1960 Death of a rock and roll legend
1960 Monday April 17th - Death of a rock and roll legend.
The death of a rock and roll legend on the local scene didn't even make page one of the Evening Post on April 17th, 1960. Whoever was in charge of choosing that day's main stories for the Post had never heard of 'Summertime Blues', 'C'mon Everybody' or 'Three Steps To Heaven'. And the name Eddie Cochran clearly rang no bells at all when the morning news conference was called.
Although one of the most influential figures in late 50s teen culture and later a hero of the great hall of fame of young, dead rockers like Buddy Holly, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Otis Redding and John Lennon had died in a tragic road crash on the Post's 'patch', the event was only given sparse coverage.
Turn to Page One that Monday and you'll search in vain for the tale of Cochran's death. You have to turn the pages to find the news, and even then Eddie Cochran's demise isn't the introduction.
'Two American recording stars, Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent, who headed the bill in a rock'n'roll show at Bristol Hippodrome last week, and were due to fly home to America, were involved in a crash yesterday. 'Mr Cochran died, without regaining consciousness, at St Martin's Hospital, Bath yesterday afternoon. Mr Vincent, with a fractured collarbone, is still detained there. 'Within an hour of leaving Bristol for London after the last performance on Saturday, the hire car in which they were travelling collided with a lamp standard at Rowden Hill on the outskirts of Chippenham, Wiltshire.
'Mr Cochran's body will eventually be taken back to America for burial.
'There were two other passengers, Miss Sharon Sheeley (20), an American song- writer and Mr Patrick Tompkins (29), a theatrical agent of St James Road, Camberwell, London. 'They too are detained at St Martin's Hospital, in the city of Bath.
Miss Sheeley with injuries to back and thigh, and Mr Tomkins with facial injuries and a suspected fracture of the base of the skull. 'Neither Mr Vincent nor his two friends were said last night to be on the danger list.
'The driver of the car, Mr George Martin of Bristol, was unhurt. 'There were no other vehicles involved. Mr Tompkins said: 'Just outside Chippenham the front tyre blew out and we skidded sideways into a lamp standard'. 'He added that he had been planning to take a train back to London from Bristol but Mr Vincent suggested travelling by taxi.' The Everly brothers, Don and Phil, were in Bristol the next day and were deeply shocked by the news.
They rang the Bath hospital to ask if Sharon Sheeley could receive visitors and later came to her bedside to comfort the gifted, sparky young songwriter who lay injured and devastated by the tragedy. She recovered and returned home.
The taxi driver was later fined and disqualified for dangerous driving. As for Eddie Cochran, his reputation as rock'n'roll's equivalent of James Dean grew and grew. His small collection of songs are now regarded as some of the classics of early rock'n'roll.
For more than thirty years Eddie Cochran's passing was remembered by only a handful of fans, but in recent years one weekend has been given over to remembering his death and celebrating his music. The Eddie Cochran Rock'n'Roll Weekend became a regular event in the Chippenham calendar attracting fans and acts from all over the world.