First-generation rockabilly/rock ‘n’ roller Gene Vincent, whose immortal single “Be Bop A Lula” and rock movie appearances with his group The Blue Caps made him a superstar on both sides of the Atlantic in 1956, died 40 years ago Oct. 12 at Inter-Valley Hospital (aka Golden Valley Hospital) in Saugus. He was just 36.
A posthumous Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame inductee in 1988, Virginia-born Vincent Eugene Craddock is one of the most famous residents of Eternal Valley Memorial Park and Mortuary on Sierra Highway in Newhall. He’s buried in Plot 91 in the Garden of Repose.
The “Gene Vincent 40th Anniversary Get-Together,” a memorial gathering coordinated by Lonely Street, the international Gene Vincent fan club based in France, is set for Wednesday, Oct. 12, at Joe’s Great American Bar & Grill in Burbank, starting at 6 p.m. It’s free and the public is invited (you pay for your own food, though).
Performers signed up so far include Rip Masters, who played piano on “Rose of Love,” one of Vincent’s last recordings; Ray Campi, the rockabilly legend who shared a stage with Vincent in 1958 and recorded the tribute album “Forever Gene”; Ronnie Mack, an L.A. rockabilly pioneer and mentor and host of the long-running Barn Dance showcases; Joe Finkle & Johnny “Spazz” Hatton, whose band rocks like Vincent’s group The Blue Caps did 55 years ago; Ron Kakabeen, leader of Ronnie & The Classics; Russell Scott and His Red Hots, a hot new trio on the L.A. rockabilly scene; singer-songwriter Karen Tobin, a veteran of the L.A. country music scene who’s recorded for Arista Records and Atlantic Records Nashville; and singer/bandleader Mark “Torch” Tortoricci, who hosts the regular “Dance at Joe’s” events at Joe’s Great American Bar & Grill.
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Tina Craddock, Vincent’s younger sister, Brandi Vincent, his daughter, and his granddaughter, Chantiel Craddock, who is launching a singing career under the name Chantilly Lace, will also attend and perform, according to Christian Bouyer. The Newhall resident, originally from France and a longtime fan, is co-organizing the get-together with Lee Loo, who runs the Gene Vincent Lonely Street international fan club, and is traveling from her home, also in France, to visit Vincent’s burial site and attend the event.
Emceeing the event is Stephen K. Peeples, host of the “House Blend” music and interview program on SCVTV, community television for the Santa Clarita Valley, and writer/producer of the “Peeples Place at KHTS” music blog on the AM 1220 KHTS website.
With his greased-up curls, black leathers, gimp from a 1955 motorcycle accident, and manic onstage performances, Vincent was even scarier to teenagers’ parents than Elvis. Vincent was rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll’s original bad boy with a bad attitude, and his influence on the next generation of rock ‘n’ rollers, especially in Britain, was profound and pervasive.
“What made Gene so famous around the world was his presence onstage,” Bouyer said in a recent interview with Peeples. “People had never seen a show like that. Everybody you can read who went to a Gene Vincent show said, ‘It was tense.’ There was that energy — never knowing what was going to happen next. You had this presence, this raw energy, you find later in The Who or The Rolling Stones, for example. But all of that started with one person — Gene Vincent. He literally invented that rock ‘n’ roll attitude.”
Read more of the Bouyer interview in last Friday’s “Peeples Place at KHTS” post.
For more info, visit the event website. There’s also a Facebook page for the fan club and an event page Loo and Bouyer put together. And find out more about Vincent, his music, troubled life, tragic death, and profoundly lasting influence with a visit to the Rockabilly Hall of Fame site.