Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps

Born:

Vincent Eugene Craddock, February 11, 1935, Norfolk, VA; died October 12, 1971 (Newhall, CA).

Early years:

Ironically, considering the fate of his peers, a traffic accident began Gene’s career. Although the young Eugene had been playing guitar since the age of 12, it was only after a stint in the Navy in 1955, where he was badly injured while riding his Triumph motorcycle, that he decided to pursue music full-time. Released from the service and recuperating, Vincent began hanging out at Norfolk, VA, country station WCMS, eventually getting on air to sing an original song called “Be-Bop-A-Lula.”
That song, allegedly written in the VA hospital along with a fellow patient, caught the attention of DJ Bill “Sheriff Tex” Davis, who began to manage Vincent. Soon Davis got the young singer a contract with Capitol, who wanted to groom him as their answer to Elvis Presley. With a new band, the Blue Caps, assembled from the core of his old country band, the Virginians, Gene and company were on their way. “Lula,” while originally the b-side of
another song, was an instant smash hit.
   Vincent managed to hit the Top Forty in ’57 with “Lotta Lovin’,” but he and the Caps simply rocked too hard for radio. It was those legendary ’56 sides, however, that kept Vincent viable as a performing  artist, both here and in Europe. By the late Sixties, Gene had fallen victim to changing times, financial mismanagement, and his own worsening addiction to alcohol. In October 1971, a sick Vincent went on a three-day bender that ruptured existing stomach ulcers; he died soon after.

Other facts:

  • Gene’s swaggering onstage presence was due to his leg brace
  • Recorded some sessions with Eddie Cochran in 1957; was in the car during Eddie’s fatal crash
  • The band was arrested in 1958 in connection with a nearby murder, but cleared
  • Was close friends with the Doors’ Jim Morrison; the band was slated to back him up at a revival show in ’69 but Alice Cooper’s band filled in instead
  • After hearing “Be-Bop-A-Lula,” Elvis’ bassist, Bill Black, accused the King of making the record in secret

Advertisements

Ava Gardner

Date of Birth 24 December 1922, Grabtown, North Carolina,

USA Date of Death 25 January 1990, Westminster, London, England, UK (bronchial pneumonia)

Birth Name: Ava Lavinia Gardner 

Born on a tobacco farm, where she got her lifelong love of earthy language and going barefoot, Ava grew up in the rural South. At age 18, her picture in the window of her brother-in- law’s New York photo studio brought her to the attention of MGM, leading quickly to Hollywood and a film contract based strictly on her beauty. With zero acting experience, her first 17 film roles, 1942-5, were one-line bits or little better. After her first starring role in B-grade ‘Whistle Stop’ (1946), MGM loaned her to Universal for her first outstanding film, ‘The Killers’ (1946).

Few of her best films were made at MGM which, keeping her under contract for 17 years, used her popularity to sell many mediocre films. Perhaps as a result, she never believed in her own acting ability, but her latent talent shone brightly when brought out by a superior director, as with John Ford in ‘Mogambo’ (1953) and George Cukor in ‘Bhowani Junction’ (1956).

After 3 failed marriages, dissatisfaction with Hollywood life prompted Ava to move to Spain in 1955; most of her subsequent films were made abroad. By this time, stardom had made the country girl a cosmopolitan, but she never overcame a deep insecurity about acting and life in the spotlight.

Her last quality starring film role was in ‘The Night of the Iguana’ (1964), her later work being (as she said) strictly “for the loot”. In 1968, tax trouble in Spain prompted a move to London, where she spent her last 22 years in reasonable comfort. Her film career did not bring her great fulfillment, but her looks may have made it inevitable; many fans still consider her the most beautiful actress in Hollywood history.

By Rod Crawford