Vincent Eugene Craddock (February 11, 1935 – October 12, 1971), better known as Gene Vincent, was an American musician who pioneered the styles of rock and roll and rockabilly. His 1956 top ten hit with his Blue Caps, "Be-Bop-A-Lula," is considered a significant early example of rockabilly. He is a member of the Rock and Roll and Rockabilly halls of fame.
Craddock became involved in the local music scene in Norfolk. He changed his name to Gene Vincent and formed a rockabilly band called the Blue Caps (a term used in reference to enlisted sailors in the U.S. Navy). The band included Willie Williams on rhythm guitar, Jack Neal on upright bass, Dickie Harrell on drums, Paul Peek singer/guitar and the innovative and influential lead guitarist, Cliff Gallup.
In 1956 he wrote "Be-Bop-A-Lula", No. 102 on Rolling Stone magazine's "500 Greatest Rock and Roll Songs of All Time" list, and signed a publishing contract with Bill Lowery of The Lowery Group of music publishers in Atlanta, Georgia. Lowery recorded Gene singing "Be-Bop-A-Lula" and secured him a recording contract with Capitol Records. "Be-Bop-A-Lula" was not on Vincent's first album and was not picked by Capitol as the first single to be released. Lowery, however, got Capitol to agree that "Be-Bop-A-Lula" would be the "B-side" of the first single ("Woman Love"). Prior to the release of the single, Lowery pressed promotional copies of "Be-Bop-A-Lula" and sent them to radio stations throughout the country. By the time Capitol released the single, "Be-Bop-A-Lula" had already gained attention from the public and radio DJs. The song was picked up and played by other U.S. radio stations (obscuring the original "A-side" song), became a hit and launched Gene Vincent as a pop star.
After "Be-Bop-A-Lula" became a hit (peaking at number 7 and spending 20 weeks on the Billboard Pop Chart), Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps were unable to follow it up with the same level of commercial success, but released critically acclaimed songs like "Race With The Devil" (#96 in Billboard) and "Bluejean Bop" (#49). That year, Vincent was reportedly convicted of public obscenity and fined $10,000 by the state of Virginia for his live performance of the erotic song, "Woman Love", although this is now believed to have been a rumor, possibly started by his manager.
The group had another hit with 1957's "Lotta Lovin'" (highest position #13 and spending 19 weeks in the charts). Gene Vincent was awarded Gold Records for 2 million sales of Be-Bop-A-Lula and 1.5 million sales of Lotta Lovin'. The same year he toured the east coast of Australia with Little Richard and Eddie Cochran, drawing audiences totaling 72,000 to their Sydney Stadium concerts. Vincent also became one of the first rock stars to star in a film, The Girl Can't Help It together with Jayne Mansfield.
"Dance to the Bop" was released by Capitol records on October 28, 1957. On November 17, 1957 Vincent and His Blue Caps performed the song on the nationally broadcast Ed Sullivan Show.. The song spent nine weeks on the charts and peaked at #23 on January 23, 1958, would be Vincent's last USA hit single. The song was used in the movie Hot Rod Gang for a dance rehearsal scene featuring dancers doing West Coast Swing.
Gene and His Blue Caps also appeared several times on Town Hall Party, California's largest country music barndance held at the Town Hall in Compton, California. Town Hall Party drew in excess of 2,800 paid admissions each Friday and Saturday with room for 1,200 dancers. The show was also on from 8:30pm to 9:30pm over the NBC network. In addition, it was shown over KTTV, channel 11 from 10:00pm to 1:00am on Saturday nights. Appearances were on October 25, 1958, as well as July 25 and November 7, 1959. Songs performed were: Be-Bop-A-Lula, "High Blood Pressure," Rip It Up, "Dance To The Bop," "You Win Again," "For Your Precious Love," "Rocky Road Blues," "Pretty Pearly", "High School Confidential," Over The Rainbow, Roll Over Beethoven and "She She Little Sheila".
Following a visit to Europe in 1959, Vincent managed to attract a new huge and discerning audience there, especially in the United Kingdom and France. By that time his career had mostly ended in the US. On April 16, 1960, while on tour in the UK, Vincent, Eddie Cochran, and songwriter Sharon Sheeley were involved in a high-speed traffic accident in a private hire taxi. Vincent broke his ribs and collarbone and further damaged his weakened leg. Sheeley suffered a broken pelvis. Cochran, who had been thrown from the vehicle, suffered serious brain injuries and died the next day.Vincent subsequently moved to England in 1963. It was during his early tours of Britain that he adopted the trademark leather outfit, at the suggestion of British rock 'n' roll impressario Jack Good. British fans held in high regard the band that supported him, Sounds Incorporated - a six-piece outfit which included three saxophones, guitar, bass and drums.
His attempts to re-establish his American career recording in folk rock and country rock genres proved unsuccessful; he is best remembered today for his recordings of the 1950s and early 1960s which originally appeared on the Capitol Records label. He also put out some tracks on EMI's Columbia label, including a cover of Arthur Alexander's "Where Have You Been All My Life". A new backing band called The Shouts joined him at this time.
In 1966, back in the States, he recorded Am I That Easy to Forget for Challenge Records. On this, he was backed by ex-members of The Champs and Glen Campbell. Although critically well received, it did not sell very well either in the USA or Britain where it was released on the London label.
In 1969, he recorded the album "I'm Back and I'm Proud" for long-time fan John Peel's Dandelion label, which included backing vocals by Linda Ronstadt. He later recorded a further two albums for the Kama Sutra label.The two Kama Sutra albums were reissued on one CD by Rev-Ola in March 2008.
On his final tour of the UK, he was backed by The Wild Angels, a British band who had previously worked at the Royal Albert Hall with Bill Haley & His Comets and Duane Eddy. Because of pressure from his ex-wife, the Inland Revenue and promoter Don Arden, Gene had to return rather swiftly to the USA.
His final US recordings were four tracks for Rockin' Ronny Weiser's Rolling Rock label, a few weeks before his death. These tracks were later released on a compilation album of tribute songs, including a version of "Say Mama" by his daughter Melody Jean Vincent (accompanied by Johnny Meeks on guitar). He later recorded five tracks (released years later as "The Final Sessions") in Britain in October 1971.
He was the first inductee into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame upon its formation in 1997. The following year he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Vincent has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (at 1749 N. Vine St.).