Gene Vincent & The Blue Caps
BE BOP A LULA
Recorded at Owen Bradley's Studio, Nashville, TN on Friday, May 4, 1956 for Capital Records' single F3450. Take #12 was used. "Be Bop A Lula" was the second tune recorded that day, "Race with the Devil," was actually recorded first, and it later became Gene's second single.
The original Blue Caps consisted of: "Gallopin" Cliff Gallup on lead guitar, "Wee" Willie Williams on on rhythm guitar, "Jumpin'" Jack Neal on upright string bass, and young Dickie "Be Bop" Harrell on drums.
Words and music by Sheriff Tex Davis and Gene Vincent. (Researcher's note: I was in Nashville in the late-1980s. I ran across a country group at The Palace near the Opry and talked with band member Michael Douchette who said his dad was Sheriff Tex Davis and that Sheriff Tex wrote the song with Gene.) Bill "Sheriff Tex" Davis, a local DJ, became Gene's manager at that time and later co-wrote many songs with him. Sheriff Tex Davis said he wrote the song with Gene after listening to a 78-rpm recording of of "You Can Bring Pearl with the Turned-Up Nose, But Don't Bring Lulu." It took about 30 minutes to compose the tune with the first title being "Lulu Likes to Bop". Then it was "Boppin' Lula", and by the time Gene finished singing it, it came out "Be Bop A Lula".
It has also been reported that Gene bought this song from Donald Graves, whom he met in 1955 in the US Navy hospital in Norfolk, VA for about $50 dollars. Roy Lamear, a local talent agent, encouraged Gene to find record company. Gene himself often said he composed the song himself after he left military service, inspired by the "Little Lulu" comic strip.
Whatever the story ... Gene performed it during the Country Showtime radio show in 1956 at WCMS, Norfork, VA's biggest radio station. A demo was recorded there and passed on to Ken Nelson at Capitol Records. The label was looking for a young rockabilly type to compete with RCA's Elvis Presley. Capitol was accepting demo tapes submitted by would-be rockers from all over the country. Gene's own "Be Bop A Lula" was entered, along with over 200 others. But only 2 of these hopefulls had submitted their original material, Gene being one of them. He was selected to record ASAP at Capitol's Nashville studios.
When the song was actually recorded, Dickie Harrell screamed several times in the studio. When Gene and producer Ken Nelson asked Dickie why he shouted, Harrell replied that he wanted to be sure his family could make sure it was him on record. His screams where left in.
When the single was released on Monday, June 4th, 1956, the first copies contained a Gene Vincent biography card. On June 16th, "Be Bop A Lula" entered the Billboard Top 100 at #78, and by the 23rd of June over 200,000 copies already had been sold in the US and England. In early April of 1957, the record company announced that over 2,000,000 copies had been sold to date. Gene received a gold record from Capitol on April 28, 1957, during a show in Chicago. To date over 9 million copies have been sold.
Gene sang "Be Bop A Lula" in the movie "The Girl Can't Help It." The filming session for the movie was Sept. 26, 1956. The movie crew filmed Gene and the Blue Caps doing the whole song, but the band was disappointed when only the first part of the tune was shown in the finished movie.
- Gene usually opened his stage show in the late 1950's with a long bluesy introduction to "Be Bop A Lula".
The song has meaning for The Beatles as John Lennon said, "when Paul saw me for the first time, I was playing "Be Bp A Lula" with the Quarrymen. "Be Bop A Lula" was first record Paul ever bought. Paul praised the song in depth on his 1991 LP. John once was asked to select the rock'n' roll tunes that were his favorites. He came up with seven, including "Be Bop A Lula."
Brain Setzer, of the Stray Cats, said that he founded his career on the song, and Paul Simon said the song helped him begin his career.
The song has appeared in numerous TV and movie productions in the US and other countries. Also it is mentioned in several songs, including titles by Van Morrison and Dire Straits.
Many popular recording artists have covered this tune (and continue to do so). Here are a few who have issued their versions of "Be Bop A Lula." ... Buddy Holly, Everly Brothers, Cliff Richard, The Beatles, Jerry Lee Lewis, Billy Riley, Johnny Carroll, John Lennon, Carl Perkins, Jack Scott, Link Wray and Paul McCartney.
Alternative ... Update - Story posted Sept., 1999
The True Story of How "Be Bop A Lula" was Written??