Gene Vincent - one of the original bad boys of rock and roll, and my personal favourite, born Vincent Eugene Craddock, on the 11 Feb 1935 at Norfolk Virginia died 12 October 1971.
In May 1956 "Be Bop A Lula" stormed the charts, Gene was backed by his band “The Blue Caps“. His first UK show was at Tooting Granada on 6 Dec 1959. The show was already touring, headlined by Marty Wilde and Gene was slotted in to finish the first half backed by Joe Brown. He limped on stage (he had hurt his leg in a motorbike accident, July 1955, which had left his leg permanently damaged).
A gaunt and frail figure, his act that evening was sensational. The audience were stunned by the excitement and the animal – like ferocity of it. Of all the rock and rollers who had visited the UK up to this point, none (with the possible exception of Jerry Lee) could be compared to this dangerous, uncontrolled, yet incredibly exhilarating performer. Gene Vincent was here to stay and would return many, many times to keep the rock and roll flames burning brightly.
I first saw him on 6 Jan 1960 at Maidstone Granada and from the moment he came on stage, grabbed the microphone, rolled his eyes to the skies – nothing was quite the same again! I then saw him on 13 Feb 1960 at Woolwich Granada when he was touring with Eddie Cochran, they were old friends appearing in the 1956 film “The Girl Can’t Help It“. Pairing them together as headliners on a touring rock and roll show was an inspiration, box offices were besieged for tickets and “house full“ notices went up over the country. Eddie’s rock and roll classic “Somethin’Else“ had just been in the charts.
Sadly Eddie Cochran died in a car crash, heading back to the airport, to take a short break before resuming their tour, Gene was also in the car and suffered injuries. Despite these he decided to continue with the tour and I saw this never to be forgotten rock and roll moment on 1 May 1960 at Lewisham Gaumont. He had Jerry Keller with him (no one could replace Eddie) but Jerry (Here Comes Summer) Keller did a nice job in a very difficult situation. He announced that he was soon to be drafted into the American army (never heard of him since) – does any one know what happened to him?
Gene looked far from well, he had on a tartan suit (not his usual iconic black leathers) cut to the knee so that the plaster cast on his leg would fit. He went through his well known songs and then, sitting down on the edge of the stage with his legs hanging over it he made a touching tribute to “my great friend Eddie“ and said “this is for you Eddie“ and proceeded to sing “Somewhere Over The Rainbow“. Not a dry eye in the house. He left to a standing ovation. Truly not a moment to have missed.
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