Gene Vincent – The Screaming End.

Eugene Vincent Craddock was born on 11th of February 1935 in Norfolk Virginia and died on 12th October 1971 aged 36 after a life riddled with pain and incendury Rock N Roll. Eugene first picked up a guitar aged 12 and got the music bug. He joined the US Navy aged 18 and while still serving had a motorbike accident in 1955 that left him in permanent pain with a severe leg injury that would plague him for the rest of his life. Eugene became Gene Vincent in 1956 and with his band The Blue Caps recorded one of the all time classic Rockabilly hits ‘Be Bop A Lula’ for Capitol Records. Apart from Gene’s vocals the whole recording is perfect from the archetypal guitar solo to the hair-raising scream from the 15 year old drummer. The flip side ‘Woman Love’ was banned from radio airplay in the UK due to the BBC’s dislike of the slurred vocals and in their opinion veiled reference to VD (seriously). As well as the monster hit in that year Gene and The Blue Caps appeared in classic Rock flicks ‘The Girl Can’t Help It’ and ‘Hot Rod Gang’.

TV shows followed throughout the 50s as did a few minor hits but a whole shed load of legendary rocking recordings that never dented the charts. One of his best tracks ‘Race With The Devil’ flopped mainly because radio DJs didn’t like to spin records that mentioned ole Beelzebub, that was the sort of shit that he was up against. Gene reportedly began to hit the booze and drugs to combat the pain of his leg which may have also explained tales of trails of smashed hotel rooms and wild behaviour that followed Gene and the ever-changing Blue Caps. In 1957 they toured Australia with Little Richard and Eddie Cochran then in 1958 he lost his home due to reported tax debts. Gene Vincent came to the UK to a heroes welcome in 1959 where he was re-invented by Jack Good as the menacing, hunched, leg braced, tortured, black leather clad rebel that has become the image associated with him thereafter. Legend has it that when Gene made his first appearance on Good’s ‘Boy Meets Girl’ the latter was in the wings screaming ‘Limp you bugger limp’.

Tragedy struck in 1960 he was involved in the car crash that resulted in the death of his friend and rocker of equal legendary status Eddie Cochran and further trauma to his already agonising leg injury and fragile mental state. In 1961 he performed in Liverpool with a band named The Beatles as the support act. The pain induced demons that raged through Gene Vincent took hold resulting in alcoholism as the 1960s progressed and Rock N Roll was usurped by previous support act The Beatles and 60s Beat. Despite limited chart success he continued to be in demand for live performances and recorded right up until his untimely death due to a bleeding ulcer in 1971.

Gene Vincent will be always remembered for his iconic tortured hell-raising image and some of the wildest and most abandoned vocals ever to be put to wax as well as the most heart-felt. His sometimes hushed, sometimes desperate and always intense deliveries are all the more chilling as they were indeed truly tortured. Just have a listen to ‘Cat Man’, Gene Vincent – The Screaming End.
Simon Nott

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