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GENE VINCENT FAN CLUB
GENE VINCENT 1935.1955
11th February 1956 : On his 21st birthday, Gene married Ruth Ann Hand, a 15 years old girl.
February 1956 : Gene met William ‘Sheriff Tex’ Davis, DJ at the radio station WCMS in Norfolk –who was a member of the jury for a talent show organized by Roy Lamar, the owner of the radio station and the DJ Joe Hoppel. Gene sang ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ for the occasion, Elvis’ first number one hit. Then he performed every week for the WCMS program called Country Showtime, in the Carnival Room of Portsmouth. He was backed up by Willie Williams and the Virginians, the official orchestra of WCMS.
"Sheriff Tex" Davis
Davis, Roy Lamar, the owner of WCMS, and an agent named Blumenthal knew that record labels were looking for a new Elvis. They thought Gene had a chance: they put together a backing band. Gene began to do jamming sessions with rythm guitarist Willie Williams, bass player Jack Neal, drummer Dickie Harrell, and lead guitarist Cliff Gallup.
Cliff Gallup ( lead guitar), Willie Williams (rythm guitar), Dick Harrell ( drums), Jack Neal (bass), and Gene Vincent (vocals and guitar)
Tex took Gene and his band to the WMCS studios on april 9th 1956, where they recorded ‘Be Bop A Lula’, ‘Race with the devil’, and a country ballad, ‘I sure miss you’. He sent the demo reels to Ken Nelson (Capitol), but three weeks went by before Nelson got in touch with Tex: Capitol had to check on more than 200 demos of wannabe rockers. A message finally arrived, asking for Gene and his band to get to Owen Bradley’s studios, in Nashville on the 4th may. Once called up, Gene quickly gathered the band members, but they ended up stuck in Norfolk airport, on account of the fog. Worried that they would not arrive on time for the recording session, they started playing to relax. They grabbed their instruments, and within a few minutes, they were rocking the whole airport. The weather cleared up, and a plane could land: five passengers let them have their seats so that they could arrive on time.
had already recorded Buddy Holly and Johnny Carroll, who had even had the idea of adding extra echoes on the reels. This gave a new sonority, improved by sound ingenior Mort Thomasson, and this made Gene’s voice sound better, as well as the general sound of the band. On the 4th of may 1956, Gene and his band –renamed the Blue Caps- got together for their first and legendary recording session in Bradley’s studios. Nelson had kept an excellent bunch of studio musicians left, for he was not sure about the capacities of Gene’s band: Grady Martin, Hank ‘Sugarfoot’ Garland, Buddy Harman and Bob Moore. But these musicians left after Cliff Gallup had started playing the highly energetic intro of ‘Race with the Devil’: this was already excellence!
9th april 1956 : On this monday, the first demos with the Blue Caps were recorded in the WCMS studios : ‘Be Bop A Lula’, ‘I sure miss you’ and ‘Race with the Devil’. The members of the band are: Cliff Gallup (lead guitar), Willie Williams (rythm guitar), Dick Harrell (drums), Jack Neal (bass), and Gene Vincent (vocals and guitar). A managment contract was signed with Lamar and Blumenthal, the owners of WCMS, as well as a contract
with Sherriff Tex, making him artistic director.
Ken Nelson (center) Sherriff Tex Davis (left) and Gene Vincen
27th April 1956 : A contract with Capitol was negociated by Tex Davis.
3rd May 1956 : The contract with Capitol was signed, with Ken Nelson, in Nashville: it would become effective on 23rd april 1956.
4th May 1956 : on this Friday, recording sessions started in Owen Bradley’s studios, on 16th street, Nashville (the same studios would be later used by Elvis Presley and Johnny Hallyday under the direction of Shelby Singleton).
Bradley's Studio 804 16t Avenue South - 1956
The band was playing so loud that Gene had to record his vocal performance in a corridor, so that he could be heard on the reel. After the recording, Nelson suggested the used of the name Vincent instead of Craddock, and also to find a name for the band. Harrell, the drumer, who was used to wear a small cap while playing suggested the name of the Blue Caps.
4th June 1956 : Gene’s Vincent first 45 rpm came out: ‘Woman Love’/’Be Bop A Lula’, issued with a specification sheet (Capitol F 3450 US).
‘Be Bop A Lula’ was on the B side of the single ‘Woman Love’, edited by Capitol, with Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps. For a time, nobody really cared about the record, until a DJ from Baltimore played the B side. By the end of June, ‘Be Bop A Lula’ had already sold 200 000 copies and Capitol immediatly asked the band to record four more songs. Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps often toured, and ‘Be Bop A Lula’ was soon among the best sellers.
June 1956 : Gene’s wife, Ruth Ann, and Gene started a divorce procedure.
23rd June 1956 : Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps settle down in Nashville, at the Andrew Jackson Hotel. 200 000 copies of the single ‘Be Bop A Lula’ had already been sold.
Andrew Jackson Hotel - Nashville - 1956
With the success of ‘Be Bop A Lula’, Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps went back to the studios, to record a whole album, as well as a new single, and they actually succeeded in both. Recordings took place over four days, from the 24th the 27th June 1956: Gene recorded 16 songs, including ‘Bluejean Bop’, which became the first track of his new album, but also the A side of his 3rd single. It was even made a gold record, like ‘Be Bop A Lula’ before.
24th to 27th June 1956 : from Sunday to Wednesay, new recording sessions took place in Owen Bradley’s studios, Nashville.
July 1956 : Sherriff Tex Davis is confirmed as an artistic director, and and a new managment contract is signed with the GAC International agency from New York.
20th July 1956 : Beginning of Gene’s first tour in Myrtle Beach (North Carolina), with the Johnny Burnette trio and Lillian Briggs. They travel in a Ford T Bird, then in a Cadillac driven by Red Gwynn (ex drummer). They perform in fairs, among other places, in the the state of New York and on the East Coast
HOUND DOG (Gene Vincent & The Blue Caps) - New-York, 1956 audio live
Paul Burlison - Johnny Burnette - Gene & Johnny Black 1956
21st July 1956 : ‘Be Bop A Lula’ is n°10 in the charts, and it will stay in this position for one month.
28th July 1956 : On a Saturday evening, Gene performs ‘Be Bop A Lula’ at the Perry Como Show TV, in New York.
13th August 1956 : The album ‘Blue Jean Bop’ comes out (Capitol T764 US). Tracklisting: Blue Jean Bop/ Jezebel / Who Slapped John? / Ain't She Sweet / I Flipped / Waltz Of the Wind / Jump Back, Honey Jump Back / That Old Gang Of Mine / Jump, Giggles And Shouts / Up A Lazy River / Bop Street / Peg O' My Heart.
21st August 1956 : Gene’s performance caused a riot during the concert in Shamokin (Pennsylvania), leading to a police intervention.
10th september 1956 : Release of ‘Race with the Devil’ / ‘Gonna Back Up Baby’ (Capitol F3530 US)
12th and 13th september 1956 : Wednesday and Thursday, Gene performed at the farm fair of Frederiksburg, with Lillian Briggs and Carl Perkins.
14th september 1956 : Rythm guitarist Willie Williams left the Blue Caps and was replaced by Paul Peek.
15th september 1956 : concert in Washington DC.
16th september 1956 : Guitarist Cliff Gallup left the Blue Caps, and was replaced by Russel Wilaford.
At the end of the summer, the incessant touring caused Wee Willie Williams and Cliff Gallup to leave the Blue Caps. In the quick but famous apparition of Gene in the rock anthology movie ‘The Girl Can’t Help It’, the performance of ‘Be Bop A Lula’ revealed a young Russell Wilaford playing lead guitar instead of Gallup, and an enthusiastic Paul Peak on the rythm guitar. Even if Wilaford appaeared in a series of ads for Capitol, his colaboration with Gene did not laster, and he would never record again with the Blue Caps.
Russell Wilaford - Dickie Harrell - Gene Vincent- Paul Peek - Jack Neal
Lead guitarist Cliff Gallup left the band because of tensions and interferences with family life created with the touring. But Gene Vincent loved travelling, performing, and making money, even if he admitted that everything had happened too fast.
‘When I first started I never meant to make money.’ Gene once said, according to Haggarty’s book. ‘My only thought was to make a living singing, but all of a sudden I was getting $1500 a night. And if you take a 19-year-old boy and put him in those circumstances...it was a bad scene, it shouldn't have happened on that first record. I didn't know how to handle a hit: I was only a child, a boy.’
22nd september 1956 : ‘Be Bop A Lula’ is in second position in the US charts. By the end of this month, Gene’s first tour in the US comes to an end.
October 1956 : Release of ‘Blue Jean Bop’ / ‘Who Slapped John’ (Capitol F3558US)
"Who Slapped John?"
Photography session at the HQ of Capitol Tower in Hollywood, with Ken Weeder. Gene and the Blue Caps also shot their scene in the movie ‘The Girl Can’t Help it’ in the 20th Century Fox studios (West Pico, Hollywood), where they played ‘Be Bop A Lula’.
The Capitol Records tower, Hollywood
Photography session in Capitol Tower, Hollywood:
Gene, the Blue Caps, Sherrif Tex Davis and Ken Nelson
Movie: ‘The Girl Can’t Help It’ :
Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps starred in this movie.
13th october 1956 : concert in San Diego, California.
San Diego circa 1956
In October 1956, ‘Be Bop A Lula’ finally stepped out of the charts, after twenty weeks. It was time to record something new. The album ‘Blue Jean Bop’ had sold well, and Ken Nelson tried to use again the same formula.
Cliff Gallup agreed to come back in Nashville in October to play on studio recordings. This time, more songs were recorded, and the Blue Caps showed themselves wilder as ever. This recording session included the sinister ‘Cat Man’, ‘Pink Thunderbird’, ‘Cruisin’ and ‘Double Talkin’ Baby’, mirror of a generation of rebellious teenagers. Only two classics were recorded again on the second album: the Delmos brothers’ song ‘Blues stay away from me’ and Al Hibbler’s song ‘Unchained Melody’, two outstanding performances on Gene’s part.
15th – 18th October 1956 : from Monday to Thursday, recording session in Owen Bradley’s studios (Nashville) were produced by Ken Nelson. Guitarist Cliff Gallup specially returned for these sessions, accompanied by the Jordanaires, Elvis’ chorists.
On the last day of the recording sessions, the Jordanaires were asked to sing on ‘Importand words’, ‘You better believe’ and ‘Five days, five days’. Out of the 15 recorded tracks, 12 were issued in March, the next year, on Gene’s second album, ‘Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps’.
November 1956 : Gene toured for six days in Canada, with DJ Teddy Crutchfield. Their concert in Toronto drew a lot of attentions. They went on with touring in the USA, and ended up in the Sands Hotel of Las Vegas, Nevada. In the middle of the show, Gene broke his leg. The Mary Kave Trio and Annita Kerr were also on this show. Gene Vincent met Elvis Presley, Liberace and Ed McLemore. He was then taken to the Norfolk hospital.
Sands Hotel - Las Vegas, Nevada
Gene Vincent meeting Elvis Presley
Gene stayed for long at the Sands Hotel, where his wild and unusual style did not quite pleased the direction of the hotel: the gamblers had rather watch him than bail up the hotel safes.
However, Gene began to suffer from his broken leg. While it was still plastered it began to bleed and hurt. It was obvious that Gene need some rest before the end of the year. Besides, bass player Jack Neal decided to leave the Blue Caps, and Sherrif Tex Davis put an end to his collaboration with Gene at the same time.
This had been an incredible year for Gene and his career, however he had to face diffucilties along the way. Within a few months, Gene had lost in manager and his band lacked a few members, and he also badly needed a treatment for his leg. In fact, this was a blessing to see Gene and the Blue Caps kept away from performing until the juridical dispute concerning their managment had been settled down: despite his reluctance at the idea of going back to the hospital, Gene really needed rest and time, to be prepaired for a new year...
December 1956 : Gene is in convalescence at his parent’s, in Portsmout
Portsmouth in 1956
More pics on Gene Vincent fan Club on Facebook
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