JACKIE LEE COCHRAN
Born Jack Cochran, 5 February, 1934, Dalton, Georgia
Singer, guitarist, songwriter.
Jackie Lee Cochran liked to tell people that he was born in 1941, but in reality he was seven years older. Like Elvis, he had a twin brother who died at birth, and like Elvis, his father went to jail. Much of his youth was spent living with relatives in Louisiana and Mississippi, and with his grandmother in Gadsden, Alabama. It was in Gadsden that Cochran first began performing on the local music scene, which displeased his grandmother, who wanted him to join the military. She convinced him to enlist in the Air Force, where he was stationed in San Antonio. Each weekend he travelled to Abilene to play on Slim Willet's radio show. This brought him to the attention of the managers of the Big D Jamboree, who had him perform on their program as well. Not long after leaving the Air Force in 1955, he began playing rockabilly, influenced by Elvis Presley. He took on a manager, Pat O'Donnell, who came up with Cochran's "Jack the Cat" name and image. Through O'Donnell, Jack was offered a recording contract with Sims Records in California and his first single, "Riverside Jump"/"Hip Shakin' Mama" (recorded in Dallas), came out in June 1956. While performing in California on shows run by Cliffie Stone and Spade Cooley, Cochran was signed to Decca. On November 27, 1956 he recorded his only single for the label, the classic "Mama Don't You Think I Know"/ "Ruby Pearl" (Decca 30206), backed by L.A. musicians like Merle Travis (guitar) and Jimmy Pruett (piano). According to Jackie, the record was breaking until legal problems arose over an old management contract and Decca stopped promoting the disc. But the truth is probably that the record was just too raw and rough, even for 1957, and so was he.
His next stop was Viv Records in Hollywood, where he cut "I Want You"/ "Buy A Car" (1958). Viv sold the record to Avalon Records, who in turn sold it to ABC-Paramount. At ABC they saw "Buy A Car" as the plug side, but that track was marred by an obtrusive female chorus. When "Buy A Car" failed to sell, Jackie Lee Cochran's major label career was over, inasmuch as it had ever begun. One-off singles for Spry ("Pity Me", 1958) and Jaguar ("I Wanna See You", 1959) didn't sell either, good as they were, and Jackie took a job as an aircraft mechanic and quit music for some time. Cochran liked to boast that he had a role in the Marilyn Monroe movie "Let's Make Love" (1960). According to Bill Millar, "you need a quick finger on the VCR trigger to capture the moment where he jumps through a screen as an Elvis clone." And if we can trust the Internet Movie Database, the Elvis impersonator in this film was Dick Dale.
But Cochran's career in music was far from over. In fact, his best years were yet to come. In 1973 he began recording for Ronnie Weiser's Rollin' Rock label, for which he would deliver two surprisingly authentic albums, "Swamp Fox" (1973) and "Rockabilly Legend" (1980). Jackie wrote almost all the songs on the albums himself and also played most of the instruments. By the mid-1970s he started calling himself Jackie Lee Waukeen Cochran, as a tribute to his American-Indian heritage (his grandmother was a full blooded Cherokee). The European rockabilly revival was in full swing and Jackie paid his first of many visits to Europe in 1981, touring Norway and Finland. "Fiddle Fit Man" was recorded in England with Johnny and the Roccos (1985). Also in 1985, the German Hydra label released a sucessful compilation of his early recordings : "Jack the Cat : The Jackie Lee Cochran Story" (first on LP, later on CD). To promote the album, Hydra boss Klaus Kettner put together a European tour for Jackie, which was so successful that they teamed up for all the following tours until his passing. In 1997, the Hightone label released a 20-track compilation of songs that Cochran recorded with Ronny Weiser in the 1970s, titled "Rockabilly Music". Alas, Jackie's second career as a born again rockabilly came to an end on March 15, 1998, when he died in his sleep (after three prior heart attacks) at his home in Burbank, CA. A true original had left us, one who epitomized rockabilly's anarchic spirit.
CD recommendations :
More info : http://electricearl.com/campi-25.html (Ray Campi remembers Jackie Lee Cochran.)
Acknowledgements : Bill Millar, Colin Escott, Wikipedia.
Discography : http://www.rocky-52.net/chanteursc/cochran_jl.htm
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