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Though he died at a very young age, twenty-one, Eddie Cochran left a lasting mark on early rock and roll as a pioneer who helped map out the territory with such defining songs such as “C’mon Everybody, “Something Else,” “Twenty Flight Rock,” and “Summertime Blues.” Cochran epitomized the sound and the stance of the Fifties-bred rebel rocker. His twangy guitar riffs and the defiant attitude of his songs made him an icon for several generations of rock and rollers, from the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the Who, to punk-rockers like the Sex Pistols.

It was a song of Cochran’s that initially brought John Lennon and Paul McCartney together in June 1957, when the McCartney taught Lennon the chords to “Twenty Flight Rock” at a church picnic where Lennon’s Quarrymen were playing. In the late Sixties, both the Who and Blue Cheer cut memorable versions of “Summertime Blues,” an anthem of teen disenchantment.

Edward Ray Cochrane was born on 10-3-38 in Albert Lea, Minnesota. The family then moved to California in 1951. In high school Eddie played in a Country trio and his main influence at that time was Chet Atkins. In 1954 he met and teamed up with Hank Cochran, (no relation) and they called themselves the “Cochran Brothers,” with Eddie dropping the e from his name. By the time he was 16, Eddie was recognized as having lightning-fast hands and phenomenal dexterity. Despite their success it was clear that the two individuals had different tastes. Hank’s heart was always in country music but Eddie was fast becoming engaged in the new rock and roll sounds that emerged at the time. They broke up in 1956. (Hank had continued success as a country singer and songwriter, he co-wrote the song I Fall to Pieces, made famous by Patsy Cline)

A quick learner Eddie seemed to be the perfect musician for a session guitarist. He soon was recording demos for songwriters. He teamed with Jerry Capehart and their partnership was one of the most professional in early rock and roll. They soon had a significant amount of songs and Eddie was contracted to appear in the rock and roll movie The Girl Can’t Help It.  An Elvis type role, this movie put him in the national limelight. Ironically, although his wild, seemingly untamed image and unique sense of style are evident in the film, as he performs “Twenty Flight Rock,” Eddie was a different kind of performer from Elvis. He was a thorough professional. Eddie could play drums & bass and was proficient on piano as well as his obvious guitar skills.

His first hit reached the charts in March 1957. Through the next two years he would have seven hits with “Summertime Blues” reaching #8 in August 1958. One reason for the continued popularity of Cochran’s music, apart from the songs themselves, was the sheer vibrancy of the recordings. They were exceptionally clean. Recorded with few overdubs in well-miked sessions that captured the action of the instruments with beautiful clarity. He named the backup band the “Kelly Four” in honor of his Irish ancestry.

Eddie dated Sharon Sheeley who was also Irish-American. She co-wrote Eddie’s hit “Something Else” with Eddie’s brother Bob Cochrane. She also dated Don Everly and is known for writing “Poor Little Fool” one of Ricky Nelson’s smash hits. She also co-wrote many early rock hits with Jackie De Shannon.

Like so many stars during this time Eddie was more popular in Britain and Europe than in America. By 1960 it seemed that in America the early rock and roll craze had softened and now was being smothered by over-produced schmaltz. England was still treating Eddie and all the other rock and rockabilly stars as almost Gods. Eddie found his playing respected and appreciated. After a long extended tour in England Eddie was scheduled to return to the States. On April 16, Eddie, Sharon and Gene Vincent, another early rocker, set out for Heathrow Airport at 11:00 p.m. A tire blew out and they smashed into a lamp-post. Eddie died a few hours later. Sharon Sheeley & Gene Vincent were seriously injured but recovered.

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