A bit late for what would have been his 79th birthday on February 11th I’ve been thinking about rock and roll and rockabilly pioneer Gene Vincent who was one of the most influential but likely in retrospect underrated figures of that time. A few anecdotes/facts/myths: they say Elvis’ mother Gladys heard Vincent’s 1956 hit Be-Bop-a-Lula and assumed it was by her boy; Vincent survived the car crash that killed the equally terrific musician Eddie Cochran; they say Vincent threatened Gary Glitter at gunpoint; Vincent was injured more than once (first in a motorcycle accident) leaving him in pain, limping, and probably increasing his dependence on alcohol. In the 1960s he spent much time in Europe, as his work gained wider appreciation there, and correspondingly was forgotten in the US. His comebacks were not commercially successful, but definitely worth a listen, especially his 1966 Bird Doggin a folk rock-style effort backed by some of the legendary “Wrecking Crew”. In the early sixties, the Beatles backed him in Germany, and by the end of the sixties, he was working in haphazard fashion with pickup bands, as recorded in a television documentary from 1969. He did appear throughout the 1950s on many television programs and films, and you can see most of them here. Vincent died of a ruptured stomach ulcer at the ripe young age of 36 in 1971.
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