Eddie Cochran: the forgotten rock ’n’ roll pioneer who died too young

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In terms of rock and roll, the Hall of Fame is a large list of visionaries who took post-war music to new levels. Influencing everyone that followed, those who dared to rebel became heroes and most went on to enjoy their success as they saw their music blossom and the Beat Generation take up the baton.

Among the few innovators who did not live long enough to enjoy old age and the generations applaud was Eddie Cochran. Seen only fleetingly on film his influence nonetheless has survived. It was Eddie’s Twenty Flight Rock that Paul McCartney played to John as his audition into the band. Yet little was known about this young rocker who died so young.

His parents had preserved his room just as he left it with photos and unfinished songs intact and had the whole house put into storage until 2021 when the rent had lapsed. A sale of the contents ended up in the UK when bought by Elvis fan and musician Sonny West. Author Lee Bullman has lovingly published Eddie Cochran In Person (Omnibus Press, £30), a full colour large format hardback A4 book telling the story of an icon and how this collection came to light.

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The illustrations and photos are extensive and give a greater insight than any biography before. Eddie had recorded as the Cochran Bros until April 1956 although they were not related but after his first solo hit, Sittin’ In The Balcony was added to the big Rock & Roll movie The Girl Can’t Help It which also featured Gene Vincent and Little Richard on the title song.

Eddie Cochran signing autographs for fans (Pic: Submitted)Eddie Cochran signing autographs for fans (Pic: Submitted)
Eddie Cochran signing autographs for fans (Pic: Submitted)

As a showcase for the new platinum blonde Jayne Mansfield, it was a hit across America and here in the UK. With iconic singles in the can like Cut Across Shorty, C’mon Everybody and Summertime Blues a British tour was organised in January 1960 and TV appearances on Jack Good’s Boy Meets Girls. With Gene Vincent headlining and Vince Eager opening they played a riotous sold-out show at the Caird Hall Dundee on February 20, 1960. Rock shows were banned here for two years after that. In April after playing the Bristol Hippodrome Eddie hired a taxi to take him to London airport to fly home. The Ford Consul was speeding, burst a tyre and hit a concrete lamppost. In the back gene Vincent and Eddie’s fiancé Sharon Sheeley suffered severe injuries but Cochran had bleeding on the brain and did not survive. He was just 21 and his next release Three Steps To Heaven soared to be his only UK number one.

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