Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 88
with the moves onstage. Beyond that, he
performed in three Hollywood films.
Given more time, who knows what future
Eddie Cochran's 6120
with Gibson P-90 neck
pickup and sanded-clear
pickguard. Cochran's original
While Elvis Presley and most other
rockabillies came out of the Deep South,
Cochran was born in Albert Lea, Minnesota, where his parents had migrated
from Oklahoma. In 1955, his family moved
west to Bell Gardens, California, a suburb
of Los Angeles.
A quick musical study, he took lessons in
school but quit band and the trombone to
play drums in his own group. He skipped
piano lessons and instead taught himself
guitar. His first and favorite sounds as a
teen was the country music on the radio.
Soon, he dropped out of high school and
devoted himself to playing guitar.
Soon, he was performing at an American Legion hall, when he met country
songwriter Hank Cochran. Though
unrelated, they formed a duo as the
Cochran Brothers and performed
and recorded country music together for the Ekko label, Eddie
playing a Gibson L-4CN with a
DeArmond pickup. The duo split
amicably after a year, Hank going
on to a career in Nashville, Eddie
to rock and roll.
Cochran had heard Elvis
Presley, and like so many, he
suddenly got rhythm. Based on
some of Cochran's first recordings, Hollywood producer Boris
Petroff invited Cochran to appear in the 1956 big-budget teen
comedy film The Girl Can't Help
It, starring blonde bombshell Jayne
Mansfield. In the movie, Cochran
sang "Twenty Flight Rock" with true
swagger, punctuated by stop-time interludes, and a Memphis-style hiccupping
vocal, perhaps in caricature of Presley.
Cochran's performance caught the eye
of producers from L.A.-based Liberty
Records and he began recording at Hollywood's Gold Star Studios, becoming a
proficient session musician and producer.
In '57, he was featured in a second film,
Untamed Youth, with another platinumblonde heroine, Mamie Van Doren. He also
scored his first hit, "Sittin' In The Balcony,"
which peaked at #18 in March of '57. This
was followed by the singles "Drive-In
Show" and the stellar teen-bopping ode
"Jeannie, Jeannie, Jeannie."
In the summer of '58, Liberty released
"Summertime Blues," which Cochran
co-wrote with manager Jerry Capehart.