Eugene Craddock was born in 1935 in Norfolk, Virginia. His family
moved to Muden Point, Virginia when he was seven. Vincent began
playing the guitar at an early age. Hearing the Grand Ole Opry on the
radio and gospel music of the local black churches; he played with
neighborhood black musicians on the porch of his parents' country store.
After six years the Vicents moved back to Norfolk, and in 1952 at the
age of 17 and in the ninth grade, his father signed papers
allowing him to join the U.S.Navy.
In May, 1955, after signing up for another
six years, Vincent was in a motorcycle accident that shattered his left
shinbone. The injury would never heal properly and he spent the rest of
the year in a brace. While in Veteran's Hospital in Portsmouth, Virginia
Vincent wiled away the hours playing the guitar. It was here that he
paid a patient, Don Graves, twenty five dollars for a song he had
written "Be-Bop-A-Lula" that was about a local stripper.
Back in Norfolk, Gene Vincent as he now
called himself tried to catch on as a country singer. Spending his spare
time at WCMS, the local country radio station, he auditioned for
"Country Showtime" the station's live show hosted by
"Sheriff" Tex Davis. Billed as Gene Craddock and the
Virginians, Vincent became a local recording star singing in live shows
and radio. Davis became his manager and bought co-author's rights to
"Be-Bop-A-Lula" for twenty five dollars.
Seeing the popularity
of Elvis at the time Davis and his partners formed the Blue Caps around
Vincent and sent a demo to Ken Davis Capitol's A&R man. In April,
1956 a recording contract was signed with Capitol Records.
The A side of his first single was
"Woman Love". A wild and breathless song. Because of Gene's
breathy style of delivery the lines...
"I'm looking for a
With a one track mind
Just a kissin' and a smoochin'
And a huggin' all the time"
...were misinterpreted as being obscene.
The D.J.'s flipped the single and found a song written about comic strip
character Little Lulu. The song was "Be Bop A Lula" which
became Gene Vincent & The Blue Caps biggest hit.
It's rumoured that Elvis' mother phoned
her son when she heard the song on the radio believing it to be a new
hit for Elvis. Gene's mother's reaction remains unrecorded.
Gene Vincent's band were known as The
Blue Caps. The band name came from their blue cloth caps that were
inspired by President Eisenhower's golfing cap.
There were several line ups of Blue Caps
but the two most widely known are :-
the first comprising
and the 1957 line up of
- Cliff Gallup - Guitar
- Jack Neal - Bass
- Willie Williams - Guitar
- Dickie Harrell - Drums
- Johnny Meeks - Guitar
- Dickie Harrell - Drums
- Bobby Jones - Bass
- Paul Peek - Clapper Boy
- Tommy Facenda - Clapper Boy
It was this second line up who toured
Australia on the same bill as Eddie Cochran, Alis Lesley, Little Richard
and Australia's own king of rock 'n' roll, Johnny O'Keefe. It was on
this tour that Little Richard was to decide to give up show business to
devote himself to Bible study and passed many of his stage clothes over
to Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps. Paul Peek would later pass some of
them over to Esquerita, one of the wildest most uninhibited piano
players of rock 'n' roll.
When Gene's popularity started to wane in
the U.S. and he was in a spot of bother with musician's union he became
more involved in pursuing a career in the U.K. and Europe where his
popularity remained strong on the large Teddy Boy and Rocker circuits.
It was while Gene Vincent was touring
England in 1960 that he was in a car crash which claimed the life of his
friend and fellow musician Eddie Cochran. Eddie Cochran had toured
Australia and the U.K. with Gene and sung, played and produced a session
for Gene at the Capitol Tower in Hollywood. The bass voice at the start
of Gene's song "Git It" was Eddie Cochrans.
Gene's famous leather suits also came
about in the U.K.. Television producer Jack Good, who had a flair for
the dramatic and mixed rock 'n' roll up with Shakespeare, thought Gene
would look more menacing in leather and chains. The leather would become
a trademark of Gene's performances throughout the 60's.
Gene Vincent passed away on October 12th,
1971 from a bleeding ulcer. In the years just prior to his death he had
recorded some fine country music LP's and toured extensively in the U.K.
When he passed away he left behind four
wives and a legion of dedicated fans. With the renewed interest in real
rockin' music in the seventies Gene Vincent became an icon to a new
generation of rockers. Gene Vincent has had more tribute records made
about him than any other rocker except Elvis proving that his influence
and legend are greater than can be measured by looking at chart
His tuff attitude, menacing looks and
black leather street cred were just part of the attraction. In the end
it was more than just image that attracts a growing legion of fans. The
voice of Gene Vincent haunts the mind of those who can't get enough of
here for a Gene's Photo Gallery
here to see Piper Vincent's page on Electric Scotland