GENE VINCENT, born Vincent Eugene Craddock in Norfolk Virginia, was truly the Wild Man that the media was making out all the new Rockers, including Elvis, out to be. He joined the Navy at 17 and was Ship-Board throughout most of the Korean War with plenty of time to improve his guitar playing and songwriting. In 1952 he used his Re-enlistment Bonus, $612.00, to buy a new Triumph Motorcycle, which a few years later he crashed shattering his left leg.
When the Doctors told him they were amputating the leg, he refused and kept the leg, but with almost constant pain and a limp. In order to walk he had metal sheath made to support him (I went into this detail because when he entered the stage in top to toe Black Leather dragging his leg along, you knew that this was one Bad-Ass Rocker.
In 1956 he wrote his signature song, "Be-Bop-A-Lula," and signed with Capitol Records. The song was used as the B Side of Gene's first single, but his publisher's, Bill Lowrey's Group, knew that "Be Bop" was a smash and sent out demos of that song to the nation's deejays before Capitol sent the single selected from the album he had just cut and that did not contain what would be his one and only hit, Be-Bop-A-Lula.
Gene Vincent scored a #5 hit on the Billboard Chart and lasted 20 weeks, selling a Million Copies and earning a Gold Record Award; but more importantly making him and his band "The Blue Caps" instantly famous. They would have several more chart records and get a lot of radio and jukebox play, but never another song that successful. In 1959 Vincent got in trouble with the Government over non-payment of taxes, and the Musicians Union for not paying dues, so he sold the Band's equipment and moved to Europe.
He was a sensation there, no one had ever seen as rough looking a dude before with such a pretty voice, and the young cats, like Paul McCartney (whose first record purchase was Be-Bop-A-Lula), started greasing their hair and wearing Black Leather.
I'm going to leave the story there, but you can read more on Gene and the tragedy with Eddie Cochran on an early blog post. I looked at videos for Be-Bop-A-Lula, but none had the quality of this great clip Scott found of Gene doing two more of his songs, "Bluejean Bop and Sexy Ways," with Joe Moretti on Lead Guitar, Vince Cooze on Bass and Red Reece on drums playing Live on RAI TV, in Italy. The picture and sound are excellent.
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