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Gene Vincent

Gene Vincent only had one really big hit, "Be-Bop-a-Lula," which epitomized rockabilly at its prime in 1956 with its sharp guitar breaks, spare snare drums, fluttering echo, and Vincent's breathless, sexy vocals. Yet his place as one of the great early rock & roll singers is secure, backed up by a wealth of fine smaller hits and non-hits that rate among the best rockabilly of all time. The leather-clad, limping, greasy-haired singer was also one of rock's original bad boys, lionized by romanticists of past and present generations attracted to his primitive, sometimes savage style and indomitable spirit.

Vincent was bucking the odds by entering professional music in the first place. As a 20-year-old in the Navy, he suffered a severe motorcycle accident that almost resulted in the amputation of his leg, and left him with a permanent limp and considerable chronic pain for the rest of his life. After the accident he began to concentrate on building a musical career, playing with country bands around the Norfolk, VA, area. Demos cut at a local radio station, fronting a band assembled around Gene by his management, landed Gene Vincent & the Blue Caps a contract at Capitol, which hoped they'd found competition for Elvis Presley.

Indeed it had, as by this time Vincent had plunged into all-out rockabilly, capable of both fast-paced exuberance and whispery, almost sensitive ballads. The Blue Caps were one of the greatest rock bands of the '50s, anchored at first by the stunning silvery, faster-than-light guitar leads of Cliff Gallup. The slap-back echo of "Be-Bop-a-Lula," combined with Gene's swooping vocals, led many to mistake the singer for Elvis when the record first hit the airwaves in mid-1956, on its way to the Top Ten. The Elvis comparison wasn't entirely fair; Vincent had a gentler, less melodramatic style, capable of both whipping up a storm or winding down to a hush.

Brilliant follow-ups like "Race With the Devil," "Bluejean Bop," and "B-I-Bickey, Bi, Bo-Bo-Go" failed to click in nearly as big a way, although these too are emblematic of rockabilly at its most exuberant and powerful. By the end of 1956, the Blue Caps were beginning to undergo the first of constant personnel changes that would continue throughout the '50s, the most crucial loss being the departure of Gallup. The 35 or so tracks he cut with the band -- many of which showed up only on albums or b-sides -- were unquestionably Vincent's greatest work, as his subsequent recordings would never again capture their pristine clarity and uninhibited spontaneity.

Vincent had his second and final Top Twenty hit in 1957 with "Lotta Lovin'," which reflected his increasingly tamer approach to production and vocals, the wildness and live atmosphere toned down in favor of poppier material, more subdued guitars, and conventional-sounding backup singers. He recorded often for Capitol throughout the rest of the '50s, and it's unfair to dismiss those sides out of hand; they were respectable, occasionally exciting rockabilly, only a marked disappointment in comparison with his earliest work. His act was captured for posterity in one of the best scenes of one of the first Hollywood films to feature rock & roll stars, The Girl Can't Help It.

Live, Vincent continued to rock the house with reckless intensity and showmanship, and he became particularly popular overseas. A 1960 tour of Britain, though, brought tragedy when his friend Eddie Cochran, who shared the bill on Vincent's U.K. shows, died in a car accident that he was also involved in, though Vincent survived. By the early '60s, his recordings had become much more sporadic and lower in quality, and his chief audience was in Europe, particularly in England (where he lived for a while) and France.

His Capitol contract expired in 1963, and he spent the rest of his life recording for several other labels, none of which got him close to that comeback hit. Vincent never stopped trying to resurrect his career, appearing at a 1969 Toronto rock festival on the same bill as John Lennon, though his medical, drinking, and marital problems were making his life a mess, and diminishing his stage presence as well. He died at the age of 36 from a ruptured stomach ulcer, one of rock's first mythic figures. ~ Richie Unterberger
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Ain't That Too Much!

1. Bird Doggin' (Mono)

2. Born To Be A Rolling Stone (Mono)

3. Poor Man's Prison (Mono)

4. I'm A Lonesome Fugitive (Mono)

5. Love Is A Bird (Mono)

6. Hi-Lili Hi-Lo (Mono)

7. I've Got My Eyes On You (Mono)

8. Ain't That Too Much (Mono)

9. Hurtin' For You Baby (Mono)

10. Words And Music (Mono)

11. Am I That Easy To Forget (Mono)

12. Born To Be A Rolling Stone

13. Poor Man's Prison

14. Love Is A Bird

15. Hi-Lili Hi-Lo

16. Hurtin' For You Baby

17. Ain't That Too Much

18. Lonely Street

x

Track List: The Capitol Years

Disc 1

1. Bluejean Bop

2. Jezebel

3. Ain't She Sweet

4. Jumps, Giggles And Shouts

5. Who Slapped John?

6. Wedding Bells (Are Breaking Up That Old Gang Of Mine)

7. Up A Lazy River

8. Bop Street

9. I Flipped

10. Waltz Of The Wind

11. Jump Back, Honey, Jump Back

12. Peg O' My Heart

13. Red Bluejeans And A Pony Tail

14. Unchained Melody

15. Hold Me, Hug Me, Rock Me

16. You Told A Fib

17. Crusin'

18. You Better Believe

19. Double Talkin' Baby

20. Blues Stay Away From Me

21. Cat Man

22. I Sure Miss You

23. Pink Thunderbird

24. Pretty Pretty Baby

Disc 2

1. Frankie And Johnnie

2. In My Dreams

3. You'll Never Walk Alone

4. Brand New Beat

5. By The Light Of The Silvery Moon

6. Flea Brain

7. Rollin' Danny

8. Your Cheatin' Heart

9. You Belong To Me

10. Time Will Bring You Everything

11. Should I Ever Love Again

12. It's No Lie

13. Five Feet Of Lovin'

14. The Wayward Wind

15. Somebody Help Me

16. Keep It A Secret

17. Hey Good Lookin'

18. Git It

19. Teenage Partner

20. Peace Of Mind

21. Look What You've Gone And Done To Me

22. Summertime

31. Well I Knocked Bim Bam

Disc 3

1. My Baby Don't 'Low

2. I Can't Believe You Want To Leave

3. I Might Have Known

4. In Love Again

5. You Are The One For Me

6. Ready Teddy

8. Vincent's Blues

10. Now Is The Hour

11. My Heart

12. Maybelline

16. Crazy Times

17. She She Little Sheila

18. Darlene

19. Everybody's Got A Date But Me

20. Why Don't You People Learn How To Drive

21. Green Back Dollar

22. Big Fat Saturday Night

23. Mitchiko From Tokyo

24. Hot Dollar

25. Accentuate The Positive

26. Blue Eye's Crying In The Rain

27. Pretty Pearly

28. Dance In The Street

Disc 4

1. Woman Love

2. Be Bop A Lula

3. Race With The Devil

4. Gonna Back Up Baby

5. Crazy Legs

7. Five Days, Five Days

8. B I Bickey Bi Bo Bo Go

9. Wear My Ring

10. Lotta Lovin'

11. Dance To The Bop

12. I Got It

13. I Got A Baby

14. Walkin' Home From School

15. Baby Blue

16. True To You

17. Rocky Road Blues

19. Little Lover

20. Say Mama

21. Be Bop Boogie Boy

22. Over The Rainbow

23. Who's Pushing Your Swing

24. Right Now

25. The Night Is So Lonely

26. Wild Cat

27. Right Here On Earth

28. Anna Annabelle

29. Pistol Packin' Mama

30. Weeping Willow

31. If You Want My Lovin'

x

Track List: Bluejean Bop!

1. Bluejean Bop

2. Jezebel

3. Who Slapped John?

4. Ain't She Sweet?

5. I Flipped

6. Waltz Of The Wind

7. Jump Back, Honey, Jump Back

8. Wedding Bells (Are Breaking Up That Old Gang Of Mine)

9. Jumps, Giggles And Shouts

10. Up A Lazy River

11. Bop Street

12. Peg O' My Heart

x

Track List: Be Bop A Lula

1. Be - Bop - A - Lula

2. Ain't She Sweet

3. Unchained Melody

4. Jezebel

5. Bluejean Bop

6. Woman Love

7. Up A Lazy River

8. Peg O ' My Heart

9. Hold Me, Hug Me, Rock Me

10. Crazy Legs

11. B - I - Bickey - Bi Bo - Bo - Go

12. I Flipped

13. You Told A Fib

15. I Sure Miss You

16. Cat Man

17. Bop Street

18. Jumps, Giggles And Shouts

19. Double Talkin' Baby

20. Blues Stay Away From Me

x

Track List: Gene Vincent

1. Be-Bop-A-Lula

2. Bluejean Bop

3. Dance to the Bop

4. Lotta Lovin'

5. Pistol Packin' Mama

6. Say Mama

7. Who Slapped John?

8. Woman Love

10. Baby Blue

14. Pickin' Poppies

17. Baby Blue

21. In My Dreams

Comments

Report as inappropriate
Personal life, DICK. Music life, ONE OF THE BEST!! So since I didn't know him I will say... DAMN HE WAS GOOD!!
Report as inappropriate
Be Bop a Lula, one of the GREAT early Rock songs
Report as inappropriate
marvins39
gone way too soon. a great artist
Report as inappropriate
I had a thing for the girl in red blue jeans, too.
Report as inappropriate
love Gene Vincent music, he is up there with Elvis ,to bad he left us so early...the 50 - 60 music was the best!!!!!
Report as inappropriate
Gene was so much more than a Rockabilly cat. He was a true artist and the finest natural singer rock and roll has ever known.
Report as inappropriate
wow gene really is the real deal. never knew of his power or his bio
Report as inappropriate
Gene Vincent is a kickass rockabilly rebel, no matter what people think.
Report as inappropriate
I would like to know the outcome of the obscenity charge against Gene in a line from the flip side of "Bebobalula" , "Woman Love" where he supposedly dropped the "F" bomb in a line of the lyrics. Anyone who knows, let me know. jancheese.gi l b e r t 0 @ g m a i l . c o m
Report as inappropriate
Lets Bop!!
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littlebitr
gene vincent really is a legend,those were the good days.
Report as inappropriate
The good don't always die young. We still have Dion DiMucci and Chuck Berry.
Report as inappropriate
only the good die young
Report as inappropriate
gene vincent is a legend

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