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Gene Vincent & The Blue Caps

MISCELLANEOUS GENE VINCENT / BLUE CAPS TIDBITS


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Taken from the Minneapolis Star newspaper, August 30, 1958, courtesy: DiAnne Kaslow).
5 QUIZZED IN SLAYING - FREED HERE
Minneapolis police today arrested a carfull of suspects wanted for questioning in the robbery-murder of a Rochester, Minn. service station attendant early Friday. They were released after questioning. Arrested at a parking ramp at 910 LaSalle Ave. about 10:00 am today, the five young men admitted they were in Rochester at the time of the murder, but denied any knowledge of it. Their car, a green Lincoln with Texas plates answered the descrpition of the one wanted by Rochester police, pulled into the parking ramp for repairs. Tom Evans, manager of the Greyhound Rent-A-Car Service, recognized it as the one wanted and called police. A detective car and two squad cars raced to the ramp, apprehended the five without trouble, and brought them to police headquarters for interrogation by Captain of Detectives, Calvin Hawkinson. The leader of the group told Hawkinson that he was Gene Vincent of Dallas, Texas. The others were members of his band, known as Gene Vincent's Blue Caps from Texas, he said. They told Hawkinson that they were in Rochester Thursday night and had occupied two cabins in a motel there. All of them had gone to sleep early except for John Sterling, 20, Lufkin, Texas, who said he left the cabin about 1:30 am for a bite to eat at The Covered Wagon - a restaurant in the vincity of the filling station where the murder occurred. They claim that they left Rochester at 12:15 pm, Friday for Marshfield, Wisconsin for an engagement there. They said they moved into Minneapolis from Marshfield this morning shortly before they were apprepended. They were seeking service on their car, which had broken down. They said they planned to leave the car at the parking ramp, together with its trailer, and intended to rent another car and trailer to proceed to another engagement in Mitchell, SD tonight. All five deny knowing anything about the Rochester murder. There were no apparent murder clues, police said. In the trailer police found band instruments and loudspeaker equipment. Besides Vincent and Sterling, other members of the band are Clifton Simmons 22 Greenville, SC, John Meeks 21 Laurens, SC and William F. McCright 25 Greenville SC. During the questioning, Capt. Hawkinson cantacted Captain of Detectives Fitzpatrick of Rochester informing him of the pickup of the five suspects. Fitzpatrick told Hawkinson that after obtaining information from the five men, it would be all right to let them fulfill their engagement tonight in Mitchell, SD. They were released after an hours interrogation. Murdered in the Rochester robbery Friday night was Herbert C. Hanson, 68. His body was found by a Kansas motorist who stopped for gasoline.
FOOT NOTE: Johnny Meeks told DiAnne that he was asleep in the back seat when he heard the cops yelling for them to come out with their hands up. He said that they stayed at a motel near the gas station. Sometime during the night, Johnny had gotten up and gone (by car) to the station to get a Coke. He went in, but no one was there, so he got his Coke and left. Evidently the guy had already been killed - lucky he didn't come in on it! The car had been seen at the station and that's why they were stopped.


Posted March 29, 1997. JACKIE FRISCO, Gene's last wife, recorded two singles in Britain in 1963: Decca F.11566 - Sugar Baby/You Can't Catch Me and Decca F.11692 - When You Ask About Love/He's So Near.


Posted March 14, 1997. "SPOTLIGHT" articles from Vintage Guitar Magazine by columnist Jim Hilmar.

JEFF BECK, CLIFF GALLUP & JOHNNY MEEKS "Crazy Legs" (July, 1994).
This month's "SPOTLIGHT" CD is a stunning success on two different levels. First, as a very fine (and very sincere) tribute to rock and roll legend Gene Vincent (who for some unfathomable reason is not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame) and two of Gene's outstanding guitarists: the late, great Cliff Gallup and Johnny Meeks. Second, this project is a cool showcase for Jeff Beck to demonstrate his love (and considerable skills) for rockabilly. That's right - his ROCKABILLY prowess. I've followed Jeff's career since about 1966 when he was with the Yardbirds and I've never heard him play anything that would lead me to believe that he was heavily influenced by Cliff Gallup or any of the other great rockabilly guitar players. (According to Brian Setzer, Jeff is a HUGE rockabilly fan. Brian told me that Jeff is more influenced by American rockabilly than by the blues - a definite contrast to some of the other R & B and blues-based "British invasion" players.) I was surprised and delighted after listening to Crazy Legs.

Throughout his long career, Jeff Beck has never failed to amaze and intrigue me. From the incredible parts/solos he played on the Yardbirds classics "Shapes of Things" and "Heart Full of Soul", to the gritty sound of "Going Down" (from the Jeff Beck Group), to the cool "Constipated Duck" and the awesome "Because We've Ended As Lovers" (from the tremendous Blow By Blow album), to the grind and drive of "Big Block" to the haunting anthem "Where Were You" (from Jeff Beck's Guitar Shop), Jeff has never stayed in one musical genre for very long. He's wonderfully eclectic and quite unpredictable! And Crazy Legs continues this trend.

Cliff Gallup was the original guitarist for Gene Vincent's band the Blue Caps. And what a player! I can only imagine what kind of a reaction guitar players in the mid 1950's must have had when they first heard Gene's "Race With the Devil" on their radio. (All of those hip 6 add 9 chords and the BEYOND COOL solo featuring "pull offs", "double stops" and octaves galore.) I'm sure they were even more stunned after they went out and bought a copy of Gene's 1956 debut LP Bluejean Bop! (Capitol LP T764) which featured a lot more incredible playing. Cliff played a Gretsch Duo Jet (with DeArmond pickups and a fixed arm Bigsby vibrato) with a right hand technique that was definitely not ordinary. I've read that Cliff used a flat pick and two bent/flattened metal finger picks (one on his middle finger and one on his ring finger) - a combination of standard right hand guitar technique combined with dobro or even steel guitar technique. Cliff's playing featured very clean articulation, and where appropriate, lightning speed. And he played all over the neck. He handled everything from ballads like "Peg O' My Heart" (there's an extremely tasty double and triple stop-based solo in this one) and "Up A Lazy River" to moderate bluesy tunes like "Five Days, Five Days" to medium tempo rockers like "Crazy Legs" (written by Jerry Reed), "Bluejean Bop" (I love the cool reference to "Bugle Call Rag" that starts the solo on this one), "Jumps, Giggles and Shouts" and "Double Talkin' Baby". And then there's those insane rave-up rockers like "Race With the Devil", "B-I-Bickey-Bi, Bo- Bo-Go", "Who Slapped John?", "Jump Back, Honey Jump Back", "Hold Me, Hug Me, Rock Me" and "Cruisin'" (with more great double stops, awesome pull offs and cool Bigsby "wiggles").

Johnny Meeks succeeded Cliff Gallup as the Blue Caps lead guitarist both "live" and on recording projects. (Actually Russell Wilaford, who's pictured holding the Tele' on the cover of Gene's second LP Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps/Capitol LP T811 was Cliff's immediate successor for a very brief time - but I don't believe Russell was involved in any recording at all.) Johnny was a fine guitarist in his own right. His sound was distinctly different than Cliff's but still very cool. I believe Johnny initially used a Gretsch Country Club (with DeArmond pickups) and later changed to a Strat'. Johnny's work on tunes like "Lotta Lovin"" (there's a very hip little solo, played twice, in this one), "Dance to the Bop" (a nice "mover" with two fine guitar breaks), "True to You" (a pure pop song with very nice comping/fills) and "Baby Blue" (very cool tone on this one) display his excellent capabilities. And "Say Mama" (a superb rockin' tune featuring saxophone) shows his skills as a song writer.

Jeff Beck's Crazy Legs CD includes 18 tracks - several of which contain very faithful recreations of Cliff and Johnny's original parts/solos. In particular, "Race With the Devil", "Cruisin'", "Lotta Lovin'", "Crazy Legs" and "Woman Love". In fact, some of the recreations are so good/close to the original, that you'd swear that Cliff G. and Johnny M. are recording once again!! (Jeff even used a DeArmond-equipped Gretsch Duo Jet complete with a fixed arm Bigsby for many of the tunes on this project. Now that's authentic!!) The overall sound on this CD is quite good and Jeff's backup band for this project, The Big Town Playboys, provide solid backing/support. And they throw in just enough "twists" to make these tunes their own - and not just a rote recitation of things past.

  • If you don't have this CD yet - GET IT! And if you want to hear the source of Jeff's inspiration for this project here are two fine titles that I'm sure Jeff would recommend:
  • Gene Vincent The Capitol Collector's Series (Capitol CD CDP 7 94074 2) A fine single CD collection of some of Gene's cooler tunes complete with GREAT playing by Cliff and Johnny.

  • The Gene Vincent Box Set/Complete Capitol & Columbia Recordings 1956 - 1964 (EMI CD CDS 7 94593 2) A 6 CD box set that has everything! If you have to have it all, get this. The remastering job is superb and many of the tracks have never sounded better! There's a decent booklet too with session information and some biographical info as well.

  • Crazy Legs is available on Epic CD EK 53562.
    From Jim's April 1996 "SPOTLIGHT" column on 10 Terrific Guitar Moments: In honor of Vintage Guitar Magazine's 10th Anniversary this month's "SPOTLIGHT" will be a little different than what you're accustomed to. In order to emphasize the 10th Anniversary I decided to profile 10 Terrific Guitar Moments. My primary criteria for selecting these players/songs is that there has to be something that continually "grabs" me about them. It could be a "lick", a hot break or solo - or a perfectly complimentary (or contrasting) part. Or all of these might appear on one song. In other words, (for me) these songs stand up very well upon repeated listenings. And all of these players and songs definitely astound, amaze and even amuse me.

  • CLIFF GALLUP "Race With The Devil"
    (originally issued in 1956 on Capitol Records 45 F3530)
    To this day Scotty Moore and Cliff Gallup remain two of the most influential guitarists of the early rockabilly/rock 'n roll era. (Carl Perkins is another player who comes to mind.) While both were influenced by Chet Atkins that's about where the similarity in their playing styles ends. Scotty's approach wasn't quite as over-the-top as Cliff's. Although Cliff's career in the music business was relatively brief he recorded two LP's as a member of Gene Vincent's Blue Caps that contain quintessential early examples of flashy rock 'n roll fret work. Cliff's awesome work on "Race With The Devil" makes this song a true guitar classic. From his cool single note intro to his perfect comping behind Gene's vocal (I love Cliff's hip 6 add 9 chords and sliding double stops) to his incendiary attention-grabbing solos (the opening pull-offs in solo #1 are dynamite, as are the ascending octaves that wrap it up - and just prior to solo #2 there's a neat key change that gives way to more sliding double stops and one really big sliding note). Cliff played a Gretsch Duo-Jet with Dynasonic/DeArmond pickups and the cool tone factor is very evident. "Git it, Cliff!"

  • And from Jim's August 1996 "SPOTLIGHT" column: ATTENTION CLIFF GALLUP FANS: Regular "SPOTLIGHT" reader Ray Bohlken saw my April '96 column on Ten Terrific Guitar Moments. Ray is a fellow Cliff Gallup fan and he was very pleased to see Cliff included. Ray was kind enough to provide some very interesting information about Cliff's musical life after Gene Vincent and The Blue Caps. As so little is known about Cliff's post Blue Caps career I thought I'd paraphrase/consolidate Ray's information and pass it along to all of you. And here it is: During the 1960's and 70's Cliff played electric rhythm and lead guitar in a Virginia-based country band called Carolina Charlie and The Four C's. "Carolina Charlie" was Charlie Wiggs, a disc jockey on radio station WCMS, which sponsored The Four C's. The group played mostly local clubs, military bases and promotional gigs for WCMS. When established country stars toured the area without their own band, they would frequently use The Four C's as backing musicians for "live" shows. (Besides emcee/vocalist Charlie Wiggs and Gallopin' Cliff, the other C's were bassist Felton Clark and drummer Art Newbern.) Ray recalls seeing Cliff back many country stars including Little Jimmy Dickens. During this time period Cliff recorded an instrumental LP with the Four C's. Titled "Straight Down The Middle" (on Pussy Cat LP PCLPS 701), I first became aware of the record in the late 1970's. But until Ray sent me a xerox of the cover, I'd never seen or heard a copy of this unfortunately obscure LP. Fans of Cliff's rompin', stompin' rockabilly work with The Blue Caps might be surprised at the decidedly country style pickin' on this LP. (You can clearly hear Cliff's Chet Atkins influence.) "Straight Down The Middle" features 12 songs including "Be-Bop-A-Lula", "The Girl From Ipanema", "September In The Rain" and two Gallup originals - "Mean" and "Come On In". And there's one song ("Chicken Feathers") that isn't listed on the album cover credits. The album cover features Cliff playing a 60's double cutaway Country Gentleman. Apparently the album was pressed in very limited quantities (only 400 or so copies) and sold by WCMS. To the best of Ray's knowledge, Straight Down The Middle was not sold in stores. Many THANKS to Ray for shedding some light on Gallopin' Cliff Gallup's post Blue Caps career!

    The author welcomes correspondence with fellow fans of guitar music. He listens to a wide range of styles but his special interests are in the instrumental jazz, "cowboy jazz", and country vein. Steel guitar too. Write to Jim Hilmar at 7903 18th Avenue SW Seattle WA 98106. **COPYRIGHT 1994 & 1996 BY J.E. HILMAR





    GENE and the MOVIES

    HOT ROD GANG. Starring John Abernathy III & Jody Fair; screenplay by Lou Rusoff; directed by Lew Landers; produced by Lou Rusoff; American-International, 1 958, b/w, 71 min. Mixes hot-rods and rock'n'roll music in its story of a young man (John Ashley) who will inherit a fortune if he can stay out of trouble and stay away from his two loves--cars and music. Gene does a bit acting in this flick.
    Rockabilly related performances: "Dance In The Street" by Gene Vincent; "Baby Blue" by Gene Vincent; "Dance To The Bop" by Gene Vincent. See Links page on where you might obtain a VHS video tape of this movie.


  • THE GIRL CAN'T HELP IT. Starring Jayne Mansfield and Tom Ewell; screenplay by Frank Tashlin & Herbert Baker; produced and directed by Frank Tashlin; 20th Century-Fox, 1956, Color, 99 min. One of the greatest rock'n'roll pictures, a film so unlike the ones that preceded and followed it that it might have fallen out of Buchanan and Goodman's flying saucer. To begin with, it had real actors (Tom Ewell, Edmund O'Brian, and Jayne Mansfield); a real plot; a good director (Frank Sashlin, who went on to fame making Jerry Lewis films); color; Cinemascope; stereophonic sound; and performers like Fats Domino, Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps, the Platters, Little Richard, Julie London, and Eddie Cochran. O'Brien plays a ganster who hires Ewell, a press agent with a drinking problem, to turn his girlfriend, Mansfield, into a rock'n'roll star, using his song (written while he as on an enforced vacation), "Rockin' Around The Rock Pile." Naturally Ewell and Mansfield fall in love while he's trying to develope her nonvoice, and along the way, they get to hang out in nightclubs and rehearsal studios where Little Richard and Gene Vincent and the rest just happen to be playing. The Vincent scene, with the Blue Caps all throwing off their blue caps in unison, goes a lot further than mere words ever could to explain Vincent's charisma, and the scene of Mansfield twitching down the street, clutching two milk bottles to her ample breasts while Richard belts out the theme song, is a classic of some sort. - Thanks to Ed Ward, Geoffrey Stokes & Ken Tucker. (Gene and the Blue Caps never met Mansfield on the set.)
    Rockabilly related performances: "Cool It Baby" by Eddie Fontaine; "Be Bop-A-Lula" by Gene Vincent; "Twenty Flight Rock" by Eddie Cochran. Also includes performances by Ray Anthony, Barry Gordon, The Treniers, The Chuckles, Abbey Lincoln, Johnny Olenn and Nino Tempo.

  • IT'S TRAD, DAD, starring Craig Douglas & Helen Shapiro; screenplay by Milton Subotsky; directed by Richard Lester; produced by Milton Subotsky. Columbia Pictures, 1962, b/w, 78 min. Includes performances by Del Shannon, Mr. Acker Bilk, Kenny Ball, the Temperence Seven, the BrookBrothers, Chubby Checker, Gary "U.S." Bonds, Gene McDaniels, John Leyton, and Helen Shapiro. Rockabilly-related performances:"Spaceship To Mars" by Gene Vincent

    LIVE IT UP, Gene also appeared in this Joe Meek UK film (in the '60s).

  • FROM A 1956 MAGAZINE INTERVIEW: After just making "The Girl Can't Help It" movie, Gene was asked what type of girl he likes, thinking he still may have Jayne Mansfield on the mind. But no, as he digs the quiet, plain-type of girl. The girl-next-door type, real sweet with not too much makeup. He doesn't particulary dig the Hollywood type. Gene also wants us to be sure and tell all the readers that "If I had all day to talk I couldn't thank you enough for now well you have treated me and the Blue Caps.




  • HOT ROD GANG - THE MUSIC ... Courtesy of Tapio Vaisanen
    Here's a session discography of the movie "Hot Rod Gang". NOTICE THE PRESENCE OF EDDIE COCHRAN.

    Hot Rod Gang

    1. Untitled instrumental, over opening credits (1.10) Eddie Cochran, gtr
    Mike Henderson, ts
    Gene Riggio, dms
    unknown, pno
    unknown, bs

    2. "Hit And Run Lover" (2.05) (1st Youth Club Scene) John Ashley, vcl
    Eddie Cochran, gtr
    Mike Henderson, ts
    Gene Riggio, dms
    unknown, pno
    unknown, bs
    unknown, 2nd ts

    Actors/Musicians miming in the film
    John Ashley, vcl
    Dick D'Agostin, gtr
    Mike Henderson, ts
    Gene Riggio, dms
    unknown, pno
    unknown, string bs
    unknown, 2nd ts

    3. Untitled instrumental, (1.04) (incomplete) (2nd Youth Club Scene)

    4. Untitled slow dance instrumental, (0.33) (incomplete) Eddie Cochran, gtr
    Mike Henderson, ts
    Gene Riggio, dms
    unknown, pno
    unknown, bs
    unknown, 2nd ts

    Actors/Musicians miming in the film
    Dick D'Agostin, gtr
    Mike Henderson, ts
    Gene Riggio, dms
    unknown, pno
    unknown, string bs
    unknown, 2nd ts

    5. "Dance In The Street" (2.00)
    Gene Vincent, vcl
    Johnny Meeks, ld gtr
    Clifton Simmons, pno
    Grady Owen, rhythm gtr
    Bobby Jones, el bs
    Juvey Gomez, dms
    Tommy Facenda, clapper boy
    Paul Peek, clapper boy

    6. Annie Laurie (2.08)
    John Ashley, vcl
    Eddie Cochran, gtr
    Mike Henderson, ts
    Gene Riggio, dms
    unknown, pno
    unknown, bs
    unknown, 2nd ts

    Actors/Musicians miming in the film
    John Ashley, vcl
    Mike Henderson, ts
    Johnny Meeks, ld gtr
    Clifton Simmons, pno
    Grady Owen, rhythm gtr
    Gene Riggio, dms
    Tommy Facenda, clapper boy
    Paul Peek, clapper boy

    Bobby Jones is absent from the set for "Annie Laurie" although his electric bass is seen resting against Johnny Meeksą amplifier - but mysteriously disappears by the end of the number.

    7. Baby Blue (2.18)
    Gene Vincent, vcl
    Johnny Meeks, ld gtr
    Bobby Jones, el bs
    Max Lipscomb, pno
    Dickie Harrell, dms
    Tommy Facenda, backing vocal
    Paul Peek, backing vocal

    Actors/Musicians miming in the film
    Gene Vincent, vcl
    Johnny Meeks, ld gtr
    Bobby Jones, el bs
    Clifton Simmons, pno
    Grady Owen, rhythm gtr
    Gene Riggio, dms
    Tommy Facenda, vcl & "Facenda Freeze"
    Paul Peek, backing vcl
    The interesting feature here is that Gene Riggio has replaced Juvey Gomez as drummer on "Baby Blue" sequence in the film.

    8. Annie Laurie (2.08)
    John Ashley, vcl
    Eddie Cochran, gtr
    Mike Henderson, ts
    Gene Riggio, dms
    unknown, pno
    unknown, bs
    unknown, 2nd ts

    Actors/Musicians miming in the film
    John Ashley, vcl
    Dick D'Agostin, gtr
    Mike Henderson, ts
    Gene Riggio, dms
    unknown, pno
    unknown, string bs
    unknown, 2nd ts

    "Lovely Loretta" by Gene Vincent is heard on the Jukebox only, in one of the Youth Club scenes. An additional song by John Ashley heard in the film seems to feature a different set of musicians that do not include Eddie Cochran.

    The John Ashley songs and instrumental segments were almost certainly recorded at Gold Star studios, Hollywood during the early part of 1958 and supervised by Jerry Capehart.

    Note: "Fury Unleashed" is a shortened version of "Hot Rod Gang", with "Baby Blue" mysteriously cut out!




  • THE LAST DAY.Upon returning to Los Angeles, he went on a three-day bender that finally destroyed the already alcerated lining of his stomach. Upon the day of his death, he drank three quarts of tomato juice. He was hungry and that is all that was in the house. He had stopped drinking that day. His sister, Donna, said "I really believe Gene knew he was going to die and he had always said he did not want to die drunk. I believe that is why he quit drinking that day."

  • WORRIED ABOUT THEIR SON, Gene's parents, then residing in Saugus, CA, traveled to Simi Valley to find him brokenhearted and disoriented. They decided to take Gene to their home and upon entering the house, Gene tripped and fell, bursting his chronic ulcers and began vomiting blood and tomato juice. He was taken by an ambulance to Inter-Valley Hospital, where he passed away about an hour later. Among Gene's last words while waiting for the ambulance was the promise, "If I get through this, I'm going to be a better man." However, he did not survive. His mother said, "After he died, he had the sweetest smile on his face. Actual burial site is Eternal Memorial Park, Newhall CA. The headstone is badly deteriorated and needs replacing. Reform and survival, though, were not in the cards. Returning to Los Angeles, He promptly went on a three-day bender that finally destroyed the already ulcerated lining of his stomach. It was then he called and went to see his parents before dying. To date, we know that Dickie Harrell has an autographed suitcase and Jerry Merritt still has an ampfilier (custom made by Leo Fender just for Gene). Sounds like good material for the Hall of Fame display case. Posted 2/97

  • QUOTE FROM GENE IN 1969. "When I first started I never meant to make money. My only thought was to make a living singing, but all of a sudden I was getting $1500 a night. And if you take a 19-year-old boy and put him in those circumstances...it was a bad scene, it shouldn't have happened on that first record. I didn't know how to handle a hit: I was only a child, a boy."

  • BOOK: THE DAY THE WORLD TURNED BLUE
    Author: Britt Hagarty, text copyright 1983, now out of print
    PLEASE NOTE: THIS BOOK IS NOT ENDORSED BY THE CRADDOCK FAMILY.




    >Courtesy Dennis DeWitt: In 1958 Gene moved from Dallas to the West Coast because the management team at the Big D Jamboree hadn't paid the taxes on his $80,000 ranch house with a pool which Gene had been sharing with his new wife Darlene. Gene was out on the road almost all the time. He returned from touring in time to watch the I.R.S. take his home in Dallas. Instead of suing his management he just shrugged it off and moved to Los Angeles.
  • On arriving in Hollywood, Gene and the band appeared in the movie "Hot Rod Gang." For the moment, things appeared to be getting better. But by the late fall of 1958 his fortunes had hit the rocks again. The Blue Caps quit because they had not been paid in three weeks. (Web page editor's note here: When I saw Gene and The Caps at that time period at the Riverside Ballroom in Green Bay, Wisconsin, I spoke to the ballroom owner. He said there was problems with Gene and the band over money, and that Gene even offered the pay the guys off with some of those "funny cigarettes." A few months later I saw Johnny Meeks playing lead with The Champs at the same dance hall.) Now, everyone who knew Gene Vincent mentions he was someone who was always a man of his word. This situation caused Gene great pain, but he couldn't pay the band because he hadn't been paid. In the process Gene also lost his musicians union card.
    Gene's wife Darlene was from the Pacific Northwest, so they moved to Vancouver, Washington (USA), which is just across the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon. Gene's new manager Pat Mason was located in Seaside, Oregon, so Gene moved there. From this new base of operations Pat Mason and Whitey Pullen would manage and book Gene on tours of Japan, Alaska and the still "wild" west. In the Northwest Gene was backed up by Clayton Watson and the Silhouettes. A member of Clayton's band introduced Gene to guitarist Jerry Merritt. Gene and Jerry would play together and remain friends thereafter. Gene and Jerry also bore an uncanny resemiblance to each other which fact would be utilized by Pat Mason on a Japan tour. Merritt, from Yakima, Washington, is also a songwriter. One of his songs, "She She Little Sheila" would chart twice in England for Gene Vincent.

  • By 1959 Gene had his union card back. His management then booked him on a tour of Alaska. After returning he played the Northwest for a couple of months and then Whitey Pullen and Pat Mason booked Gene and Jerry on a tour of Japan for $2000 a day - big money in 1959. Three shows a day (followed by four showers), 30,000 Japanese fans at each show. The first five days they played before 286,000 people in Japan. Mind boggling for two guys who maybe played for 200 at the Yakmia Armory two weeks before the tour.
    Gene and Jerry stayed in the Presidential Suite of the Nakatsu Hotel while in Japan. The tour took a strange turn after four weeks ... Gene got homesick for his wife Darlene. He took $20,000 cash and split for the airport without telling anyone, including Jerry Merritt. Jerry woke up and Gene was no where to be found. He called Pat Mason in Oregon. Never one to panic, Pat calmly informed Jerry that since he knew all the songs he could finish the tour because he also looked a lot like Gene. Jerry must have felt like Alice after she fell down the rabbit hole, but to his credit he pulled it off. The tour lasted two more weeks when Capitol Records called Jerry. He was needed for Gene's last album on a major American label. Posted 3/97




  • Courtesy Pete Jamieson: While in Europe in the 1960s, practical jokes often happened on stage. At the start of "Over the Rainbow" someone would invariably try to mess Gene up with a rude noise ot prank. He was not adverse to a bit of mischief himself and confessed he'd once fixed up Johnny & The Hurricanes with a group of "ladies" in Germany, knowing full well that these "ladies" were in fact guys in drag. Posted 3/97

    >Courtesy Eric Dunsdon: What is it that brings out such protective feelings in the most unlikely of us? Maybe it was because he looked so vulunerable, maybe because he always seemed to be singing for "us" and maybe because he often looked so alone, even when on stage surropunded by complete bedlam which was certainly the norm in the 1960s. I saw Gene on many occasions from his first visit before he got into the leathers, through to that wonderful night ten years later at The London Palladium where he silenced the audience with a spine tingling version of Hank's "Lonesome Whistle." The Golders Green Hippodrome was the unlikely scene of another eptic sixties show when Gene shared the bill with Jerry Lee Lewis. My God, can you image it! There was total uproar as soon as Gene appeared, the crowds rushing forward to get near the stage. A burly theatre attendant arrived to sort out these rowdies. A real Sergeant Major Jobsworth type, he plunged into the jostling throng to restore order. Halfway through "Rocky Road Blues" he staggered back into view, cap turned back on his head, buttons missing from his great-coat and waxed moustache badly buckled! By the time Jerry Lee was pounding "Down the Line" he had been joined on stage by half the Metropolitan Police Riot Squad. Neither Gene or Jerry go to finish their acts that night. What a show! Alan Freed would have been proud! Posted 3/97

  • WHAT OTHER ARTISTS SAID ABOUT GENE & THE BLUE CAPS
    JEFF BECK: "Gene was one of the reasons I actually pursued a musical career."
    THE STRAY CATS: "Hold on tight, and you better get ready, cause we're gonna rock with Gene and Eddie." Brian Setzer used many licks from Blue Caps. guitarists... Cliff Gallup, Johnny Meeks and Jerry Merritt.
    JIM MORRISON of the DOORS: It was Jim who insisted that Gene be on the bill at the 1969 Toronto Rock 'n' Roll Festival. Gene was scheduled to be backed up by the Doors, it was the Alice Cooper band that actually perform behind him for that concert. Morrison was a drinking buddy with Gene in 1969 at a-shot and a-beer joint called the Shamrock at the Silver Lake end of Santa Monica Boulevard. It is alledged that Morrison stalked Vincent in Hollywood, hanging out at Gene's place and following him around. He copied Gene's mannerisms from the way he walked, held his cigarettes, to the leather outfits.
    ELVIS PRESLEY: Elvis, Bill Black and Scotty Moore first heard Gene Vincent singing Be Bop A Lula on the car radio while traveling between shows. Bill Black, never one to hold back, immediately accused Elvis of moonlighting with another band, on another label, under an assumed name. Elvis, of course, denied it.

  • RED GWYNN, Gene's chauffeur recalls "Gene was his own worst emeny. He popped a lot of pills (in the early days, because of the tremondous pain in his left leg). He'd break his cast in every town. (because of wild stage antics) Then in the next town we'd have to hunt up a doctor and get a new cast." Posted 2/97

  • ROCKIN' RONNY WEISER: (The fella that recorded Gene in Ron's apartment using a $140 tape deck in 1971). One thing I never forgot, and I paraphrase, near the end Gene told me: ''Ron,they wanna change me; they wanna turn me into a Country & Western artist;they wanna turn me into a psychedelic-type singer, but, Ron, I am a Rock'n'Roller, I'll always be a Rock'n'Roller, I'll die a Rock'n'Roller... ''. I think this is pretty much verbatim, not paraphrase. The word ''psychedelic'' might have been ''hippie.'' I was with Gene Vincent dozens of times and with me he was always very courteous and very friendly. He loved Rock'n'Roll (we called it ROCK'N'ROLL then, NOT Rockabilly) and his fave artists were Elvis, Little Richard, Carl Perkins, Brook Benton, Jerry Lee and Fats Domino.

  • TORONTO, 1969. That year Gene appeared at the celebrated Toronto Rock & Roll Festival, on the same bill with The Doors, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Eric Clapton, Jerry Lee Lewis, John Lennon and Alice Cooper. It was Alice Cooper's band that provided the backing for Gene.

  • WRITER ROB FINNIS REFLECTS: "Throughout his career, Gene Vincent had lived a day-to day existence out of a suitcase, never contemplating either his future or his state of health. He either had good days or bad days, good gig or bad gigs. He was never really interested in personal adulation, byt trying to prove himself to an audience; and in his heyday, at least, he always did his utmost every time he went on stage, never assuming that he would automatically be accepted. It was this vulnerability, coupled with his extraordinary stage presence, which made him so great. Rarely sober, he could be extremely vindictive when drunk and was always feunding with his mangement. But providing he had a gig to play he was happy. 'I'll play anywhere anyone wants me.' he said towards the end. And he did: on a French tour in 1970 he was reduced to playing village fetes booked by a sympathic French fan. It was the thought of that road, however bumpy, running out on him that killed this giant of rock."

  • RONNIE DAWSON. A few years back someone talked to Ronnie Dawson about working with Gene back in 1959ish. They recorded a demo of Say Mama, with Ronnie on guitar, and actually did a tour together out west, which did very poorly in terms of attendance (go figure). The promoter eventually abandoned the tour, stranding everyone in some small town in the middle of nowhere without transportation! It was shortly after this that Gene went to England for those last shows with Eddie.

  • IT WAS COMMON for Gene not to stick with the program and to do only a few of his own songs on stage in the early years. He liked doing another artists' (Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, etc.) material, often surprising the band and not going with the pre-planned sets.

  • IN 1962 it is reported that The Beatles once backed up Gene Vincent at the Star Club in Hamburg, Germany. It seems that Gene's backup band at the time (The Sounds Incorporated) couldn't make the gig on time that night.

  • TV. Gene sang "Be Bop A Lula" during his first TV appearance on the Perry Como show, NYC, Saturday, July 28th, 1956. He also played it live on the legendary Alan Freed WINS Radio Show in August of 1956. The Blue Caps appeared with Gene on this radio show , also performing a live version of "Hound Dog." These two songs are available on Radiola CD #1087. In the early years, Gene was booked by the Ed McLemore Agency of Dallas, Texas.

  • ETC., ETC. . . .
  • Veteran rocker, Buddy "Party Doll" Knox, toured with Gene and the Blue Caps in 1957, when they shared the same Dallas booking agency. Gene and the band were described in those days, as a "phenomenon of physical endurance and antics both on stage and off." After working a show with Vincent, Buddy recalls, "Right then and there was when I decided never, never to follow Gene Vincent on stage... never! That would be pure suicide, because when he finished with a stage, it's done, I mean that's it for the evening!

  • Gene is one of the few rock 'n' rollers to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. This happened long before he died.

  • QUOTE: "Gene's rather small in physical stature but he's a man-sized bombshell on stage..."--Mae Brown Axton, 1958.

  • Several Gene Vincent tribute singles and albums are out there including one recent CD by Jeff Beck as he does an excellent job capturing the guitar styles of Cliff Gallup and Johnny Meeks. The Stray Cats have covered several of Gene's hits. Others artists offering tributes: Van Morrison, Johnny Carroll, Ian Dury & The Blockheads, Robert Gordon, Danny Shoggan, Epis A. Roberto, Eddy Mitchell, Dave Phillips, Flash Cats, The Teencats, The Wild Ones, Mal Clint, Matchbox and Gene Loves Jezebel, to name a few.

  • QUOTES by writer Sue Smallwood:

    • "Gene Vincent was a musician decades ahead of his peers. Earthier than Elvis Presley, more sensual than Jerry Lee Lewis, sexier than Buddy Holly, Gene was the embodiment of the libidinous, defiant tension upon which rock 'n' roll was founded and continues to flourish. In rock history, it was Gene Vincent who first donned the all black leather stage gear that's since become a punk rock and heavy metal hallmark. It was Vincent who first developed the menacing stage swagger (out of necessity, with a crippled leg), frenetic delivery and delinquent, rebellious persona still emulated by rockers some 25 years after his death."

    • "He had a fascination with guns and knives -- often spontaneously pulling them on bandmates, friends and lovers for the sheer thrill of it -- and with death, faking his own demise on many occasions for attention and his own amusement. His inability to stay in one place for very long culminated in perilous road treks at his insistence for the exhausted Blue Caps, departing one city for the next within minutes of completing a frenzied concert performance, often the third of the day."

    • "Vincent's personal relations were no less rocky. He was married four times, the first to a 15-year-old, and was by turns obsessively romantic and possessive. He fathered three children and was a loving. thoughtful parent when he made time between nearly non-stop concert engagements. A quiet, shy, likeable man offstage, a consummate, demanding performer onstage and a perfectionist in the recording studio. Vincent's revolving band lineups either loved or loathed (or both) the man."



  • FAMILY (Craddock). Gene parents have passed on, but he has three sisters living in the United States: Evelyn, Tina and Donna.

  • MARRIAGES. Gene had four wives. His first wife was Ruth Ann Hand, in 1956. It didn't last very long because Gene had many female admirers and loved the attention. They lived at Ruth Ann's parents. Ruth Ann filed for divorce. The three others were: Darlene Hicks, Margaret Russell and Jackie Frisco.


    Comments welcome, e-mail: GV@rockabillyhall.com