Eddie Cochran was born in Minnesota. While still in school he joined their band but later quit to practice playing the drums. His family moved to the Los Angeles area in 1952 and Eddie began to concentrate on playing guitar. He was briefly in a band while in junior high school and quit school completely to concentrate on a music career rather than continue in high school. He formed the group the Cochran Brothers with Hank Cochran (even though they were not related). Eddie wrote a few songs and used distortion techniques, multi-track recording, and overdubbing on a few singles the group released in 1954 and 1955. They had little success, and the duo split up.
Eddie began working as a solo artist. His first solo single came with the release of Skinny Jim in 1956. The record was one of the earliest examples of Rockabilly music.
Eddie also appeared in the film The Girl Can’t Help It in 1956. The film included music by Eddie, Little Richard, Gene Vincent, and Fats Domino. Eddie performed Twenty Flight Rock in the film. Eddie’s record company did was not release the song as a single until 1957, but it played an important part in the birth of the Beatles. On July 6, 1957, Paul McCartney auditioned for John Lennon’s Quarrymen skiffle group by performing Twenty Flight Rock, singing and playing the guitar the way Eddie had in the film. John immediately invited Paul to join the group.
Eddie’s second solo single was Sittin’ In The Balcony. a song written by John D. Loudermilk. The single reached #18 on the Hot 100 in early 1957.
Five more poorly performing singles followed in 1957 and 1958 before Eddie’s career took off with the release of Summertime Blues, the biggest hit of his career. Eddie’s version reached #8 on the Hot 100. Blue Cheer did an early heavy metal cover in 1968 that peaked at #14. The Who released a single version that reached #27 in 1970 (although their 1970 album version on Live At Leeds was superior to the single in every way).
Dick Clark hosted a half-hour prime time version of American Bandstand for thirteen weeks in 1957. The show ran at 7:30 on Monday evenings. Ratings were minimal and ABC canceled the show in December. In March 1958 ABC tried again, this time with The Dick Clark Saturday Night Beech-Nut Show. ABC broadcast the show live from New York City and perhaps that time slot was a better fit for the show: it ran for nearly three years. Eddie did his best to lip-sync Sittin’ In The Balcony on the show in 1959. While he may have done a poor job of matching up to the music, at least he started out the song sitting in the theatre’s balcony. Sadly, they didn’t even let Eddie pretend to play his guitar.
A car accident resulted in Eddie’s tragic death in April 1960. Eddie was riding in a taxi with his fiancee when the driver lost control of the vehicle. Eddie threw himself over his fiancee’s body to protect her in the collision and he suffered severe head injuries as a result and died shortly thereafter. Eddie was only 21 years old.