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Elvis Presley and Gene Vincent


By: Elvis Australia
Source: www.elvis.com.au
February 26, 2018
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Elvis met Gene Vincent at least twice in 1956, once in New York on July 3, and again a few months later in Los Angeles. There are no photos of the chance July meeting at Penn Station, although Elvis mentions it in an interview about a week later. Below we have a photo from the second meeting; Elvis Presley, with Paul Peek, Gene Vincent in Los Angeles, CA - Sunday, September 30, 1956.

Elvis Presley, with Paul Peek, Gene Vincent in Los Angeles, CA - Sunday, September 30, 1956.
Elvis Presley, with Paul Peek, Gene Vincent in Los Angeles, CA - Sunday, September 30, 1956.

Vincent Eugene Craddock (February 11, 1935 - October 12, 1971), known as Gene Vincent, was an American 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 was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.

Be-Bop-A-Lula

In 1956 he wrote 'Be-Bop-A-Lula', which drew comparisons to Elvis Presley and which Rolling Stone magazine listed as number 103 on its '500 Greatest Songs of All Time'. Local radio DJ 'Sheriff Tex' Davis arranged for a demo of the song to be made, and this secured Vincent a contract with Capitol Records. He signed a publishing contract with Bill Lowery of the Lowery Group of music publishers in Atlanta, Georgia. 'Be-Bop-A-Lula' was not on Vincent's first album and was picked by Capitol producer Ken Nelson as the B-side of his first single. 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) and became a hit, peaking at number 5 and spending 20 weeks on the Billboard pop chart and reaching number 5 and spending 17 weeks on the Cashbox chart, and launching Vincent's career as a rock-and-roll star.

After 'Be-Bop-A-Lula' became a hit, Vincent and His Blue Caps were unable to follow it up with the same level of commercial success, although they released critically acclaimed songs like 'Race with the Devil' (number 96 on the Billboard chart and number 50 on the Cashbox chart) and 'Bluejean Bop' (number 49 on the Billboard chart and another million-selling disc).

Cliff Gallup left the band in 1956, and Russell Williford joined as the new guitarist for the Blue Caps. Williford played and toured Canada with Vincent in late 1956 but left the group in early 1957. Gallup came back to do the next album and then left again. Williford came back and exited again before Johnny Meeks joined the band. The group had another hit in 1957 with 'Lotta Lovin' (highest position number 13 and spending 19 weeks on the Billboard chart and number 17 and 17 weeks on the Cashbox chart). Vincent was awarded gold records for two 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 made an appearance in the film The Girl Can't Help It, with Jayne Mansfield, performing 'Be-Bop-A-Lula' with the Blue Caps in a rehearsal room. '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 television program The Ed Sullivan Show. The song spent nine weeks on the Billboard chart and peaked at number 23 on January 23, 1958 and reached number 36 and spent eight weeks on the Cashbox chart. It was Vincent's last American hit single. The song was used in the movie Hot Rod Gang for a dance rehearsal scene featuring dancers doing the West Coast Swing.

Vincent and His Blue Caps also appeared several times on Town Hall Party, California's largest country music barn dance, 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 broadcast from 8:30 to 9:30 pm on the NBC Radio network. It was also shown on KTTV, channel 11, from 10 pm to 1 am on Saturday nights. Vincent and His Blue Caps appeared on October 25, 1958, and July 25 and November 7, 1959. They performed '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'.

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