1958 Gene Vincent – Dance To The Bop
Vincent Eugene Craddock was born in Virginia in the mid-thirties and got his first guitar as a gift when he was 12 years old.
In 1952, he enlisted into the Navy and served a tour of duty during the Korean War. He reenlisted in 1955 and used his re-enlistment bonus to buy a motorcycle. The Navy discharged him after an accident left him with a limp and permanent pain.
He shuffled his name and became a member of a band that played rockabilly music. The band became known as Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps and began playing in local bars in the Roanoke area. They recorded a demo of a song Gene wrote, Be-Bop-A-Lula, and that proved sufficient to get them signed to a publishing contract with Bill Lowery and a recording contract with Capitol Records. They recorded their first album in 1956, and Capitol hoped that Gene would be their answer to Elvis.
Capitol selected Woman Love for their first single, a song written by Jack Rhodes (who had just written the hit record Silver Threads And Golden Needles). A producer at Capitol Records selected Be-Bop-A-Lula to be on the B-side of the single. Since they stood to only make money from the B-side, The Lowery Group sent promotional disks around to radio stations, promoting Be-Bop-A-Lula before Capitol sent out their records. As a result, the B-side was getting airplay and sales and became the hit. The song reached the top ten on the Hot 100 in 1956 and became the biggest hit of Gene’s career. Later that year, the film The Girl Can’t Help It included the footage of the group performing their hit.
After a few lineup changes, the group finally had another hit in 1957 when Lotta Lovin’ reached #13 on the Hot 100 and #7 on the R&B chart. Capitol released Dance To The Bop near the end of the year and the single peaked at #23 in 1958. Gene never reached the Hot 100 again.
He did have a few more records chart in the UK in 1960 and 1961. He played in Hamburg during the Beatles’ third trip to Germany and even played the Cavern Club in Liverpool. A video exists that includes interviews with the Beatles talking about the influence Gene had on their music.
Gene recorded about a dozen albums before his untimely death at age 36 in 1971.
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