Other Players

Eddie Cochran 1960 UK Tour

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Here's some pics....I think the 'jackweed' that thought I dressed not to his taste isn't around anymore. Hey ho, we had fun, then it was gone.

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Sorry again for the diversion. Regarding Eddie's tour hear, it's great to hear details of what it was like back in those days. I go to sleep at night wondering what it must have been like, especially as a gig would have been so very different compared to today. Thanks for the well described atmosphere

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January 24th The tour opens in Ipswich, a seaport city located eighty miles northeast of London at the Gaumont theatre with two performances- 6pm and 8:30pm. Eddie was the middle act of three in the first half; Gene Vincent, effectively the headliner, closed the show with his intense and electrifying stage act.

The Quiet Three was the backing band employed for one-night performance. Also on the bill was vocal group The Viscounts, Vince Eager and Tony Sheridan plus compere Billy Raymond.

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A little about the Viscounts. They were a featherweight three-piece vocal group, yet to make their first record. Their most notable member was the astute Gordon Mills who soon recognised that success in showbusiness was more often to be found in writing material rather than being on the performance treadmill. He would write I'll Never Get Over You for Johnny Kidd and most famously, It's Not Unusual for Tom Jones. Mills would also become Jones' manager.

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Tony Sheridan is most notable for his association with the nascent Beatles who backed his version of My Bonnie. Here we see his live performance on the rarest of clips, from a Jack Good tv show called Oh Boy! which has miraculously survived. This is the closest extant film to give a flavour of Gene and Eddie's Boy Meets Girls appearances. The production and lighting are really superb, adding an edge of drama, immersion and palpable excitement to the performance-

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Vince Eager would close the first half of the show and impressed Eddie with his assured rendition of Conway Twitty's It's Only Make Believe. On record, Vince had quite a soft and youthful voice in those days. Live, he is a powerful singer. He and Eddie would become quite close on the tour- Vince had his own car, a Vauxhall Wyvern, and Eddie would sometimes travel with Vince to the one-night shows instead of enduring the trains booked by road manager Hal Carter.

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After stunning the Ipswich audiences by referring to the city as 'Hip-switch', Eddie gave this interview-

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Thankx Ade (and Vince) for such a wonderful thread. I had the good fortune of living in England as a child ('67-8) which changed/warped me permanently, and the way English culture, Gretsches and music continually intersect is a source of great joy. Long live Troy Tempest!

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January 28th The tour really gets going in earnest with four one-night dates in a row, starting at the Coventry Gaumont with the same line-up as seen at Ipswich. Coventry was at the heart of British car manufacturing, being the home of Rootes Group (Hillman, Humber, Sunbeam) and Jaguar cars- the city had been comprehensively clobbered by German bombers in the Second World War.

It also sees the first example of the at-best lukewarm and often distinctly waspish mainstream press response to the tour- "There were no frantic scenes when the latest ration of rock 'n' roll reached Coventry last night. The two Americans and several British performers who made two appearances at the Gaumont on the same day drew shrieks inside the theatre, but seemed in little danger of losing their shirts outside." Maybe the author was simply offering a wry observation on the chilly January weather. Maybe.

Eddie's single, Hallelujah I Love Her So has it's first week in the charts, entering at #28.

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January 29th Worcester is a convenient forty-five miles from Coventry and it's here that the tour finds itself today for two performances at the 1800 seat Gaumont Theatre. The stars were accommodated at the aptly-named Star Hotel, located just a few hundred yards on from the theatre.

A reporter from the Worcester Evening News attended and noted in youthful vernacular that Eddie "Drove the cats wild" and that Gene would perform Over The Rainbow, "...to prove that a rock 'n' roller can really sing properly if he wants to." This choice of material would very shortly have an unintended consequence.

For atmosphere, a look around the Gaumont with its Art-Deco style-

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January 30th The tour moves north to Bradford, a journey of around 160 miles from Worcester. The city had been a major player in the industrial revolution, specialising in textiles. It sits atop a bleak landscape on the edge of Bronté country and the same biting winds that tormented Kathy and Heathcliffe howl around its hilly streets. Civic largesse was expressed in lavish architecture and the Gaumont was an especially beautiful example. The building has survived and is in considerable disrepair, its resurrection has been promised for some time.

If you enjoy urban archaeology and dereliction, have a look at these recent photos of the interior- https://www.thetelegraphand...

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The Bradford appointment is notable as it shows the first cracks emerging in the tour. Gene Vincent blinked first in a revealing example of how his scintillating stage show could be undermined by a complex, fragile psyche.

'A Badgered 'Rock' Star Quits The Stage' was the headline in the Yorkshire Post. Towards the end of a rousing set, Gene attempted his 'rockers can really sing' version of Over The Rainbow. The crowd was having none of it. He persisted. The crowd then chanted for Eddie Cochran to come back on. Gene walked off.

Compere Billy Raymond intervened and called the full cast out for the finale. Vincent sheepishly complied.

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January 31st By the conclusion of the Bradford shows, the tour was halfway to Glasgow where the first of the week-long engagements would begin. So, using a special technique that booking agents use to torment their performers whenever possible, the tour then trudged 250 miles in the opposite direction to Southampton. It's a city so far to the south that one can travel no further without getting wet feet- you may on a clear day, literally wave a jolly 'Bonjour' to France. RMS Titanic sailed from here in 1912.

Oddly, the venue was the gleaming Guildhall with its Greek colonnade frontage rather than the expected Gaumont theatre.

Less than a week into the schedule the dreary weather, the travelling or perhaps the effects of late night revelry begin to affect Eddie Cochran. In one of the most acerbic reviews of the tour the Southern Evening Echo mockingly reported, "Black leather tights, silver waistcoat and laryngitis, that was...Eddie Cochran...midway through his hoarse croaking into the microphone he apologised... Gene Vincent appeared in equally dashing attire- black leather jacket, black leather jacket, black leather gloves, as though equipped for a deep-sea dive..."

Our gallant reporter continued, "Best voice of the night?...compere Billy Raymond...Show verdict?...progressively monotonous as it went on- song after song being shaped in the same old tiresome mould." Ouch.

The article's headline better describes the actual atmosphere of the show, "Police Haul Girls From Stage At Soton Session Of U.S. Rock"

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February 1st-6th After one night in Southampton, the tour commenced the week-long engagements that would make up the bulk of the shows by travelling some 425 miles north to Glasgow.

The Empire Theatre was located on the corner of West Nile St. and Sauchihall St, opening in 1897 and closing in 1963. It had long held the reputation of being the comedian's graveyard, such was the callous invective hurled at the stage from audiences well-rehearsed in the art of the heckle. With a capacity of 2100, that's rather a lot of insults.

Glasgow itself might have been the one city that felt closest to home for the American performers, having a layout rarely seen in the UK- a gridiron street plan.

Meanwhile in the singles chart published on February 5th, Hallelujah I Love Her So reaches #22.

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There were changes to the performance line-up for the week-long engagements. Vince Eager was absent, as were backing band The Quiet Three. The Wildcats were now in residence, backing Gene & Eddie and the various Larry Parnes idols who would pad out the bill.

This week we have The Viscounts, Lance Fortune, Sally Kelly and Tony Sheridan in the support slots with Billy Raymond continuing the compere role, in his own town.

Christopher Morris was rechristened as Lance Fortune after Parnes snatched the name back from a probably rather relieved Georgie Fame. Here's his 1960 hit, Be Mine-

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Larry Parnes may have had his faults, but having an eye for the ladies was not one of them. A definite outlier in his star stable was Sally Kelly, the diminutive Irish singer he signed in 1959. Three singles were released without troubling the charts despite her appealing brogue and sparky gumption. It's a tough business.

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The venues were hired on a weekly basis, in line with everybody on the payroll. To extract maximum return on this outlay, Parnes put on two shows per day, Monday to Saturday. Sunday was a travel day to the next venue which also helped to avoid some rather arcane Sunday performance rules such as no make-up and in some areas, restrictions on stage clothing. The early evening performances, particularly at the start of the week were not often well-attended, but it really didn't matter- every seat sold helped to cover the static costs. Fridays and Saturdays were the big box office days.

Gene & Eddie were not excepted from this- they were paid on retainer and not per performance, nor did they get a box office percentage. Parnes was a not-entirely reliable witness as to the fees paid for the US stars. In the 1982 BBC Arena documentary he stated with a straight face that Vincent was paid £1500 per week, which he inflation-adjusted from 1960 to 1982 levels at a ludicrous estimate of £45,000 per week (the actual 2020 adjustment is £35,730).

He further claimed that Cochran earned a far more frugal (and frankly far more credible) figure of £250 per week, which he again laughably estimated in 1982 money to be worth £10-12,000. In 2020, the actual extrapolated amount is £5,750 per week. Given the fees many performers of a similar profile command today, Eddie was astonishingly good value. Perhaps the man known as 'Mr. Parnes, Shillings & Pence' was an ironic failure in arithmetic, or was confronting his parsimony obliquely, inflating the wages into imaginary levels of beneficence.

What can be inferred here is that Gene was paid more than Eddie- his top billing on the posters further validates this position, although just how much more is unclear.

Larry Parnes is a fascinating figure, a charming and strangely lovable scoundrel who lights up this excellent documentary. Essential viewing if you want to get a feel for the period and Parnes' vital place in UK rock n roll history-

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Once again , a superb set of posts Ade. I took the time to watch the Larry Parnes doc, what a treat! Only matched by the ad break containing the jaw droppingly creative Varta battery advert (20:06)... astonishing.

Also nice to see Marty going through a big hat phase. I think he may have borrowed it from Vladek Sheybal in Puppet On A Chain.

Apart from the staggering amount of detail contained in your posts one thing that I’ve really enjoyed is learning about Gaumont theatres. I never realised that Gaumonts gradually became Odeons, or even that there were so many complicated Film release circuits shared between the various cinematic institutions.

Looking forward to the rest of the tour.

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Glad you're enjoying the tour diary fellas. That Parnes documentary really is a fantastic programme. Also loving Marty's Big Hat and the period commercials, Noggsly. It's the little things that make it fun.

By the time of the Glasgow dates, Eddie had settled on his opening routine. It's well known now- chugging the opening riff of the song with his back to the audience, holding the position to let the anticipation build, cupping his ears to further whip up the cheers then whirling around. He wasn't a pyrotechnic mover, but hustled purposefully, all shoulders and locomotive piston guitar. There was a further refinement in Glasgow- to enhance this dramatic start the stage was lit from within, Eddie and the band seen silhouetted behind a sheer diaphanous curtain which lifted at just the right moment, synchronised with the follow spots being turned on to front-illuminate Eddie. Quite the entrance. How do I know this? My dad went to see the show.

One afternoon in this week Gene wanted to take a bath, so Eddie went out shopping with road manager Hal Carter. According to Hal, this was simply to get away from Gene who could be dismal company when he was in the right, as in completely the wrong mood (consider this- did pennywise Parnes book shared accommodation for his stars? Yes. He did). Having had quite enough of his nonsense for one day, Eddie took Gene's leg iron and hid it on top of the wardrobe to wind him up a bit. After a couple of hours out and about, they returned to the scene of Gene having an apocalyptic row with the terrified hotel manager, screaming that his room had been robbed by a member of staff and that he would sue for a million dollars. Before the hunt for the perpetrator began (who presumably hadn't run very far away, given their urgent need to pilfer a leg iron), Eddie reached up on top of the wardrobe and solved the crime like a be-quiffed Hair-Cool Poirot.

New Musical Express reporter Gordon Irving reviewed the show in the fashion we've now come to expect, noting Cochran's "..Forceful singing..", Vincent's "...leaping about like some leather-clad spaceman...", and that the bland Viscounts were "...probably the best act on the bill..."

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There are a number of really good photographs taken backstage at the Glasgow Empire. Note the distinctive wallpaper which identifies a picture taken at this venue. Eddie doing his fingerpicking is always good to see.

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“Eddie reached up on top of the wardrobe and solved the crime like a be-quiffed Hair-Cool Poirot”

This has got to be the funniest thing i’ve ever read on the GDP!!!

Well played Ade!

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February 7th The Sheffield Gaumont was the venue for the two shows, 5:30 and 8:00 on this Sunday in 1960. It seems to have been a slimmed-down bill, with only Vince Eager in support and the Wildcats backing the acts. The troupe had played the Saturday in Glasgow then travelled around 250 miles south to get to Sheffield, enjoying the dubious pleasures of a Sunday train service. The Beeching cuts had begun to decimate rail travel in the UK, in favour of motorway construction- yet the M1 motorway was only 72 miles long in November 1959 and the first section of the M6 was open less than a month in December 1958 before the surface deteriorated rapidly and the road was closed. Serious cross-country travel was hardly straightforward, swift or convenient. Gene & Eddie travelled First Class, everybody else rattled about in Third.

The poster looks markedly different from the normal publicity and appears to have been hastily concocted so perhaps the date was a late addition to the schedule. At least one source claims that the tour was here for several days, but the poster says otherwise and given that Vince Eager was utilised primarily on one-night shows, the balance of probability tilts towards this being a one-off appointment.

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The Sheffield Gaumont had spectacular interior decoration with an ornate plaster dome which suffered a partial collapse in 1964 during a film screening. The theatre was also built on top of one of the city's reservoirs. The water level had to be continually monitored and was controlled by pumps within the building. When the orchestra pit flooded during a Bruce Forsyth performance, the band gallantly played on. Whether Bruce breezily called out his famous catchphrase, "Nice to sea you!" on this occasion, is sadly unrecorded.

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The local newspaper, the Sheffield Star, showing an unusual prescience for generating interest and fan participation in a rock 'n' roll show ran a competition giving the winning Star Club members a chance to meet the cast, who happily obliged.


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