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Profile: Gene Vincent

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Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps

Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps

Born:

Vincent Eugene Craddock, February 11, 1935, Norfolk, VA; died October 12, 1971 (Newhall, CA)

Genres:

Rockabilly, Rock and Roll

Instruments:

Vocals, Guitar

Contributions to music:

  • Considered by many to be Rockabilly's greatest vocalist
  • One of rock and roll's earliest "bad boys"
  • Provided one of the most impressive stage shows in early rock
  • Had a sense of musical drama unmatched by his peers save Elvis Presley
  • His backing band the Blue Caps, particularly lead guitarist Cliff Gallup, was a major influence on rockabilly and its descendants
  • First rock star to wear a leather outfit
  • Instrumental in establishing the rock craze in England

Early years:

Ironically, considering the fate of his peers, a traffic accident began Gene's career. Although the young Eugene had been playing guitar since the age of 12, it was only after a stint in the Navy in 1955, where he was badly injured while riding his Triumph motorcycle, that he decided to pursue music full-time. Released from the service and recuperating, Vincent began hanging out at Norfolk, VA, country station WCMS, eventually getting on air to sing an original song called "Be-Bop-A-Lula."

Success:

That song, allegedly written in the VA hospital along with a fellow patient, caught the attention of DJ Bill "Sheriff Tex" Davis, who began to manage Vincent. Soon Davis got the young singer a contract with Capitol, who wanted to groom him as their answer to Elvis Presley. With a new band, the Blue Caps, assembled from the core of his old country band, the Virginians, Gene and company were on their way. "Lula," while originally the b-side of another song, was an instant smash hit.

Later years:

Vincent managed to hit the Top Forty in '57 with "Lotta Lovin'," but he and the Caps simply rocked too hard for radio. It was those legendary '56 sides, however, that kept Vincent viable as a performing artist, both here and in Europe. By the late Sixties, Gene had fallen victim to changing times, financial mismanagement, and his own worsening addiction to alcohol. In October 1971, a sick Vincent went on a three-day bender that ruptured existing stomach ulcers; he died soon after.

Other facts:

  • Gene's swaggering onstage presence was due to his leg brace
  • Recorded some sessions with Eddie Cochran in 1957; was in the car during Eddie's fatal crash
  • The band was arrested in 1958 in connection with a nearby murder, but cleared
  • Was close friends with the Doors' Jim Morrison; the band was slated to back him up at a revival show in '69 but Alice Cooper's band filled in instead
  • After hearing "Be-Bop-A-Lula," Elvis' bassist, Bill Black, accused the King of making the record in secret

Awards/Honors:

  • Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1998)
  • GRAMMY Hall of Fame (1999)
  • Rockabilly Hall of Fame (1998)
  • Hollywood Walk of Fame (1749 N. Vine)

Songs, Albums, and Charts:


Top 10 hits:
Pop:
  • "Be-Bop-A-Lula" (1956)
R&B:
  • "Be-Bop-A-Lula" (1956)
  • "Lotta Lovin'" (1957)
Country:
  • "Be-Bop-A-Lula" (1956)
Other important recordings: "Race With the Devil," "Gonna Back Up Baby," "Woman Love," "Who Slapped John?," "Bluejean Bop," "Crazy Legs," "Important Words," "B-I-Bickey-Bi, Bo-Bo-Go," "Double Talkin' Baby," "Pink Thunderbird," "Hold Me, Hug Me, Rock Me," "You Told a Fib," "Wear My Ring," "Dance to the Bop," "I Got A Baby," "Walkin' Home From School," "Baby Blue," "Rocky Road Blues," "Git It," "Wild Cat," "Pistol Packin' Mama"
Covered by: The Beatles, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Dave Edmunds, Stray Cats, Burton Cummings Appears in the movies: "The Girl Can't Help It" (1956), "Hot Rod Gang" (1958), "It's Trad, Dad!" (1962), "Live It Up" (1963)
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