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Guide Profile: Eddie Cochran

By

Eddie Cochran

Eddie Cochran

Born:

Edward Raymond Cochran, October 3, 1938, Albert Lea, MN; died April 17, 1960 (Bath, England)

Genres:

Rock and Roll, Rockabilly

Instruments:

Vocals, Guitar, Bass Guitar, Drums

Contributions to music:

  • One of the first rockabilly stars
  • Overdubbed his guitar to create a fuller sound, presaging the "power chord"
  • Brought a jazz player's sensibility to his solos
  • One of the first rock performers to bring the music to the UK
  • One of the first rock stars to write much of his own material
  • Helped bring "hillbilly" music elements into rock
  • One of the first rock musicians to write accurately about teenage life
  • A pioneer of the rock and roll guitar solo

Early years:

Cochran was born to two Oklahoma transplants looking to flee the economic woes of the Great Depression. As such, he was the only member of his family to take a serious interest in music, but he was encouraged, puttering around in the school orchestra on various instruments before settling on the guitar. His brother, Bob, showed the young Eddie some chords, and shortly after graduating junior high Cochran became part of a trio that backed country singer Hank Cochran (no relation).

Success:

Although Eddie and Hank weren't related, they soon began performing together as the Cochran Brothers; after seeing a young Elvis Presley perform in 1955, Eddie switched to rock and began playing on sessions in Los Angeles. Soon, producer Boris Petroff asked Eddie to appear in a film he was involved in called The Girl Can't Help It. That appearance (singing "Twenty Flight Rock") and his subsequent single "Sittin' In The Balcony" helped make Cochran a star. "Summertime Blues" followed soon after.

Death:

At the peak of his success, Eddie joined fellow rockabilly icon Gene Vincent in a tour of the UK -- one of rock's first. It was a smash success, but en route to the airport to return home, the cab carrying Eddie, Gene, and Eddie's fiancee Sharon Sheeley skidded off the road near Chippenham, Wiltshire, England. Sheeley and the driver went largely uninjured, and Vincent injured only his leg badly, but Cochran suffered severe brain damage and died the next day at a hospital in Bath. He was 21.

Other facts:

  • Played a 1955 Gretsch 6120 hollow body guitar with a Gibson P-90 rhythm pickup
  • Connie "Guybo" Smith, the bass player in Cochran's junior-high trio, stayed with Eddie for his entire professional life
  • Cochran overdubbed himself vocally and did all vocal parts on "Summertime Blues"
  • Considered himself an Oklahoman at heart
  • Recorded "Three Stars," a posthumous tribute to Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and the Big Bopper, a year before his own death
  • Last record was ironically entitled "Three Steps To Heaven"

Awards/Honors:

  • Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1987)
  • Grammy Hall of Fame (1999)
  • Rockabilly Hall of Fame (1999)

Important Songs:


Top 10 hits:
Pop:
  • "Summertime Blues" (1958)
R&B:
  • "Sittin' In The Balcony" (1957)
Other important recordings: "Twenty Flight Rock," "Drive-In Show," "Jeannie, Jeannie, Jeannie," "Skinny Jim," "My Way," "C'mon Everybody," "Cut Across Shorty," "Three Stars," "Nervous Breakdown," "Weekend," "Somethin' Else," "Teenage Heaven," "Three Steps To Heaven"
Plays or sings on: "Git It," Gene Vincent; "Me And The Bear," Johnny Burnette; various other recordings by Vincent, Burnette, Jewel Akens, the Four Dots
Covered by: The Who, The Rolling Stones, Blue Cheer, Led Zeppelin, Rod Stewart, The Stray Cats, The Sex Pistols, Bruce Springsteen, T. Rex, U2, Iggy Pop, Bobby Vee, The New York Dolls, Rush, Alan Jackson, Olivia Newton-John, Paul McCartney, The Crickets, The Flaming Lips
Appears in the movies: "The Girl Can't Help It" (1956), "Untamed Youth" (1957), "Hot Rod Gang" (1958), "Go, Johnny, Go!" (1959)
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