Early rocker Gene Vincent was born today, February 11, 1935. Vincent not only being an early player in the nascent rock ‘n’ roll world with hits like “Be-Bop-A-Lula” was also an influence on The Doors and Jim Morrison, Vincent was the first rock star to wear full leather suits onstage.
Vincent was born Vincent Eugene Craddock in Norfolk, Virginia, and counts many the same influences as Elvis did, namely rhythm and blues, gospel, and country music, and received his first guitar when he was 12 years old. The young Vincent also had some coincidences in his life as Jim Morrison, the first being the Navy. He dropped out of high school and joined the Navy at age 17, where he proved to be a good sailor, and while he never saw action he is credited with a deployment during the American involvement in the Korean war. He was also known as being a troublemaker when on liberty. Vincent was planning on making a career out of the Navy and with a $612 reenlistment bonus bought a Triumph motorcycle and in July 1955 he was involved in a severe motorcycle accident that almost caused the amputation of his left leg. He refused to allow his leg to be amputated and the leg was saved but due to the extent of his injuries Vincent was discharged from the Navy.
Following his discharge Vincent became involved in the Norfolk music scene, changed his name to Gene Vincent, and formed the Rockabilly group, “Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps.” The band proved quickly to be successful. Vincent and the Blue Caps played local Norfolk country bars and won a talent contest, that gained the band a manager. In 1956 Vincent wrote “Be-Bop-A-Lula,” and was signed by Capitol Records which released the song, and it gained national airplay and attention peaking at number 7 on Billboard’s pop charts. Vincent was unable to follow “Be-Bop-A-Lula” with another hit, although he had critically acclaimed songs such as “Race with the Devil,” and “Bluejean Bop.” In another parallel to Morrison’s career Vincent was convicted of public obscenity and fined $10,000 for an erotic performance of the song “Woman Love.”
In 1959 Vincent, after a dispute with the IRS left for England where he started appearing in leather suits, and he became a well known popular act. Could Vincent have influenced the early Beatles leather look as well as Jim Morrison’s later style? In April 1960 Vincent was in the same car that killed rock star and early guitar hero Eddie Cochran, Vincent survived the crash but also reinjured his leg.
As the 60’s rolled around and music changed in a post-Beatles world Vincent found his efforts to reestablish his career were unsuccessful although he did tour throughout the 60’s and played at the 1969 Toronto Rock ‘n’ Roll Revival along with The Doors (see related articles) where he and Morrison met and Morrison hung out with Vincent for a while afterwards. In a final coincidence between Vincent and Morrison, Vincent outlived Morrison by three months dying in October of 1971 from a ruptured stomach ulcer. Vincent was later inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, as well as the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.
sources: Rockphiles and Wikipedia.
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