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Vincent Eugene Craddock (February 11, 1935 ‚Äď October 12, 1971), better known as Gene Vincent, was an Americanmarker musician who pioneered the styles of rock and roll and rockabilly. His 1956 top ten hit with his Blue Caps, "Be-Bop-A-Lula," is considered a significant early example of rockabilly. He is a member of the Rock and Roll and Rockabilly halls of fame.


Early life

Vincent Eugene Craddock was born in Norfolkmarker, Virginiamarker, on February 11, 1935. He grew up under the influence of country, rhythm and blues and gospel music. He showed his first real interest in music while his family lived in Munden Point, Virginia, near the North Carolinamarker line, where they ran a country store. He received his first guitar as a gift from a friend at the age of 12.

His father, Ezekiah Jackson Craddock, also volunteered to serve in the U.S. Coast Guard and patrolled American coastal waters to protect Allied shipping against Germanmarker U-boats during World War II. His mother, Mary Louise Craddock, maintained a general store at Munden Point. Craddock's parents moved the family and opened a new general store and sailor's tailoring shop in Norfolk, Virginia.

Having spent his youth in the Norfolk area, Craddock decided to pursue the life of a sailor. He dropped out of school at age seventeen and enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1952. Craddock's parents signed the required forms allowing him to join the navy. He completed basic training and joined the fleet as a destroyerman on the USS Chukawan, although he did spend a two week training period on the USS Amphion before returning to the Chukawan. He proved to be a good sailor while deployed at sea, but gained a reputation as a trouble-maker while on liberty ashore. Craddock never saw combat, but completed a Korean War deployment. He sailed home from Korean waters aboard battleship USS Wisconsinmarker, but was not part of the ship's company.

Craddock planned a long career in the U.S. Navy and, in 1955, used his $612 dollar reenlistment bonus to buy a new Triumph motorbike. In July 1955, while in Norfolk, he was involved in a severe motorcycle accident that shattered his left leg. He refused to have it amputated. The leg was saved, but left him with a permanent limp and chronic pain for the rest of his life. He spent a considerable time in the Portsmouth Naval Hospital and was medically discharged from the Navy shortly thereafter.

Early music career

Craddock became involved in the local music scene in Norfolk. He changed his name to Gene Vincent and formed a rockabilly band called the Blue Caps (a term used in reference to enlisted sailors in the U.S. Navy). The band included Willie Williams on rhythm guitar, Jack Neal on upright bass, Dickie Harrell on drums, Paul Peek singer/guitar and the innovative and influential lead guitarist, Cliff Gallup. Departing from traditional naming conventions, he and his band are named "Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps", not "...the Blue Caps" as often stated.

Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps soon gained a reputation playing in various country bands in his native Norfolk, Virginiamarker. There, they won a talent contest organized by local radio DJ "Sheriff Tex" Davis, who became his manager.

Biggest hits

In 1956 he wrote "Be-Bop-A-Lula", No. 102 on Rolling Stone magazine's "500 Greatest Rock and Roll Songs of All Time" list, and signed a publishing contract with Bill Lowery of The Lowery Group of music publishers in Atlanta, Georgia. Lowery recorded Gene singing "Be-Bop-A-Lula" and secured him a recording contract with Capitol Recordsmarker. "Be-Bop-A-Lula" was not on Vincent's first album and was not picked by Capitol as the first single to be released. Lowery, however, got Capitol to agree that "Be-Bop-A-Lula" would be the "B-side" of the first single ("Woman Love"). Prior to the release of the single, Lowery pressed promotional copies of "Be-Bop-A-Lula" and sent them to radio stations throughout the country. By the time Capitol released the single, "Be-Bop-A-Lula" had already gained attention from the public and radio DJs. The song was picked up and played by other U.S. radio stations (obscuring the original "A-side" song), became a hit and launched Gene Vincent as a pop star.

After "Be-Bop-A-Lula" became a hit (peaking at number 7 and spending 20 weeks on the Billboard Pop Chart), Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps were unable to follow it up with the same level of commercial success, but released critically acclaimed songs like "Race With The Devil" (#96 in Billboard) and "Bluejean Bop" (#49). That year, Vincent was reportedly convicted of public obscenity and fined $10,000 by the state of Virginiamarker for his live performance of the erotic song, "Woman Love", although this is now believed to have been a rumor, possibly started by his manager.

The group had another hit with 1957's "Lotta Lovin'" (highest position #13 and spending 19 weeks in the charts). Gene Vincent was awarded Gold Records for 2 million sales of Be-Bop-A-Lula and 1.5 million sales of Lotta Lovin'. The same year he toured the east coast of Australia with Little Richard and Eddie Cochran, drawing audiences totaling 72,000 to their Sydney Stadium concerts. Vincent also became one of the first rock stars to star in a film, The Girl Can't Help It together with Jayne Mansfield.

"Dance to the Bop" was released by Capitol records on October 28, 1957.On November 17, 1957 Vincent and His Blue Caps performed the song on the nationally broadcast Ed Sullivan Show.. The song spent nine weeks on the charts and peaked at #23 on January 23, 1958, would be Vincent's last USA hit single. The song was used in the movie Hot Rod Gang for a dance rehearsal scene featuring dancers doing West Coast Swing.

Gene and His Blue Caps also appeared several times on Town Hall Party, California's largest country music barndance held at the Town Hall in Compton, California. Town Hall Party drew in excess of 2,800 paid admissions each Friday and Saturday with room for 1,200 dancers. The show was also on from 8:30pm to 9:30pm over the NBC network. In addition, it was shown over KTTV, channel 11 from 10:00pm to 1:00am on Saturday nights. Appearances were on October 25, 1958, as well as July 25 and November 7, 1959. Songs performed were: Be-Bop-A-Lula, "High Blood Pressure," Rip It Up, "Dance To The Bop," "You Win Again," "For Your Precious Love," "Rocky Road Blues," "Pretty Pearly", "High School Confidential," Over The Rainbow, Roll Over Beethoven and "She She Little Sheila".


A dispute with the US tax authorities and The American Musicians' Union over payments to his band and his having sold the band's equipment to pay a tax bill led him to leave the US and try his hand in Europe.

Following a visit to Europe in 1959, Vincent managed to attract a new huge and discerning audience there, especially in the United Kingdom and France. By that time his career had mostly ended in the US. On April 16, 1960, while on tour in the UK, Vincent, Eddie Cochran, and songwriter Sharon Sheeley were involved in a high-speed traffic accident in a private hire taxi. Vincent broke his ribs and collarbone and further damaged his weakened leg. Sheeley suffered a broken pelvis. Cochran, who had been thrown from the vehicle, suffered serious brain injuries and died the next day.

Vincent subsequently moved to England in 1963. It was during his early tours of Britain that he adopted the trademark leather outfit, at the suggestion of British rock 'n' roll impressario Jack Good. British fans held in high regard the band that supported him, Sounds Incorporated - a six-piece outfit which included three saxophones, guitar, bass and drums. They later went on to play with The Beatles at their famed Shea Stadiummarker concert.

Later career

His attempts to re-establish his American career recording in folk rock and country rock genres proved unsuccessful; he is best remembered today for his recordings of the 1950s and early 1960s which originally appeared on the Capitol Recordsmarker label. He also put out some tracks on EMI's Columbia label, including a cover of Arthur Alexander's "Where Have You Been All My Life". A new backing band called The Shouts joined him at this time.

In 1966, back in the States, he recorded Am I That Easy to Forget for Challenge Records. On this, he was backed by ex-members of The Champs and Glen Campbell. Although critically well received, it did not sell very well either in the USA or Britain where it was released on the London label.

In 1969, he recorded the album "I'm Back and I'm Proud" for long-time fan John Peel's Dandelion label, which included backing vocals by Linda Ronstadt. He later recorded a further two albums for the Kama Sutra label.The two Kama Sutra albums were reissued on one CD by Rev-Ola in March 2008.

On his final tour of the UK, he was backed by The Wild Angels, a British band who had previously worked at the Royal Albert Hallmarker with Bill Haley & His Comets and Duane Eddy. Because of pressure from his ex-wife, the Inland Revenue and promoter Don Arden, Gene had to return rather swiftly to the USA.

His final US recordings were four tracks for Rockin' Ronny Weiser's Rolling Rock label, a few weeks before his death. These tracks were later released on a compilation album of tribute songs, including a version of "Say Mama" by his daughter Melody Jean Vincent (accompanied by Johnny Meeks on guitar). He later recorded five tracks (released years later as "The Final Sessions") in Britain in October 1971.

Vincent died on October 12, 1971 from a ruptured stomach ulcer while visiting his father in Californiamarker, and is interred in the Eternal Valley Memorial Park, Newhall, California.

He was the first inductee into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame upon its formation in 1997. The following year he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Famemarker. Vincent has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Famemarker (at 1749 N. Vine St.).

Film appearances

Cover versions of Vincent's songs

See also




  • Steven Mandich: Sweet Gene Vincent (The Bitter End) Orange Syringe Publications. (2002) 1000 Printed. ISBN 0-953762602
  • Susan Vanhecke: Race With the Devil: Gene Vincent's Life in the Fast Lane. Saint Martin's Press ISBN 0-312-26222-1
  • Derek Henderson: Gene Vincent, A Companion Spent Brothers Productions (2005) ISBN 0-9519416-7-4
  • Mick Farren: Gene Vincent. There's One In Every Town The Do-Not Press (2004) ISBN 1-904316-37-9


  1. Vincentpapers
  2. Official Gene Vincent Web Site
  3. Sheriff Tex Davis - Obituaries, News -
  4. Vincent, Gene (RCS Artist Discography)
  5. Ed Sullivan
  6. video
  7. [1][2][3]

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