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
Cliff Gallup - Guitar
Jack Neal - Bass
Willie Williams - Guitar
Dickie Harrell - Drums
and the 1957 line up of
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
Piper has developed a soldier's heart
over the years in show business and as she watched her brother Gene go
thru even more unbelievable things, which will be revealed all in her
upcoming book. Not only her brother Gene's hurts, sorrows and pain, but
many of his buddies too, Jim Morrison, Elvis, Big Bopper, Dick Clark
(who, by the way, was always one of Gene's friends that he could trust),
Paul McCartney, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Buddy Holly, John Lennon,
Frankie Avalon, Brenda Lee; because Piper was there, first hand, an
eye witness in the middle of it all with pictures, films and recordings to
prove it all. Piper (after this experience with her ex managers) was not
down and out by no means, she got up stronger than ever, met people who
believed in her and got her Bloodrush
2001 Show pulsating and injected rock 'n' roll with a shot of pure
This, my wonderful fans, are the real
life dramas that unfold behind the scenes that most fans don't get to hear
or know about..
Gene was weary that night as he (as usual)
put forth more effort on stage during his show and injured his left
knee.....in horrible agonizing pain (as usual ) he reaches for his guitar
and starts to sing in a low almost pitiful groan that seemed to come from
so far within that there was no telling how much pain he was actually
trying to hide.
"Donnie" ;he said ''hand me a
pick'' (that's what he used to call piper sometimes).
I leaned back and got him a pick for
his guitar and as she held it to his hand.......... Gene started to
cry........ with sweat pouring from his brow..... Gene was only
partially conscious but still making the reach for that almighty pick for
his guitar the only thing that mattered. Struggeling with every breath...
somehow to overcome the agony with the thing that always seem to have
worked before .... a song ...a song called '''LONELY STREET''' GENE LET
OUT A LOUD HORRIFYING YELL THAT SEEMED TO HAVE BEEN ABLE TO WAKE THE
DEAD!! AND STARTED SINGING...PAIN OR NOT !!
Donna had seen this so many times and knew
exactly how to handle the situation .....so in a small shakey voice...
holding back the sobs....... she sings along with him... truly at
that point they both might have sounded like a couple of wounded
coyotes... but THE MAN...THE MUSIC...THE PAIN... AND THE SONG..... is a
whole hospital sometimes within itself...or at least we try to believe
that.... or make it so.
other excerpts from the forthcoming
gene was stationed on a ship called the
U.S.S. CHAUKAWWAN i don't know if i spelled it right but anyway.. me and
mama went to meet gene on the ship it was a day where the families could
come aboard and have dinner with their loved ones on the ship ...i
remember we waited for hours and hours for the ship to actually dock ...
going onto the ship was quite an experience ...as i was so little every
thing appeared to be so enormous ...in comparison to my little
stature also i was in awe ...how everything was painted GREY ... i never
saw so much GREY in my life ...as we met gene ..we embraced in what
i used to call ""one of gene's forever hugs ... he would hug me
and shout '''FOREVER AND EVER AND EVER over and over again ( it was just a
little game we played )...when we hadn't seen each other for awhile...we
all went down to the mess hall and we were served turkey and mashed
potatoes and other stuff... i couldn't eat cause i was so excited to
see gene and be on that ship ..so i started just playing with my food
gene had at least 5 times told me to stop playing with my food ..but i
ignored him ..knowing that he wouldn't cause a scene in front of all
these people over something so insignificant ... but all of a sudden
..gene took a handful of mashed potatoes off my plate and smeared them all
over my face .!!! well ... every one started laughing and i started crying
like a stuck alabama pig ....sqeelin'' and carrying on so ... that
gene picked me up with both hands and held me in the air and yelled
..'''STOP IT ..STOP IT ...RIGHT NOW OR I'M GOING TO SPANK THE LIVIN''
DAYLIGHTS OUT OF YOU !!!'' A MOMENT OF HUSH SWEPT OVER THE
ENTIRE HALL AND I STOPPED CRYING...!!! GENE AND I WERE AT A
STAND OFF...!!! STARING INTENSELY INTO EACH OTHERS EYES HERE I WAS
HANGING IN THE AIR WITH ONLY GENE'S ARMS HOLDING ME UP ...SO I KNEW IN MY
HEART THER WAS ONLY ..ONE THING ...TO DO AT THAT INTENSE
MOMENT.......... SOOOOO .......... I REACHED MY HAND SLOWLY TO MY
FACE AND SLOWLY .. I BEGAN TO WIPE OFF THE SMEARED MASHED POTATOES AND IN
SLOW MOTION I BEGAN TO SMEAR THEM ALL OVER GENE'S FACE!!!!!GENE JUST STOOD
THERE HOLDING ME IN THE AIR AS I CONTINUED WITH MY MASHED POTATOES MAKING
ART ...ON HIS FACE ....FINALLY HE SLOWLY LOWERED ME DOWN TO THE
GROUND AND SAID """ MAN !!!...I GUESS I REALLY DESERVED
THAT ONE !!!...RIGHT THEN THE WHOLE SHIP (IT SEEMED ) broke their shock
and started hysterically laughing and laughing and then gene himself
started uncontrollably laughing and the ship mates just couldn't stop
laughing it seemed fro a very long time. after that mama
stopped serving mashed potatoes at dinner ...because me and gene just
would not be able to stop from disrupting the table with laughter!!! and a
good ole' round of trying to smear mashed potatoes on each others face....
soooo up until the very day that gene died
we continued to have our ''mashed potato ''exploits all thru our lives
even if we were at someone's house having dinner ...''we would start'''
...if we were out at a restaurant and their were mashed potatoes! on
the table ... THE FIGHT WOULD BEGIN !!! WE DIDN'T CARE WHAT PEOPLE SAID OR
WHO WOULD BE EMBARRASSED BY IT.... ALL THE RULES ...WERE BROKEN ..at
the sight of ..mashed potatoes !! as gene grew into a star and we
lived in a big house in Portsmouth Virginia i was still only a
little girl ...but gene would sometimes have the Bluecaps stay over our
house ..to rehearse... one night after their rehearsal ... gene and
the blue caps went to bed ...!! I snuck downstairs and got
some cold mashed potatoes out of the fridge and went silently into the
room and smeared mashed potatoes all over Dickey Harrell's face ..
unbelievably and miraculously ...he never woke up !!!. then i went over
to Bubba and Paul Peek and smeared some on his feet ... well...the next
morning!!! you heard yells and cursing and I'LL GET THAT LITTLE DEVIL!!...
OF COURSE MAMA PROTECTED ME AND GENE ( BECAUSE I DIDN'T GET HIM !!) ALSO
STUCK UP FOR ME ... MY ANTICS AND JOKES THAT I PLAYED ON THE BLUE CAPS (
(WHILE THEY STAYED WITH US )...WERE ALWAYS MEMORABLE AND LOTS OF FUN !!
and yet more excerpts...
......that night gene was very weary and
exhausted from such a busy day!! As he went home to rest he
walked up to his apartment door.... as he muffled with the key he somehow
felt a strangeness surrounding him.... as he had felt quite a few times
lately.. but as usual he shrugged the feeling off and entered his
apt to rest. ironically the next night was the same ...only this
time little did he know this mystery feeling would be solved.. and
the story of it would live on thru the annals of rock 'n' roll history
night as he slowly entered his apartment under a shroud of A FEELING
THAT SOMETHING WAS ABOUT TO HAPPEN!!!.. he entered this time to find a
strange young boy calmly sitting in his living room.. a boy he had
never met and obviously had broken in to gene's apartment!!! startled
...gene yelled ''WHO ARE YOU !!! ''WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN MY HOUSE ..''HOW
DID YOU GET IN AND WHAT DO YOU WANT'!!!... to gene's surprise the young
long haired ''hippie type ''young man ...appeared to be more scared and
''off guard '' than gene himself !!! when gene saw that the boy was
afraid and was no obvious threat gene said '' look son .. i don't
know who you are or what you want ...but you broke in to my house and i am
going to have to call the police !!! the boy replied ''' hey ..man you are
my idol .. i have been following you just so i could be near you !!!
i love your music ..man ... i am your greatest fan ..i..i..mean that !! my
whole life is to follow in your footsteps ..man !!... gene
interupted the young boy ''' well i am glad you are a fan but i have to
call the police !!! and when they get here we can all straighten this
thing out !!!'' what is your name ..son '' the boy answered ''
jim ... my name is jim... well ....gene called the police and had the
young lad arrested !!! as the police were handcuffing the young boy
the boy yelled to gene ...''HEY MAN !!! DON'T DO THIS TO ME ...MAN !!! I
LOVE YOU .. MAN!!. I AM YOUR GREATEST FAN !!! gene felt sorry for the boy
but there was nothing else he could do !!! as gene's apartment
cleared and all the hoopla was over he sat down and quietly began to
pick at his guitar ... but ... SOMETHING WAS WRONG .... ALL OF A SUDDEN
...SOMETHING WAS TERRIBLY ...WRONG!!!! gene could not get the young boys
face out of his mind !!! gene tried to eat ....and he couldn't !!! he
tried to sleep ...and he couldn't!!! GENE WAS TORMENTED OVER THE WHOLE
AFFAIR ... SOMETHING ABOUT THIS YOUNG LAD WAS TURNING GENE'S HEART AND
MIND UPSIDE DOWN !!!! as he stared off into space sitting in the
dark alone ... SOMETHING CAME OVER GENE AND HE DIDN'T HAVE ANY
CONTROL !!! HE IMMEDIATELY GOT DRESSED AND WENT DOWN TO THE POLICE
STATION AND YELLED!!'' I WANT TO DROP THE CHARGES ON THAT YOUNG BOY THAT
BROKE INTO MY HOUSE!!! The police somehow wouldn't let gene
drop the charges !!! so gene waited for the young boys bail hearing ...
and bailed him out ...and took the young lad into his home and he
became gen';s best friend for life !!!!........ little did either one of
them know that the young lad was destined to be a rock 'n roll legend
himself THE YOUNG LAD BECAME TO BE KNOWN IN ROCK ;N ;ROLL
HISTORY......... AS...................JIM MORRISON AND THE DOORS !!!!.
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