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Eddie Cochran – 20 Great Tracks

Cochran was born in Albert Lea, Minnesota, as Edward Ray Cochran. His parents were from Oklahoma and he always stated in interviews that he was from Oklahoma. He took music lessons in school, but quit the band to play drums. Also, rather than taking piano lessons, he began learning guitar, playing the country music he heard on the radio. In 1955, Cochran’s family moved to Bell Gardens, California. As his guitar playing improved, he formed a band with two friends from his junior high school. During a show featuring many performers at an American Legion hall, he met Hank Cochran (later a country music songwriter). Although they were not related, they recorded as The Cochran Brothers and began performing together. Eddie Cochran also worked as a session musician, and began writing songs, making a “demo” with Jerry Capehart, his future manager.

In 1956, Boris Petroff asked Cochran if he would appear in the musical comedy film The Girl Can’t Help It. He agreed and sang a song called “Twenty Flight Rock” in the movie. In 1957, Cochran starred in his second film, Untamed Youth and also had his first hit, “Sittin’ in the Balcony,” one of the few songs he recorded that were written by other songwriters (in this case John D. Loudermilk). “Twenty Flight Rock” was written by AMI staff writer Ned Fairchild. AMI granted Cochran a co-writer credit, but no royalties, a common arrangement by which publishers move songs from demos to commercial recordings. This allowed Cochran to re-write or add to the song to turn it into a rock and roll song. Fairchild, who was not a rock and roll performer, merely provided the initial form of the song which Cochran later turned into a rock and roll song. His co-writing credit reflects his changes and contributions to the final product.

However, his most famous hit, “Summertime Blues” (co-written with Jerry Capehart), was an important influence on music in the late 1950s, both lyrically and musically. (The song, released on Liberty recording #55144, charted #8 on August 25, 1958.) Cochran’s brief career included only a few more hits, such as “C’mon Everybody”, “Somethin’ Else”, “My Way”, “Weekend”,”Teenage Heaven”‘ “Sitting in the Balcony”‘ “Three Stars”, “Nervous Breakdown”, and his posthumous UK number one hit “Three Steps to Heaven.” In 1959, he backed Skeets McDonald at Columbia’s studios for “You Oughta See Grandma Rock” and “Heart Breaking Mama.”

On Saturday, April 16, 1960, at about 11:50 p.m., while on tour in the United Kingdom, 21-year-old Cochran died in a traffic accident in a taxi (a Ford Consul, not, as widely quoted, a London Hackney carriage) traveling through Chippenham, Wiltshire, on the A4. The taxi crashed into a lamp post on Rowden Hill, where a plaque now commemorates the event (no other car was involved). Cochran was thrown through the windscreen, suffered severe head injuries, and was taken to St. Martin’s Hospital, Bath, but died at 4:10 p.m. the following day. Songwriter Sharon Sheeley and singer Gene Vincent survived the crash, Vincent sustaining injuries that would shorten his career and affected him for the rest of his life.

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