cream of the crate review #216: gene vincent – the gene vincent singles album
cream of the crate review #216: gene vincent – the gene vincent singles album
Album Cover – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

  These reviews are provided to help maintain a connection with various genres of popular music extending from the 1940’s through to present time.

 

 

 

"Be-Bop-A-Lula,” is considered a significant early example of rockabilly." - [rockandrollparadise.com] .. .. .. "in his closing song, ‘Be-Bop-A-Lula’, he broke two mikes through his frantic actions” - [ June Harris, Disc magazine review of concert at East Ham Granada, February 1961] .. .. .. "This album captures the energy of one of the most exciting periods in pop music..." - [Album liner notes]

This is album review number 216 in the series of retro-reviews of both vinyl LP’s and Cd’s, in my collection.

The series is called “Cream of The Crate” and each review represents an album from my collection that I believe is of significant musical value, either because of it’s rarity, because it represents the best of a style or styles of music or because there is something unique about the group or the music.

Links to the previous 200+ reviews can be found at the bottom of this review.

This man had such an important impact upon Rock ‘n’ Roll, but none-the-less, it might have been even greater if fate had not stepped in.

cream of the crate review #216: gene vincent – the gene vincent singles album
Album label – [CLICK to enlarge]
The artist is Gene Vincent and this album – The Gene Vincent Singles Album is, exactly what the title suggests.

It is entirely made up of 20 tracks from singles released by Vincent.

It was released in 1981 by Capitol records, but this (vinyl) album was released under licence in Australia by EMI and has the catalogue number MID. 166003. 

OK, a some background for anyone not familiar with Gene Vincent.

He was born Vincent Eugene Craddock, on February 11, 1935. His parents ran a general store.He acquired his first guitar at the age of 12 when he was visiting a friend in West Virginia who had a guitar-playing sister. The friend gave Gene the guitar and told him to keep it, although Gene never quite new if it was a fated gift or just a friend trying to get rid of the sister’s ability to practice.

As a teenage Gene played the blues, gospel and country tunes of the day, already demonstrating that he had a good voice. In fact those passing by would stop and sit on his porch and listen to him.

His father (Ezekiah Jackson Craddock) and mother (Mary Louise) eventually gave up the store and moved back to Norfolk, VA.

Gene had no interest in school and dropped out to serve in the military. In February of 1952 he joined the US Navy, but would never actually see any military action.

cream of the crate review #216: gene vincent – the gene vincent singles album
A young Gene Vincent: In the Navy – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

Three years after joining the forces, in fact one fateful a July weekend, and while still in the navy, a woman in a Chrysler ran a red light, hit Gene and put him into the naval hospital with a severely smashed left leg.

It wasn’t good and  Gene’s doctors wanted to amputate but his mother intervened and he kept his leg. He was released from the navy and was to spend the rest of 1955 in and out of the hospital.

cream of the crate review #216: gene vincent – the gene vincent singles album
Leaving the London hospital: Leg in paster – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

His leg remained severely damaged and steel brace was attached. The navy may have lost a sailor, but the world gained a rock ‘n’ roll legend.

It’s now early 1956 and with his leg still in plaster, Gene began hanging around the local country radio station WCMS, occasionally singing with the staff band, The Virginians.

He regularly appeared on WCMS’s Country Showtime program and would perform a song called “Be Bop A Lula“.

There has always been conflicting stories involving this song.

The song was supposedly based on a comic strip heroine called Little Lulu and Gene said he co-wrote it with fellow hospital patient Donald Graves. However, Sheriff Tex Davis, a local DJ, saw some potential in Gene and the weird song he sang and decided cut himself into the writing credits by buying Graves’ rights to it for a mere $25.

However a variation of the story ignores Donald Graves completely and claims Gene and Sheriff Tex wrote the song together one afternoon while listening to a 78-prm recording of “You Can Bring Pearl with the Turn-Up Nose, But Don’t Bring Lulu.”

Another version has Graves writing the song entirely on his own and selling to Gene for $50.

The real story still remains in question. What is fact is that Sheriff Tex Davis did sign a bewildered Gene Vincent to a management deal and later did co-write songs with Gene.

Noting the popularity of Elvis at the time Davis and his partners formed a group – the Blue Caps around Vincent and sent a demo to Ken Davis Capitol’s A&R man. In April, 1956 a recording contract was signed with Capitol Records.

cream of the crate review #216: gene vincent – the gene vincent singles album
Gene Vincent – [CLICK to enlarge]
The first session was held in Nashville with Jack Neal on bass, Willie Williams and Cliff Gallup on guitar, and Dickie Harrell on drums. 

Four songs, Be-Bop-A-Lula, Race With The Devil, “Woman Love” and “I Sure Miss You” were the result of that session.

The first single was credited to Gene Vincent and The Blue Caps. Blue Caps was in reference  to President Eisenhower’s baby blue golf cap.

The A side was Woman Love and Be-Bop-A-Lula on the B side. Critics complained about the suggestive lyrics and impassioned delivery, so disc jockeys began playing the B side. Be-Bop-A-Lula became an instant hit.

Special mention should also go to his fabulous guitarist in the Blue Caps – his amazing lead guitar player Cliff Gallup. The first real sign we got that he was a classy and talented guitarist was in Be-Bop-a-Lula,” and in the process Gallup defined the classic rockabilly guitar sound with his bright, clean tone, augmented by a healthy dose of slapback delay.

cream of the crate review #216: gene vincent – the gene vincent singles album
Cliff Gallop & Gene Vincent – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

The second release by Gene was  Race With The Devil was immediately rejected by the radio stations and replaced by Blue Jean Bop.

Touring caused Vincent’s injured leg to act up just as he was to film a cameo for the movie “The Girl Can’t Help It”. Vincent was able to sing in the movie “Woman Love” after the wardrobe department hid the cast under his jeans and painted the toe of the cast to resemble a shoe.

In December, 1956 Vincent was booked for a month at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas. A week of pain in his leg forced him to cancel the remainder of the shows. He reentered the Veterans Hospital in Portsmouth for treatment.

In 1957 he was fitted with a metal brace that he would wear for the rest of his life. He began touring again during which time there were numerous lineup changes in the group.

In 1957 he released Dance To The Bop, appeared on “American Bandstand” and “Big D Jamboree” in Dallas which led to a tour of Australia with Little Richard and Eddie Cochran, with whom he became good friends. Cochran  would sing back-up on Vincent’s  “Record Date” album.

cream of the crate review #216: gene vincent – the gene vincent singles album
Gene and the Blue Caps – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

By now plenty of stories of strange behavior on and off stage began circulating in the spring of 1958. It seemed he was drinking heavily to keep his energy up and taking two bottles of aspirin for his assorted aches and pains.

In 1958 Vincent lost his home in Dallas to back taxes. Later he moved to Los Angeles where he only found low paying jobs. After three weeks of not being paid caused the Blue Caps quit.

In December he went to England where he was met by fans as a hero. An appearance on Jack Good’s “Boy Meets Girl” a British television rock and roll show led to a permanent spot on the show.

Incidentally, Good is credited with creating the all black leather image that became Vincent’s trademark.

cream of the crate review #216: gene vincent – the gene vincent singles album
In his famous “Black Leathers” – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

Then Vincent convinced his friend and rock artist, Eddie Cochran, to come over to the UK.They began a 12 week tour. While riding in a taxi in Chippenham, Wiltshire on April 17, 1960 with Cochran and Cochran’s girlfriend, Sharon Sheeley, there was an accident that tragically ended Cochran’s life, and severely injured Vincent’s leg.

This would leave him with a limp for the rest of his life.

In 1961 he toured South Africa. Later, he performed in Liverpool with the Beatles as an opening act. The next four years were spent in England performing when asked and making records that didn’t sell. His Capitol Records contract expired in 1963.

In October of 1971, he was admitted to the Inter-Valley Hospital in New Hall, California with a bleeding stomach ulcer. On October 12, 1971 Gene Vincent died at the very young age age of thirty six.

He continued with mixed success through the 60’s and his music had somewhat of a comeback in the 90’s when in 1993 Jeff Beck, with the Big Town Playboys, released Crazy Legs, an album of just songs done as a tribute to him and his guitarists.

Gene Vincent was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.

cream of the crate review #216: gene vincent – the gene vincent singles album
[CLICK to enlarge]

 

As for the Blue Caps? Well, a number of musicians were in the Blue Caps, but this is what might be considered as the classic lineup.

The Blue Caps

  • “Galloping” Cliff Gallup – lead guitar
  • Wee” Willie Williams – rhythm guitar
  • “Jumpin'” Jack Neal – upright bass
  • “Be-Bop” Dickie Harrell – drums

Track Listing:

cream of the crate review #216: gene vincent – the gene vincent singles album
Rear Cover – [CLICK to enlarge]
A1. Bluejean Bop
A2. Lotta Lovin’
A3. Race With The Devil
A4. Pistol Packin’ mama
A5. Baby Blue
A6. Wildcat
A7. I’m Goin’ Home
A8. Woman Love
A9. Rocky Road Blues
A10. Dance To The Bop

B1. Say Mama
B2. Crazy Legs
B3. My Heart
B4. Well I Knocked (Bim Bam)
B5. She-She Little Sheila
B6. Rollin’ Danny
B7. Over The Rainbow
B8. Git It
B9. B-I-Bickey-Bi-Bo-Bo-Boo
B10. Be-Bop-A-Lula

SIDE ONE
 

Track 1Bluejean Bop was the A-side of the single released in 1965 and written by Gene Vincent and Hal Levy. It features featuring Cliff Gallup on guitar. It did chart in the USA, Its peak position on Billboard Hot 100 was #49 and it did reach #16 in the UK and #5 in Canada.

We listen now 55 years later and can really appreciate it as a classic sounding Gene Vincent track.

n the mid-50’s a dance called “The Bop” was catching on across high school dances, at soda shops and record hops. The Bop was a popular form of Swing dancing during the 1950’s as well as done as a solo dance, especially when the melody divorced itself from traditional dance rhythms.

Its style was slightly different than The Bop’s predecessor, The Jitterbug, and it’s later variant, East Coast Swing. The term, Bop, was also used as slang for a type of careless movement, such as “Bop on over.”

The Bop was mainly eight counts with a hip-twisting, body swaying, double rhythm style. The basic step is done in open position with the follower mainly staying in front of the leader. The sequence was: Tap-Step—Walk-Walk—Tap-Step—Walk-Walk (or Rock-Step) – swaying from left to right.

So when Bluejean Bop came along, it just slotted into the dance craze beautifully.

Bluejean Bop

Track 4Pistol Packing Mama and the writing credit on the label is Albert Poindexter which is (almost) the real name of the man who recorded the original. 

In March 1942 he wrote and recorded Pistol Packin’ Mama which was born out of a conversation Dexter was having with a waitress in a roadhouse in Turnertown, Texas.

She told the story of how her boyfriend’s wife chased her through a barbed-wire fence whilst toting a gun. This interested him and he began to have thoughts of what he himself might say to such a woman yielding a gun and those thoughts he noted on a napkin were ‘Lay that pistol down, babe, lay that pistol down.’

Dexter recounted, “I said ‘I told you to leave that married man alone. That woman’s gonna kill you ’bout that man.’ She said, ‘Yeah, but Dex I love that little cross-eyed man.’”

The song eventually made it on the American Billboard chart and took a very slow climb eventually reaching number one where it remained for eight week.

This sterling cover version by Gene Vincent and the Beat Boys was cut at the EMI Studio, Abbey Road, London, England on 11 May 1960.

Gene’s vocal being backed by Colin Green (guitar), Ray McVay (tenor saxophone), Georgie Fame (piano), Vince Cooze (bass) and Red Reece (drums).

A mid to uptempo rocker, with conspicuous guitar and drums, and fills from McVay’s tenor saxophone which also delivers a nice solo, Gene enthusiastically narrating his tale of the gun-toting woman.

Pistol Packin’ Mama

Track 10 is Dance To The Bop. The track was released 12 months after Bluejean Bop and reached #23 in the USA, making it only one of three singles to chart. It was a million seller and so while not reaching a coveted top 10 position, it showed Gene Vincent was deservedly a star.

The first verse sets up the theme of the track.

Well there's a little juke joint on the outside of town
Where the cats pick 'em up and lay 'em down
You get your gal, I'll get mine
And we'll get together and we'll have a good time.
We'll dance a little bit to the bop, to the bop
Dance a little bit to the bop
Well dance a little bit to the bop
Well now dance to the rock 'n' roll.
Yeah now, dance, dance, dance
Well, dance, dance, dance
Yeah now, dance, dance, dance
Well, dance, dance, dance
Well now dance, well dance to the rock 'n' roll. (Now got it, git it)

What a great dance track, with a great vocal hook, so simple – “Dance, dance dance”.

Dance To The Bop

SIDE TWO

Track 2Crazy Legs was not a hit. In fact it did chart, kind of, it reached #171 on the Billboard Top 100 and was released in 1957.

Given Vincents totally stuffed leg, which he used to swing around on stage, you might be forgiven for wondering if the track was related to himself.

cream of the crate review #216: gene vincent – the gene vincent singles album
Recording with the Blue Caps – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

It wasn’t, as the lyrics indicate in the first verse.

Well, I got a little woman called, Crazy Legs
She’s the queen of the teenage crowd
All the cats stuffin’ nickels in the ol’ jukebox
Just to watch her do the bop when the music gets loud
Crazy Legs, Crazy Legs, a-boppin’ all over the floor
Do the bop, Crazy Legs, do the bop

So why feature it?

I think it’s just a really, really good track, so listen for yourself.

Crazy Legs

Track 7Somewhere Over The Rainbow. What is a die in the wool rocker doing singing this track?

Correctly titled “Over the Rainbow“, it was written by by Harold Arlen with lyrics by Yip Harburg and used in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz and was sung by actress Judy Garland.

Well the length of the list of singers who have recorded this track is monumental and includes Jerry Lee Lewis, Ray Charles, Billy Thorpe, Pattie LaBelle and Eric Clapton.

So, why not Gene Vincent?

What it does, is to really test a singers capabilities and, Gene delivers. Yes this hard hitting rocker can pop out a ballad with the best of them, and so it was worthy of featuring in this retro-review.

It was released in 1959, which may be coincidental, but this was the worst year for R&R in the USA, with the payola scandals and a push by conservatives on radio and TV against the perceived sexuality of R&R.

Rock was pretty much being emasculated, so maybe, just maybe, it was a way of getting a track released by a “rocker”?

Somewhere Over The Rainbow

Finally we come to Track 10 on SIDE Two.

Be Bop A Lula. There are three versions of how “Be Bop A Lula” came to be written, but what is not in dispute is its importance in the history of rock ‘n’ roll.

cream of the crate review #216: gene vincent – the gene vincent singles album
[CLICK to enlarge]

 

Last on this album it was his first release, put out in 1956 it immediately hit a chord with the kids of the day and raced to #7 in the US and #16 in the UK. he was awarded a gold disk when it broke sale of one million.

Truly, along with Elvis’ Heartbreak Hotel and Carl Perkins Blue Suede Shoes, it established that R&R was not just a fad that would come and go, but as a genuine style of music in its own right.

The lyrics would never will any literary prizes, but R&R is not a literary piece, it is a music, it is a passion and as one scribe wrote – “Rock and roll keeps you in a constant state of juvenile delinquency.”

Well be-bop-a-lula she’s my baby,
Be-bop-a-lula I don’t mean maybe.
Be-bop-a-lula she’s my baby
Be-bop-a-lula I don’t mean maybe
Be-bop-a-lula she’s my baby love,
My baby love, my baby love.
 
Well she’s the girl in the red blue jeans.
She’s the queen of all the teens.
She’s the one that I know
She’s the one that loves me so.
Say be-bop-a-lula she’s my baby,
Be-bop-a-lula I don’t mean maybe.
Be-bop-a-lula she’s my baby
Be-bop-a-lula I don’t mean maybe
Be-bop-a-lula she’s my baby love,
My baby love, my baby love.
 
Well she’s the one that gots that beat.
She’s the one with the flyin’ feet.
She’s the one that walks around the store.
She’s the one that gets more more more.
Be-bop-a-lula she’s my baby,
Be-bop-a-lula I don’t mean maybe.
Be-bop-a-lula she’s my baby
Be-bop-a-lula I don’t mean maybe
Be-bop-a-lula she’s my baby love,
My baby love, my baby love.
 
When the song was released in June of 1956, it wasn’t even the original A-side. Capitol initially pushed ‘Woman Love,’ but ‘Be-Bop-A-Lula’ soon caught the imagination of radio DJs and then the public and the rest is history.
 
This track is a bona fide rock ‘n’ roll classic.
 

Be-Bop-A-Lula

Gene Vincent had eleven albums released while he was alive and thirteen post his death as well as innumerable re-releases and compilations which, includes this one.

What does set this one out from the other compilations is the fact that it is made up of all singles releases.  Although not made up of all his singles it does consist of all his key ones and these are the tracks that helped create the demand for his music as well as to promote him in places where he could never perform.

Gene Vincent [Eugene Craddock] was a true rock music hero. Although he never reached the heights of artists like Elvis, Little Richard and Jerry Lee lewis, his music and his contribution to Rock ‘n’ Roll cannot be overestimated.

cream of the crate review #216: gene vincent – the gene vincent singles album
[CLICK to enlarge]

  

In dying so relatively young, he maintained the general image of the great rock stars, live hard, work hard, play hard and die young.

Should you buy The Gene Vincent Singles Album? Look, if you are a fan of rock, particularly of its halcyon days, your collection is seriously incomplete without a Gene Vincent album.

There are many great albums available, but at least with this one you get to hear the “A: and “B” sides of this fantastic mans work.

It can be found secondhand, in good condition from as little as $5.00 (plus postage) through Discogs. Hell, that’s barely a cup of coffee!

cream of the crate review #216: gene vincent – the gene vincent singles album


VIDEOS:

There are some wonderful videos of live Gene Vincent performances and, here are some of them.

 

Long Tall Sally

 

Bluejean Bop and Sexy Ways

 

Be Bop A Lula


Previous Cream of The Crate Albums:

 

To view/listen the first 50 vinyl album reviews just click the image below –

cream of the crate cd review #2 : robert johnson – the complete recordings

 

To view/listen the first 50 Cd album reviews just click the image below –

 

To view/listen album reviews 101 – 150 just click the image below –

 

To view/listen album reviews 151 – 200 just click the image below –

cream of the crate: album reviews #151 – 200