Vincent (Roll Over Beethoven, BEEB 001). The single comprised three of these tracks. [38] The four tracks are now on Vincent's album White Lightning.[ citation needed ]

Death

Vincent died at the age of 36 on October 12, 1971, from a combination of a ruptured ulcer, internal haemorrhage and heart failure, while visiting his father in Saugus, California. [36] [39] [40] He is interred at Eternal Valley Memorial Park, in Newhall, California.

Ian Dury paid tribute with the 1976 song "Sweet Gene Vincent".

Robert Gordon paid tribute with the song "The Catman" on his "Rock Billy Boogie" LP.

French rock n' roller Eddy Mitchell paid homage with the 1979 song "Good Bye Gene Vincent".

The rockabilly band Stray Cats also paid homage to Vincent, alongside Eddie Cochran, in their single "Gene and Eddie".

Legacy

Vincent was the first inductee into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame upon its formation in 1997. [41] The following year he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. [42] Vincent has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1749 North Vine Street. [43] [44] In 2012, his band, the Blue Caps, were retroactively inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by a special committee, alongside Vincent. [45] [46] On Tuesday, September 23, 2003, Vincent was honored with a Norfolk's Legends of Music Walk of Fame bronze star embedded in the Granby Street sidewalk. [47] [48]

Writing for AllMusic, Ritchie Unterberger called Vincent "an American rockabilly legend who defined the greasy-haired, leather-jacketed, hot rods 'n' babes spark of rock and roll." [49] Village Voice critic Robert Christgau was less impressed by the musician's career, saying "Vincent was never a titan – his few moments of rockabilly greatness were hyped-up distillations of slavering lust from a sensitive little guy who was just as comfortable with 'Over the Rainbow' in his normal frame of mind." However, he included Vincent's compilation album The Bop That Just Won't Stop (1974) in his "basic record library", published in Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies (1981). [50]

Discography

Singles

YearTitles (A-side, B-side)
Both sides from same album except where indicated
US singleUK singlePeak chart positionsUS album
US UK
1956"Be-Bop-a-Lula"
b/w "Woman Love"
Capitol 3450Capitol 14599716Gene Vincent's Greatest!
"Race with the Devil"
b/w "Gonna Back Up Baby" (non-album track)
Capitol 3530Capitol 146289628
"Blue Jean Bop"
b/w "Who Slapped John"
Capitol 3558Capitol 1463716Bluejean Bop
"Jumps, Giggles and Shouts"
b/w "Wedding Bells"
N/ACapitol 14681
1957"Crazy Legs"
b/w "Important Words"
Capitol 3617Capitol 14693The Bop That Just Won't Stop (1956)
"B-I-Bickey-Bi, Bo-Bo-Go"
b/w "Five Days" (non-album track)
Capitol 3617Capitol 14693
"Lotta Lovin'"
b/w "Wear My Ring" (non-album track)
Capitol 3763Capitol 1476313Gene Vincent's Greatest!
"Dance to the Bop"
b/w "I Got It"
Capitol 3839Capitol 1480823Non-album tracks
1958"I Got a Baby"
b/w "Walkin' Home from School"
Capitol 3874Capitol 14830
"Baby Blue"
b/w "True to You"
Capitol 3959Capitol 14868
"Rocky Road Blues"
b/w "Yes I Love You Baby" (from Gene Vincent's Greatest!)
Capitol 4010Capitol 14908
"Git It"
b/w "Little Lover" (from Gene Vincent's Greatest!)
Capitol 4051Capitol 14935A Gene Vincent Record Date
"Say Mama"
b/w "Be Bop Boogie Boy"
Capitol 4105Capitol 14974Non-album tracks
1959"Over the Rainbow"
b/w "Who's Pushing Your Swing"
Capitol 4153Capitol 15000Gene Vincent's Greatest!
"Summertime"
b/w "Frankie and Johnnie" (from Gene Vincent Rocks! And the Blue Caps Roll)
N/ACapitol 15035A Gene Vincent Record Date
"The Night Is So Lonely"
b/w "Right Now"
Capitol 4237Capitol 15053Non-album tracks
1960"Wild Cat"
b/w "Right Here on Earth"
Capitol 4313Capitol 1509921
"My Heart"
b/w "I Got to Get You Yet"
N/ACapitol 1511516Sounds Like Gene Vincent
"Pistol Packin' Mama"
US B-side: "Anna Annabelle"
UK B-side: "Weeping Willow"
Capitol 4442Capitol 1513615Non-album tracks
"Anna Annabelle"
b/w "Accentuate the Positive" (from Crazy Times)
N/ACapitol 15169
1961"Jezebel"
b/w "Maybe" (from Sounds Like Gene Vincent)
N/ACapitol 15179Bluejean Bop
"If You Want My Lovin'"
b/w "Mister Loneliness"
Capitol 4525Capitol 15185Non-album tracks
"She She Little Sheila"
b/w "Hot Dollar"
N/ACapitol 1520222Crazy Times
"I'm Going Home"
b/w "Love of a Man"
N/ACapitol 1521536Non-album tracks
"Brand New Beat"
b/w "Unchained Melody" (from Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps)
N/ACapitol 15231Gene Vincent Rocks! And the Blue Caps Roll
"Lucky Star"
b/w "Baby Don't Believe Him"
Capitol 4665Capitol 15243Non-album tracks
1962"Be-Bop-A-Lula '62"
b/w "King of Fools"
N/ACapitol 15264
1963"Held for Questioning"
b/w "You're Still in My Heart"
N/ACapitol 15290
"Crazy Beat"
b/w "High Blood Pressure"
N/ACapitol 15307
"Where Have You Been All My Life"
b/w "Temptation Baby"
N/AColumbia 7174
1964"Humpity Dumpity"
b/w "A Love 'Em and Leave 'Em Kinda Guy"
N/AColumbia 7218
"La Den Da Den Da Da"
b/w "The Beginning of the End"
N/AColumbia 7293
"Private Detective"
b/w "You Are My Sunshine"
N/AColumbia 7343
1966"Bird Doggin'"
b/w "Ain't That Too Much"
Challenge 59337London 10079
"Lonely Street"
b/w "I've Got My Eyes on You"
Challenge 59347London 10099
1967"Born to Be a Rolling Stone"
b/w "Hurtin' for You Baby"
Challenge 59365N/A
1969"Be-Bop-A-Lula '69"
b/w "Ruby Baby"
N/ADandelion 4596I'm Back and I'm Proud
"Story of the Rockers"
b/w "Pickin' Poppies"
Playground 100
Forever 6001
Spark 1091Non-album tracks
1970"White Lightning"
b/w "Scarlet Ribbons"
N/ADandelion 4974I'm Back and I'm Proud
"Sunshine"
b/w "Geese"
Kama Sutra 514N/AGene Vincent
"The Day The World Turned Blue"
US B-side: "How I Love Them Old Songs"
UK B-side: "High On Life"
Kama Sutra 518Kama Sutra 2013 018The Day the World Turned Blue

Albums

This list omits the many reissue albums released over the decades.

EPs

(NB This listing omits the many EPs of album tracks & compilations)

Film appearances

Vincent was played by Carl Barât in the 2009 film Telstar

Bibliography

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