Other Players

Eddie Cochran 1960 UK Tour

126

Is this the Jim Sullivan who was Jimmy Page's session player compatriot? This thread continues to be the best.

127

I peeked into the stall and did see an old lady, maybe it was the original Gypsy Rose Lee. Don't want to sound gib, but it's not a good recommendation for a fortune teller

128

w

Yes lx, the very same Jim Sullivan. The Wildcats backed Gene and Eddie this week again and for the bulk of next week. Road manager Hal Carter was taken off the tour after this week and was replaced by Patrick Thompkins.

There were other changes, starting this week. Billy Raymond, Tony Sheridan and Georgie Fame were all retained from the the previous bill. Billy Fury and Joe Brown were absent, working with Jack Good on a new TV show to replace Boy Meets Girls, called 'Wham!' They would also likely have been rehearsing for Billy's forthcoming 'Sound Of Fury' album, recorded at Decca in London on April 14th. They were replaced by two more of Larry Parnes' seemingly infinite supply of dashing young blades- Peter Wynne and Dean Webb.

Peter Wynne was a very capable singer in the exclamatory ballad style of the day. In a parallel universe he would perhaps have sung Aqua Marina instead of Gary Miller and nobody would have spotted the difference. As it turned out he had no hit records.

Dean Webb looked the part. He really did. His singing might be a bit rough, but the guitar work is super smooth on this track from 1959-

Vince, a gig's a gig!

129

Great photo Ade! Brian Bennett looks so young. Those striped ties really add to the ‘schoolboy’ look....and Big Jim’s dangling ciggie completes the illusion!

130

Noggsly- happily the short trousers are cropped from the shot..


Eddie had several visitors this week. It's quite difficult to pinpoint the precise chronology as the participants' memories don't quite tie into the overlapping schedules with clockwork precision. But we'll try.

The Everly Brothers started their English tour on April 3rd at the New Victoria in London, Ipswich on the 4th and off into the hinterlands from the 5th in Portsmouth. So that leaves quite a narrow window for The Crickets who were backing the Everlys to catch up with Eddie.

Sonny Curtis recollects that they arrived in London very early in the morning and phoned Eddie at the Jermyn St. flat as the sun was coming up. Gene and Eddie were having a day off and still up from the night before. This would indicate Sunday 3rd as a most likely candidate and also supports the idea that Gene and Eddie travelled back from Manchester straight after the show on Saturday 2nd.

They went round, Eddie got the Jack Daniels out and they had a little sunrise celebration. Eddie's drinking (which was never, ever the chronic curse that Gene Vincent had to wrestle with) had not been curbed, but on this occasion it was clearly for sociable pleasure.

Ev

Here's the Everly Brothers with The Crickets playing Cathy's Clown-

131

And look who else is on the tour- Cherry Wainer and Don Storer who had backed Gene and Eddie on the Boy Meets Girls TV appearances. Here's Cherry with Phil, Don and Lance Fortune. Lance is looking for the dog's wings, in the mistaken belief that a Bird Dog is an actual animal. The little dog is likely Cherry's- there is film of her playing and the dog sits quietly on the organ stool next to her.

ch

132

Is that Lance Fortune holding the dog?

I love how Cherry used to perform with a dog sat on the organ bench, you don’t get that with Jimmy Smith!

133

That is an excellent spot. I've been trying to place the face. I'll revise the previous post with the new information.

134

Sharon Sheeley flew in from America and arrived in time for her 20th birthday on April 4th and would stay until the conclusion of the tour. The singer/songwriter and Eddie were stablemates of manager Jerry Capehart. As well as the social aspects of a trip to the UK, she was also here on business- a one-off single deal had been arranged with Decca Records and she would record a song 'Homework' with Jack Good this week. The song was never released.

The picture shown is quite a unique item- it's the only candid photo of Sharon and Eddie I've ever come across. All other photographs are staged scenarios with a professional photographer arranged by Jerry Capehart to promote his stars in magazines. There are three separate sittings- one in a rural/indoor setting where Sharon has bleached blond hair (Guybo is also in some of these shots, as the group listens to some records), another session in a record store where Eddie is wearing a check short-sleeve shirt and a third batch of photos taken in Gold Star studios. Sharon's hair has its natural dark shade in the last two sessions.

Sharon

Timeline Note- some sources have this photo taken at Manchester, the previous week. This puts Sharon Sheeley's arrival in England ever earlier than Sharon Sheeley's version of events. Billy was off the tour by Finsbury Park, but that does not necessarily preclude his presence backstage in London.

135

Also in town this week was Duane Eddy. He had been in the country since March 16th, touring with Bobby Darin, Clyde McPhatter and Emile Ford. Bob Miller and the Millermen, who had backed Eddie on the Parade Of The Pops radio show in February were also on the bill.

Duane and the Rebel Rousers joined Eddie and Sharon at Le Condor Club on Wardour St to see Eden Kane perform. This was also to celebrate Sharon's birthday, although it's doubtful that this party occurred on April 4th, as Duane was in Bristol performing at the Colston Hall. There was a day off before Duane's Leeds show on the 6th, which makes April 5th a possible candidate. However on Saturday 9th April, Duane was at the Elephant and Castle in London and in nearby Guildford on Sunday 10th- perhaps they met up after their own shows on Saturday night and took in a late one at Le Condor afterwards.

After the Soho revelry the party returned to Duane's hotel, Eddie and Sharon stayed in the lobby drinking champagne long after bedtime. Having lost much sleep, but none of his honed charm with chambermaids, he convinced a room attendant to lend him a vacuum cleaner, a lacy cap and access to Duane's room where he started vacuuming loudly, chastising messy guest Mr Eddy in a high voice. The snoozing rebel was well and truly roused.

duane

136

The poster from the Duane Eddy, Clyde McPhatter and Emile Ford show on April 10th, Guildford. No Bobby Darin on this night. Duane would take over at the Finsbury Park Empire for a week, starting on April 11th on a package he headlined with Alma Cogan, Des O'Connor and Frank Ifield.

137

A bit of extra Soho trivia - the site of Le Condor Club (17 Wardour Street) is the site of Pinoli's restaurant. It was here on July 1st 1905 that 23 magicians formed The Magic Circle.

138

Nice bit of trivia, Noggsly. Fab.


April 11th-16th Bristol is 120 miles west of London, connected by rail and the A4 road which passes through mysterious and ancient megalithic sites along its corridor like the village of Avebury and Silbury Hill. Roman soldiers would have been practically tripping over historical artefacts, marvelling at how old everything was when they used the route.

The current iteration of the city has stood for over a thousand years, but archaeologists have found evidence of human settlement in the area going back 125,000 years or more. It was the second most important sea port in the country, making its fortune on the burgeoning trade with the New World of the Americas from the 1600s onward. During the second world war, the Luftwaffe successfully flattened swathes of the city, which would be rebuilt in the Concrete Moderne style of the day.

The line-up for this week matches that of Finsbury Park- Tony Sheridan, Peter Wynne and Eddie Cochran in Act I; Dean Webb, Georgie Fame and Gene Vincent in Act II. The Wildcats providing backing, Billy Raymond was compere.

bristol

139

The Bristol Hippodrome Theatre on St. Augustine's Parade was built in 1912 with three tiers of seats in the auditorium, decorated in the expected florid style with a red and gold theme. The building included a couple of really exclusive features- under the stage was a steel 10,000 gallon water tank to facilitate waterfall effects on stage and an ornate dome above the auditorium, openable to cool patrons on a sultry, stuffy evening, if there is ever such a night in breezy Bristol.

Having survived two world wars intact, the theatre was almost destroyed by a fire in 1948, which consumed the stage, backstage and storage areas. This will come as no surprise to the attentive reader- theatres were astonishingly prone to fire.

The theatre is still in use today.

hippo

140

Wow, it looks like there's 7 bands playing that might on Bristol including Eddie. Anyone know how long the sets would have been for the headline acts in those days?

141

Good question Vince. For the big marquees like Bristol where there hardly seems enough room on the playbill for all the names, Billy Raymond would do the introductions and perhaps sing a song. The support acts would do 10-15 minutes and the headliners about 20-25 minutes. Cochran generally closed the first act, Vincent the second- however, there were a number of shows where these positions were reversed. There would be an all-cast encore, a quick break to turn the house around and the the entire two hour show would be repeated.

The earlier one-night shows had a slightly different format with Billy Raymond doing introductions and a bit of gee-up before Cochran's set, then Vince Eager would close the first act. Second act would be Billy again, then Vincent, then the encore.

142

Lodgings for the Bristol week were at the Royal Hotel on College Green, an imposing Victorian-era hotel. Queen Victoria stayed here as did Winston Churchill and Charlie Chaplin.

It's located about 200 yards south of the Hippodrome but as was the habit throughout the tour, a taxi was booked to ferry the stars between locations through a labyrinth of streets. There would be swarms of fans at the stage door after the show finished.

bristolroyal

143

Thursday April 14th was the final performance with the Wildcats.

One of the biggest TV shows at the time was 'Sunday Night At The London Palladium' which started in September 1955 on Lew Grade's commercial ATV network and ran for nineteen seasons until 1974. Hosted by Bruce Forsyth in 1960, it featured appearances from premier homegrown and visiting talent, resident dancers and a game segment called Stop The Clock. Bobby Darin had appeared on the April 10th edition.

At short notice, one of the featured acts had dropped out and the slot was offered to Marty Wilde. This was not an opportunity to dismiss. The shows appear to have been pre-recorded in front of a live audience at the Palladium theatre, given that there were several 'Live at the London Palladium' specials.

One can only imagine the conversation as Marty Wilde or Larry Parnes, or indeed both of them, insist that Marty appears on the show with his own band, The Wildcats. With characteristic breezy indifference, Parnes pulled the band that had been running like a slick machine for months off the last night of the Cochran/Vincent tour and sent a substitute combo to perform in their stead, backing the seven acts at a day's notice. As an illustration of where the real power lay in the organisation and how its assets were prioritised, this moment is highly instructive. For the cast of The Fast Moving Beat Show, this could fairly be described as a demoralising blow.

To compound the problem, Dean Webb had fallen ill and he too was replaced by yet another of Parnes' bottomless pocket full of dreamboys, Johnny Gentle.

Marty Wilde's appearance on Sunday Night At The London Palladium, Series 5 Episode #34 was transmitted on June 12th 1960.

144

Friday April 15th There would be no performances today as the Hippodrome was closed for Good Friday. This was not a nationwide obligation- Duane Eddy played two shows at the Finsbury Park Empire and the Everly Brothers performed at the New Victoria theatre in London on this day.

Itching to get home after more than three months in the UK, a day off so near the end of the tour may or may not have been welcome. The original intention to return to Hounslow with Jim Sullivan had been thwarted by Parnes' requisitioning of The Wildcats and their sudden departure from the tour. The reasons given to travel back on Saturday night instead of staying overnight in Bristol and getting on the provided coach on Sunday morning seem flimsy- collecting some of Vincent's personal effects from the Jermyn St flat or Cochran's desire to buy some homecoming gifts (on Easter Sunday- good luck with that one), but the intention was well-established and not a sudden whimsical notion. Alternative transportation would be sought to return to London immediately after Saturday's shows, prior to the flight from Heathrow to Idlewild leaving at 1pm on Sunday.

The nascent 'Jet-Age' was one of the prime movers in enabling the sudden abundance of visiting American Rock 'n' Roll artists. With no refuelling requirement on transatlantic flight, greater speed and delivering enhanced comfort by flying above inclement weather, the jet airliner was the major advance in transport connectivity in the mid 20th Century. BOAC had flown a scheduled Heathrow-Idlewild service using the De Havilland Comet-4 since late 1958 and the new Boeing 707 which had been connecting New York to Paris in 1959 would also fly from New York to London from late May in 1960.

The three Americans- Cochran, Vincent and Sheeley may have been looking homeward, but there was a final evening of shows to play first, with substantial personnel changes to be accommodated. The replacement backing band thankfully had at least one familiar face- guitarist Colin Green of the Quiet Three who had backed Gene, Eddie, Billy Raymond and Vince Eager on the one-night shows earlier in the tour.

Replacing the unwell Dean Webb, Johnny Gentle was a singer from Liverpool. Like Billy Fury, he was unusual in the Larry Parnes stable in that he frequently wrote his own material. He is perhaps best remembered today not for his music but for his enthusiastic championing of one of his backing bands, a Mersybeat combo called The Beatles, helping to introduce them to Larry Parnes and Decca Records for their famous failed audition. They would succeed elsewhere. His self-penned 'I Like The Way' is brisk, acoustic-driven, pleasantly warm and vaguely exotic in a hula sort of way with a shockingly strident guitar solo that drops like an atom bomb on a Polynesian atoll-

145

Saturday April 16th Tour manager Patrick Thompkins produced the flight tickets and gave them to the American stars. After tonight's shows they intended to travel back to London and catch the 1pm flight from Heathrow to have a ten-day break before returning to resume touring in the UK through the spring and into summer.

Getting back to London was yet to be arranged. Johnny Gentle was asked if he could provide a lift back, but his car was full- Johnny was driving his girlfriend, Peter Wynne and his girlfriend.

Ace Taxis from the Bedington area of Bristol had provided transportation to and from the venue and the hotel through the week. Nineteen year-old driver George Martin had been welcomed backstage on at least one occasion this week- could he drive the American trio and Patrick Thompkins the 120 mile journey to London? He could, for a fee of £25. This was not a cheap ride, inflation puts this figure at £575 in 2020 money. The deal was struck and all was set fair. The taxi would be waiting at the stage door as usual after the show.

The performances this evening were distinctly rougher musically compared to those earlier in the week. The replacement band were substitutes for a sleek group of musicians that had honed the shows over many weeks. Any deputising group, no matter how skilled would have had ragged moments in this scenario. Eddie fared much better than Gene as he was playing guitar and could set the tempos, indicate changes and endings with authority. It's reported that Eddie was in the headline position for this evening, closing the second act.

At some point in the evening, Eddie made a call to the Grand Hotel. He had left his second pair of leather trousers behind and asked a porter to bring them to the venue. They couldn't be found. Apologising, Eddie remembered where they were. He was in the habit of placing them under the mattress so they would be pressed neatly. Pageboy Pete Williams brought them to the venue and waited in the wings while Eddie finished his performance. A grateful Eddie thanked and tipped him generously. This anecdote is indication that there would be no return to the hotel to collect belongings and that the taxi would depart directly from the theatre and head towards London.

After the show finished at 10:30-10:40pm, the luggage for the four passengers and Eddie's guitar were packed into the taxi's trunk. Everybody said their goodbyes, Eddie hugging Billy Raymond as he always did and headed to the waiting car.

146

The Stage Door and loading dock for the Hippodrome theatre is on Denmark St. The Ford Consul taxi was parked where the flatbed truck is in this photograph, pointing in the same west-facing direction. The right rear passenger door was opened and first in was Sharon Sheeley, sat on the left hand side, Eddie Cochran was in the middle, Gene Vincent on the right hand side. Driver George Martin and passenger Patrick Thompkins were in the front bench seat. As usual, there was a throng of fans and the car had been festooned with lipstick kisses and messages. The car departed at approximately 11:00pm.

hippostage

hippob

147

Vehicle- The car was a Ford Consul from '57 or '58, registration number RBO 869. It was a high-specification Deluxe model identified by chromium rear light bezels and two-tone interior trim. It also had optional bumper over-riders fitted and was painted in the Ace Taxi fleet colour scheme of cream with a green roof. The Consul Deluxe had a heater fitted as standard and this example also had a radio, two useful accessories on a long night trip. At the time, many cars were fitted with neither. There has long been a story that the 'real' taxi was taken home and an unlicensed private car was used instead- but the colour scheme of the crashed car is consistent with an Ace Taxi. If one taxi was swapped for another, the heater would be a potential reason for the switch. The Consul had been facelifted in 1959 and this example was retrofitted with the vented aluminium wheeltrims of the new Lowline model, perhaps in an effort to keep it looking contemporary.

The Mark II Consul was a compact, roomy and economical design. Crisply styled and often finished in cheery colours, the car was a ubiquitous sight in the UK. Introduced in 1956 it had a strong and capacious welded unibody with room for 5-6 adults and a luggage locker with 20 cubic feet of storage. It had a 1703cc/104cui 60bhp 4 cylinder engine, a three speed column change transmission and a low 4.11 back axle ratio giving 16mph/1000rpm.

The cars feel quite peppy due to the low gearing but contemporary road tests tell a languid performance story- 0-60mph in 28 seconds, a 77mph top speed and an average fuel consumption of 28mpg. The suspension was fashionably pliant to give a smooth, big car ride using McPherson struts at the front and semi-elliptic leaf springs at the rear.

These photographs show a Consul Deluxe of similar year and specification to the taxi-

cona

conb

The video link is a walkaround of the car pictured above-

This launch film of the Mark II Consul and the slightly longer six-cylinder Zephyr and Zodiac models from February 1956 has a track action sequence showing how the cars behaved dynamically when driven in haste. The segment starts at 5:18-

148

Route The main road from Bristol to London was the A4, which at the time was a two-lane tarmac road snaking 120 miles east through several towns and villages. The full journey would likely have taken 3-1/2 to 4 hours.

It's always been assumed that the taxi joined the A4 at Bristol, travelled through Bath and on to Chippenham. Hal Carter offers an alternative route. Although he was not a direct witness, he discussed the events with crash survivor Patrick Thompkins and is a credible source.

"The A4 was always chock-a-block, and if you got a lorry there you could be stuck for hours. So what he did, instead of taking the A4 from Bristol, was to use the back road from Bristol to Bath, and the back road from Bath to Chippenham. He came down under the viaduct and saw a sign saying A4 and he turned right. Instead of going over the bridge and turning left he was actually heading back towards Bristol. Then he braked too hard when he realised he was going the wrong way. The tyre went and he hit the kerb. They'd just redone the road with new chippings, so he was sliding. It was just a horrible chain of events."

The only road that fits with his alternative scenario is the A420. It's a slightly shorter route than using the A4 and avoids Bath city centre. It's exactly the sort of local hack a taxi driver would be familiar with. After leaving the theatre, the car would go north on the A38, around Cabot Circus on the A4044 and join the A420 at Castle Park heading east. To go via Bath, it would continue on the A4044 heading south and cross the River Avon at Temple Gate to join the A4 heading east.

The 1959 map of the area has both the A4 and A420 routes highlighted plus the continuation of the A4 leaving Chippenham towards London. Both routes take the taxi to the same accident scene in Chippenham, so the reader may adhere to either theory. This link will take you to a high resolution copy-

https://www.flickr.com/phot...

149

Police Report- "I took its position, the vehicle being on the driver's nearside facing obliquely towards the crown of the road and in the direction of Chippenham. The rear nearside of the vehicle was tight into the driver's nearside kerb.... I examined the road and found skid marks commencing on the Bath side of the location and extending for 50 yards, these marks veering to the driver's offside of the road then back to the driver's nearside. I found traces of paint on a lamp standard located on the driver's nearside kerb, this paint being cream in colour."

Hal Carter's scenario, as told to him by Pat Thompkins has credibility. However, his description of hitting the brakes after realising that the car was heading back to Bristol does not square with the Police report of the scene which has skidmarks in the loose gravel going uphill towards Chippenham. It's not at all unusual for crash survivors to forget the events immediately prior to the incident and perhaps Patrick Thomkins did.

Conditions- The weather was clear and dry. The streetlights were still on and would be switched off at around 12:15am, local resident bystanders recalled. Hal's mention of the road being freshly gravelled is highly instructive. It's a common interim resurfacing technique in which a thin layer of sticky bitumen is sprayed over the existing tarmac with fine loose gravel laid on top which would be compacted in by normal traffic flow. It would have been a very slippy surface.

Journey Time- It's estimated that the collision occurred at between 11:45 and 11:50pm which indicates around 45 minutes to travel the 25 mile journey. This gives an average speed of 33.5mph which is in the normal range for the type of roads used on this journey and not indicative of sustained excessive speed. Why then was the car going so fast at the scene of the accident?

The panel illustration shows the crash area and surroundings in detail.

150

Event Sequence- Having exhausted his local knowledge, George Martin enters Chippenham from the north side and takes a right turn at the first A4 sign near The Bridge pub instead of continuing left down Avenue La Fleche and joining the A4 towards London.The taxi is now travelling west on the A4, going through the viaduct in the wrong direction, back towards Bristol.

If we imagine the car has passed through the viaduct heading west, the driver realises the navigation error and turns the car around. He is perhaps embarrassed at the mistake, trying too hard to save face and get back on schedule. A map may have been consulted.

Accelerating as swiftly as the loaded car could manage (see Note 1) back under the viaduct heading east, through the traffic lights and taking the left bend at probably no more than 50mph (still way too fast for the deceptively treacherous conditions and significantly above the 30mph urban limit), the nearside kerb is clipped at or around the apex, damaging the front-left tyre and deflecting the car towards the right hand side of the road (see Note 2). Fighting for control on the slippy gravel, the unsettled taxi is now fishtailing in ever-wider arcs up the hill, the nearside front tyre deflating in the two-three seconds it would take to slither the 65 yards to the impact point. Now moving towards the left-hand side of the road, the steering wheel is turned to the right to regain direction away from the nearside kerb. This puts all the load on the punctured left-front wheel, which digs into the road surface, arresting almost all of the remaining forward motion (35mph after all that skidding, uphill?) which now becomes a high rotational force.

The car now swivels on this fulcrum to the left, striking the concrete lamp-post at the strongest point of the car's rear structure, the very end of the rear wing. A unibody with welded rear wings and a high load sill, the rear of the car stayed mostly intact (see Note 3) although distorted and distended, transferring the energy forwards to the rear roof C pillar/wheelhouse structure and the sill area, which wrenched and split at the sill and roof sail panel. The entire trunk section is bent away to the right. The rear passenger door was flung open immediately, having been separated from the latch and striker plate assembly on the C pillar- the rear occupants were likely catapulted straight out of the car at this moment and were found 8-10 yards from the car lying on the grass verge. The door is undamaged and swings on its hinges. The front passenger door appears to have remained closed, at least until the end of the motion event as photographs show distortion of the metal window frame and the B pillar caused when the roof was pulled down and towards the right by the splitting rear structure, removing the rear window and separating from the body at the left side C pillar.


Note 1- A brand-new unladen Ford Consul took 28 seconds to get to 60mph and had a maximum speed of 77mph. In a hard-worked taxi heavily loaded with a full fuel tank, five occupants and luggage the acceleration would have been seriously hampered- at least 40 seconds to 60mph and a top speed in the mid-sixties. The handling would have been significantly soggier on the soft springs of the day when laden and factoring in the skittish crossply tyres.

Note 2- If the car was going any faster, then the kerb strike would have thrown the car off the road at the lower right corner of the Rowden Hill incline and the collision would have occurred there. This is where many people visiting the scene intuitively expect the crash site to be found.

Note 3- This is evidenced by the undamaged guitar and luggage plus the unbreached fuel tank which was siphoned (with permission) by passing motorist Johnny Gentle who arrived after the scene was cleared but before the car was towed- note that by travelling via Bath on the A4, he gets to the scene considerably later than the crashed car.


Register Sign in to join the conversation