On March 28, 1958, 19-year-old Eddie Cochran recorded a song he co-wrote with his manager, Jerry Capeheart, called “Summertime Blues.” It was intended to be the b-side of a single whose a-side, “Love Again,” was written by 17-year-old Sharon Steely, who soon became Cochran’s girlfriend. Liberty Records released the 45 with “Summertime Blues” as the a-side. Five months after he recorded it, Cochran had his first U.S. top ten single. In the fall of 1958, the record became a hit in England.
Besides singing and co-writing the song, Cochran produced it. His talents didn’t stop there. He could play piano, drums, bass and guitar, the latter of which he played on records by two dozen other acts.
Cochran’s popularity overseas led to a hugely successful tour of England in the spring of 1960, culminating on April 16 with a performance at the Hippodrome Theater in Bristol. On his way to the airport after the show, Cochran got into a cab with Steely, who was now his fiancée, his tour manager, Patrick Thompkins, and fellow performer Gene Vincent. The taxi driver was speeding on a dark and winding street. The car blew a tire and the driver lost control of the vehicle, crashing it into a lamppost. Cochran put himself over his fiancée to protect her and ended up being thrown from the car. Suffering a severe head injury, he was brought to the hospital. The following afternoon he was pronounced dead. He was just 21 years old.
Eddie Cochran’s time with us was far too short, but his legacy lives on. “Summertime Blues” is an undeniable rock and roll classic, covered by many artists of different genres, including The Who, Alan Jackson, Blue Cheer, The Beach Boys, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, and Olivia Newton-John. Cochran’s “C’mon Everybody” was later recorded by Sex Pistols, and his “Twenty Flight Rock” was played by a teenage Paul McCartney at his audition for a teenage John Lennon to let McCartney join Lennon’s band, The Quarreymen.
Today is Throwback Thursday, and Tunes du Jour revisits some of the hits of 1958, kicking off with Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues.”
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