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Cochran, Eddie

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Cochran, Eddie, rockabilly legend; b. Oklahoma City, Okla., Oct. 3, 1938; d. Chippenham, Wiltshire, England, April 17, 1960. With his family, Eddie Cochran moved to Albert Lea, Minn., as an infant, and then to Bell Gardens, Calif., in 1949. He began playing guitar at 12 and joined country singer Hank Cochran (no relation) as back-up guitarist in 1954. They toured and recorded as the Cochran Brothers until 1956. Switching to rock ‘n’ roll after seeing Elvis Presley in Dallas in late 1955, Eddie Cochran demonstrated his skill as a rockabilly guitarist on a number of sessions in Los Angeles. In the fall of 1956 he met songwriter Jerry Capehart, who secured him a contract with Liberty Records. His first Liberty single, the tame “Sittin’ in the Balcony”became a major hit in early 1957. During the year, he appeared in two films, The Girl Can’t Help It, with Gene Vincent and Little Richard, performing the classic “Twenty Flight Rock,” and Untamed Youth, with Mamie Van Doren. However, his next hit didn’t come until the summer of 1958, when the classic “Summertime Blues” became a near-smash. For the recording, Cochran over-dubbed his voice (some say) or his voice and all instruments (according to others). He toured tirelessly, yet his next single, the raucous “C’mon Everybody,” proved only a moderate hit.

In 1959 Eddie Cochran appeared in the film Go, Johnny, Go with Chuck Berry, Ritchie Valens, and Jackie Wilson. Like Gene Vincent, Cochran was far more popular in England, and in early 1960, he embarked on his only European tour. Upon completing the tour, while on his way to London airport, Eddie Cochran was killed in an auto crash near Chippenham, Wiltshire, on April 17, 1960. Seriously injured in the crash were his songwriting girlfriend Sharon Sheeley (author of Rick Nelson’s “Poor Little Fool” and co-author of Cochran’s “Somethin’ Else”) and Gene Vincent. Cochran continued to have posthumous hits in Great Britain (although not the U.S.) in the 1960s and exerted a strong influence on the development of British rock ‘n’ roll. Eddie Cochran was inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.

One of rock ‘n’ roll’s first “legends” due to early accidental death, Eddie Cochran was an early performer of rockabilly music and one of its most exciting and dynamic guitar players. He wrote many of his songs and helped pioneer the studio technique of overdub-bing, as evidenced by his oft-covered classic 1958 smash, “Summertime Blues.” Although his popularity was short-lived in the U.S., he remained remarkably popular in Great Britain even after his death in 1960, and his sound influenced British groups such as the Who, the Sex Pistols, the Clash, and the Stray Cats.

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