Warning: Originally I was going to do a post called “Top Ten Gene Vincent songs. Other than Be Bop A Lula”. I started writing an introductory paragraph. But ended up writing a 1100 word post without realizing it. So I figured I just forget the songs and just post this. Enjoy!
I don’t drive any more (where in the hell am I going with this?). I used to. When I did I would blast my Gene Vincent Greatest Hits from Curb Records. Even writing this I’m getting flash backs to pomping my hair to a ridiculous height. Cuffing my jeans to a ridiculous length. And driving my Cadillac to get groceries while blasting “Crazy Legs”. Gene Vincnet and the Blue Caps music is essential if you’re getting into the rockin world (along with Eddie Cochran)(at least I think so, being a fan isn’t mandatory but I might look at you a little weird…double parenthesis!). I make sure to point out the Blue Caps, because I don’t want to exclude the musicians that worked on these classic. I like to think I have more sense than anyone that works for the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame. Who inducted only Gene into their prestigous club. But to their credit they later brought everyone in. Without Dickie and the gang I’m not sure what kind of memory Mr Vincent would have left.
There is a million rockabilly records from the 50s. But no one sounds like Gene Vincent. Like no one. They may emulate his sound a little. But no one can full on sound like him. There are loads of singers that can sound like Elvis to a degree. Johnny Cash has a few good impersonators. But absolute no one is capable of sounding like the boppin mad man who was Mr Craddock (his real last name, thank you Wikipedia!). I didn’t even know what boppin was back in the day. But I immediately connected the term “boppin” with his music. Something so incredibly 50s. Even without the echo I’m sure you could pin point the year. Hell that is almost a lie. There are records he did in the 50s that could pass for 60s. In a sense he and the band was ahead of their time (such a cliche term but for once I mean it).
Besides sounding like him. No one looks like him (though in the above photo we can see that you can do an epic tribute on an album cover). No pompadour. No tall hair. Just a curly sort of quiff-ish deal. That I think the teddy boys later took and exaggerated a little. He had the sweet clothes of the time. But eventually got an image change. Leather jacket. Black gloves. No one dressed like that. He looks like a vampire! Like Lux Interior’s dad. I know, I know. This goes against anything I would usually talk about on Rockabilly Nerd. I tend to avoid going into looks and clothes. But I’m here to talk about the guy today. I’m not sure if all that was for looks, or he just needed it for riding his motorcycle.
Back to the Blue Caps. Rolling Stone once said they were the first “rock n roll band”. So lets applaud the outdated magazine for actually saying something noteworthy. To be honest I believe they were second to Bill Haley and his Comets. Prior to this most artists were considered solo acts. Sadly not everyone is remembered for their back up bands (like they should). The Blue Caps, The Comets, The Crickets, Tennessee Two, The Blue Moon Boys, The Pirates, etc. Their musicianship brought less of a hillbilly influence.They still had the stand up (bass bicycle). It was pure rock n roll. Incorporating drums. Stuff like this is why I mostly put the band in the rock n roll category and not rockabilly. But there are plenty of bands I don’t put the BILLY label that are worth the attention and love. A good chunk of their music is the perfect bridge between the 50s sound and what came out of the 60s (him and Buddy Holly included). Johnny Kidd and the Pirates definitely owe him a debt. The song “Summertime” was released in 1959 and it screams 60s garage bands (back to what I was saying a couple of paragraphs ago).
On a sadly grim side. I appreciate his workmanship. His dedication. Unfortunately the best example is after April 16, 1960 (and here we are in the 60s). While in on tour in the UK with Eddie Cochran. Both were in a crash that ended the life of 21-year-old Eddie. Gene suffered a terrible injury to his leg that affected him for the rest of his life (oh man this is depressing). Barely a few weeks later his continued the tour on his own. His friend and fellow musician had passed away recently. And he had to have been in terrible pain. But he continued to play the scheduled performances. Imagine that. I know people who can’t go to work two miles away because it is lightly raining outside. And that is why I have the utmost respect for Gene(unfortunately I’m sure he had a few things in his system to cope with pain).
As the 60s hit, a lot of original rockers had no work. Philadelphia singers with no soul filled air waves. British invasion bands were farting on the radio. Luckily Gene Vincent is heralded as a hero in the UK. From what I can tell. Even more than Elvis. Partially cause Elvis never performed outside the across the pond . Gene also lived there for a time . He could go over there to tour. The man still released music but at some point no longer with the Blue Caps. Even doing a song for his fans “Story of the Rockers”. In 1969 recorded with the Hollywood mad man Kim Fowley for I’m Back and I’m Proud (not a big fan of this release but they recorded together which is a cool factoid regardless).Years after his death in 1971 everyone knows “Be Bop a Lula”. I’m not even sure where in the hell I heard it first. But by the time I bought his greatest hits record in my early 20s I already knew that song. It is an american treasure. Along with a good chunk of his (and the Blue Caps) music. It screams :dancing in your socks and riding in your car in style. Its cruising music. Its music for getting all smoochy on your lady music. Its music for getting your first motorcycle. Its writing in your blog about the man himself music. Also for me. This is riding the bus to work with my headphones because I don’t have a car music.
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And as always, stop talking about your car.