Were you in the audience for Eddie Cochran's ill-fated spring 1960 UK tour?
Eddie Cochran (front right) meets fans from The Star’s Teenage Club with Gene Vincent (front middle) and Vince Eager (front left)
Many people say it took the rise of the Beatles to put the ‘swinging’ into the sixties.
But Adrian McKenna, with the help of John Firminger, would argue the genie was out of the bottle years before the Fab Four took the decade by storm.
They’d suggest things were already well and truly swinging by the spring of 1960 when what’s widely acknowledged as the first ‘rock’n’roll package tour’ rolled into Sheffield.
If you’d have taken any notice of the British press reviews you’d have thought the tour was a total disaster. But the British youth – now more commonly referred to as ‘teenagers’ at that point - knew better than to take any notice of reports compiled by writers totally out of step with what was going on.
The tour by American stars Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent was a rare chance for British audiences to get up close and personal with major Stateside rock’n’roll names.
Many of the major stars had given the UK a wide birth – Elvis never performed in the country – as the promoters realised they could make more money back home.
Eddie Cochran established himself as a breed apart from the start of the 1960 UK tour. His musicianship, songwriting and image turned him into a massively influential figure for aspiring UK musicians.
Though the rock’n’roll sounds on offer were born out of the fifties – the promoters were confident that the headliners and an ever changing roster of support acts had the pulling power to make the tour a success.
Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent were booked to perform at the Sheffield Gaumont in Barker’s Pool on February 7th.
The Yorkshire Post described the tour as "a prolonged assault on the eardrums". The Leicester Mercury wasn’t much better and said: " Why do these idiotic teenagers behave in such a ridiculous fashion?"
Whilst the critics were very much at odds with the performances the fans lapped it up
Adrian McKenna said: “This was the first all-rock n roll package tour in the UK. Previous visiting rock acts like the Crickets were headliners on bills with comedians, crooners and big bands and were basically novelty billing on a tour of variety acts.”
The Cochran/Vincent tour, billed as a 'Fast Moving Beat Show', comprised of one-night shows and week-long residencies. The one-night Gaumont date was unique.
Adrian added: “Sheffield had the biggest cast of stars on any of the one-night shows. Sheffield was absolutely unique in that it was a one-off show with the large cast and the Wildcats as backing musicians.”
A special afternoon party was held by The Star's Teenage Club so the fans could meet Eddie, Gene and other stars on the show.
John Firminger said the Gaumont performance confirmed who was the star of the event: “The feedback from fans who saw the show was that Eddie's performance which was truly dynamic with his great guitar playing and he also introduced the music of Ray Charles to Britain with a couple of the songs he performed, ‘What'd I Say’ and ‘Hallelujah I Love Her So’.”
Within a few weeks it was all over. Eddie Cochran died during the afternoon of Easter Sunday 17th April, 1960. The rock’n’roll world had lost one of its brightest stars before he’d even got going.
They’d just completed the last date of the tour in Bristol and were on the way back to London in a cab.
The driver lost control in Chippenham and Eddie Cochran died a few hours later of his injuries.
Everyone else survived.
- If you’ve got memories of the Sheffield Gaumont or any other show on the tour please contact John Firminger at: firstname.lastname@example.org