• BBC RADIO TWO (UK) broadcast a documentary on Gene Vincent entitled 'RACE WITH THE DEVIL' at 6.30pm on Saturday 7th March 1998. It was presented by UK disc jockey John Peel and featured interviews with Blue Caps Tommy Facenda and Dickie Harrell as well as Jerry Merritt and UK guitarist Joe Brown.

    BBC RADIO 2 -
    by ROD PYKE

    It is 27 years since Gene Vincent died so it was good news to his fans when it was announced that BBC Radio 2 were to do a documentary dedicated to him. Although Geneís records are still played over the airwaves it is not often that a programme is dedicated solely to him.

    Like many other fans I awaited the broadcast with anticipation, as so much had happened over the past year. Gene had finally been inducted into the Cleveland Rock 'n' Roll Hall ofFame. The Lost Dallas Demos had been found and were scheduled for release on a CD and Gene' s sisters who had always kept a low profile were now prepared to break their years of silence.

    With all the new discussion points at hand the BBC had the basis for an interesting programme for Geneís followers. The Radio 2 broadcast on March 7th 1998, however, turned out to be a big disappointment to me personally.

    The programme would have been okay if had been the first of a two part documentary. Hosted by John Peel, it just covered all the commonly knowledgeable aspects of Geneís life that had been documented in numerous books, magazines, TV and Radio programmes in the past.

    To somebody unfamiliar with Gene it would have given a good insight to his life, but to lifelong fans it had all been covered before. There were interviews with members of the Blue Caps, his famous backing group from his early years. A selection of his music was played covering the full span of his career, with a few exceptions. Although, always nice to hear, a lot of time was taken up playing tracks in full. It would have allowed more time for other interviews if some tracks could have been faded or played in the background.

    There were contributions from Joe Brown, Marty Wilde and the late Henry Henroid. Steve Aynsley who helps run Gene Vincent's world-wide Fan Club and who has been instigational in keeping Gene's name and music alive, gave his recollections and provided a lot of the archived material. Gene's former manager Adrian Owlett who probably knew Gene better than anybody and who was the person Gene turned to in time of need, was a valuable contributor. The BBC had given Adrian direct questions to answer, saying that John Peel's voice would be added later asking the questions. This, however, never materialised and it gave the impression that Adrian was making a statement and not answering direct questions, which in fact he was doing. However, nobody could construe that Adrian said anything detrimental about Gene. His comments were informative and sometimes poignant, for example, he said he couldn't envisage Gene as a 63 year old today.

    My opinion is that this programme was rushed out and not much thought put into it by the BBC. Why did they not take more time over preparation and come from some new angles. They had the chance to interview Gene's sisters, which would have been a scoop for them, as Tina, Donna and Evelyn had never given a radio interview since Gene's death.

    They could have done a segment on the discovery of the Lost Dallas Demos and may even have been given access to a clip from one of the Demos. After years of campaigning to have Gene inducted into the Cleveland Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame, this fact deserved more coverage than a few sentences at the end of the show. These are areas that I feel the BBC could have explored and could have used in the documentary.

    With such a large following of Gene's fans still around, some too young evento remember him, I am sure that this will not be the last programme of thissort put out by the BBC, hopefully next time they will get it right.

    As long as we have people like Adrian Owlett, Steve Aynsley, Bob Erskine,Bob Timmers, John Brayley, Harry Dodds, Rob Finnis, Derek Henderson, AlanVince, Roger Nunn, Dave Dennard, Joel Kellum, the Craddock family, the BlueCaps and many others around, we can be sure that Gene's name and music willlive on.

    Please contact me if you have any opinions about this program or other information regarding Gene Vincent. E-Mail: rodney_pyke@msn.com

    UK/European Correspondent
    Rockabilly Hall of Fame &
    Gene Vincent/Blue Caps Web Sites

    You can write to me anytime with suggestions of what you would like to see on this page along with any questions you may have.