Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor

COCHRAN, EDDIE (1938-1960)

Musician Eddie Cochran

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Eddie Cochran, the pioneering rock and roll songwriter, singer, and guitarist with the James Dean good looks, was a product of a Plains background, even though his place of birth remains disputed. Some rock references maintain that he was born in Oklahoma City; others have him coming into the world in Albert Lea, Minnesota. The date, October 3, 1938, is not in dispute, nor is the fact that his parents moved from Oklahoma City to Albert Lea at some point during the 1930s. Cochran himself claimed Oklahoma City as his hometown, and the country and western music that his parents absorbed in Oklahoma was a formative influence on the young musician.

By the time the family moved on to California in 1953, Eddie Cochran had become an accomplished guitarist. He started his career as backup guitarist to hillbilly singer Hank Cochran (not related), but his big break came when he teamed up with songwriter Jerry Capehart and obtained a recording contract with Liberty. The hits started coming in 1957, and he soared into prominence in 1958 with "Summertime Blues," that raucous outburst of teenage frustration and rebelliousness. More hits followed, including "C'mon Everybody" and "Somethin' Else," and Cochran seemed positioned to move up alongside Elvis Presley as a superstar when, in 1960, he embarked on a tour of Britain with his friend Gene Vincent. The tour was a great success; both artists were already superstars in Britain. Cochran played his last concert at the Bristol Hippodrome on April 16. The following day, Easter Sunday, on the way to Heathrow Airport, their car crashed into a lamppost, killing Cochran and badly injuring Vincent.

Eddie Cochran, despite his early death, had a lasting impact on rock music. Many artists, including the Sex Pistols and, most famously, the Who, have recorded his songs. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.

David J. Wishart University of Nebraska-Lincoln

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