#1214: Cradle Baby by Eddie Cochran
Eddie Cochran was born in Albert Lea, Minnesota, in 1938. His family moved to the Los Angeles area in 1951 where Eddie attended Bell Gardens Junior High. While there he became friends with Connie ‘Guybo’ Smith. Smith was already a promising musical talent who played bass, steel guitar and mandolin. Eddie and Connie began to jam together and gave a concert at their junior high school. Connie “Guybo” Smith went on to become Cochran’s bass player and was one of the musicians heard on most records during Eddie’s brief professional career. In 1953, while still in junior high school, Eddie met another musician named Chuck Foreman. The two experimented with Foreman’s two-track tape recorder. The pair made recordings of a number of songs including “Stardust”, “The Poor People Of Paris”, “Hearts of Stone” and the “Cannonball Rag”. Cochran graduated from Bell Gardens Junior High in 1954.
In the following months Eddie met country singer Hank Cochran, of no relation. In January 1955 Hank offered Eddie a job as his guitar accompanist. Eddie left school and for the next year and a half Hank and Eddie played and recorded as The Cochran Brothers. At Sunset Recorders in Hollywood The Cochran Brothers recorded several tracks, including “Mr. Fiddle” and “Two Blue Singin’ Stars.” Next, Eddie and Hank met songwriter, Jerry Capehart, who was searching for artists to demo his songs. By the end of 1955 Capehart had begun promoting The Cochran Brothers. In January 1956, “Walkin’ Stick Boogie” was released with the recording artists billed as Jerry Capehart featuring the Cochran Brothers on the Cash Record label. That spring The Cochran Brothers cut four rock and roll songs, including “Tired & Sleepy”. After this recording Eddie Cochran pursued a solo career.
In July 1956, “Skinny Jim” was Cochran’s first solo single release. His recording on the Crest label didn’t chart. Soon after Eddie was asked by producer Boris Petroff to sing a part in an upcoming rock ‘n roll filmed titled Do-Re-Mi. The film was later re-titled The Girl Can’t Help It. Cochran recorded a couple of tunes for the film, including “Twenty Flight Rock”. A buzz was building around Eddie Cochran and in September he signed a contract with Liberty Records. Then, in December 1956, Eddie Cochran appeared in the rock’n roll film Untamed Youth, starring Mamie van Doren. Cochran played and sang a small part in the movie as a character named Bong. The song Bong (Cochran) sings in the movie is “Cotton Picker”.
In 1957 Eddie Cochran played guitar on a number of recordings by junior high school buddy, Don Deal. Deal had a minor hit in 1957 called “Unfaithful Diane”. Between May and August 1957 Eddie Cochran recorded the tracks of the only album he would end up recording titled Singin’ To My Baby. Songs recorded included “Drive In Show” which was released as Eddie’s third Liberty single. It climbed to #82 on the Billboard charts and #5 in Vancouver.
In the fall of 1957 Eddie Cochran toured Australia with Gene Vincent, Little Richard and Elis Lesley (billed as the female Elvis Presley) in what was boasted as The Biggest Show Of Stars for 1957. This was the first American rock and roll show ever to come to Australia. Every single date was sold out. This was also the tour where at the end Little Richard threw his jewelry into the water, left show business and gave himself to religion. At the end of the year Eddie Cochran released a single called “Cradle Baby” that may have only appeared on a record chart in Vancouver, where it climbed to #7.
“Cradle Baby” is about a guy who is dating a girl who is sixteen and some years younger than him. Cochran himself was 19 years old when he released the song. So, if the song is biographic (no proof of that musing), he’d be singing about a couple with a three year age gap. For a lot of folks in the late 50’s if a guy was out of high school, dating someone still in high school was frowned upon. Why can’t he find someone else whose graduated and got a job or is in college? There were other songs about society considering a match was out of line when there was much of an age difference. Tony Bellus sighed his way through “Robbin’ The Cradle”, Paul Anka fretted that he was judged to be involved in a “Puppy Love” and George Hamilton IV lamented the older generations lack of sympathy in “Why Don’t They Understand”.
Can a sixteen year old know what it means to be sexually attracted to someone? Back in the 1950’s many parents wanted to ensure their impressionable daughters were kept under lock and key. Maybe double dating, but only with another boy their daughter’s same age. After all, dating a guy who was a few years out of high school could lead to a hurried marriage or teenage pregnancy. What would the neighbors say? And did a sixteen year old girl who had perhaps not much, or any, dating experience not be in danger of making premature decisions about her future? Unfortunately, given over 50% of couples that marry in North America end in divorce, it seems that whatever the age of the partners getting really serious about each other, there are flaws in the dating game at any age.
In March 1958, Cochran and his touring band Dick D’Agostin And The Swingers recorded and were filmed in the music score for the movie Hot Rod Gang. At a studio session they backed up John Ashley on “Annie Laurie” and “Hit And Run Lover,” though Cochran was not credited for his performances. Around that time Eddie Cochran also played guitar on a demo called “Guitar Picker” recorded by Bob Luman. In June 1958, Cochran had his biggest chart success with “Summertime Blues” which peaked at #8 on the Billboard charts and #6 in Vancouver. The novelty cat fish vocals in the song were Eddie’s. His follow-up release was “C’Mon Everybody” which stalled at #35 on the Billboard Hot 100. However, in the UK it climbed to #6. The year ended with Cochran playing at The Loews State Theatre in New York. He was part of an all-star show hosted by legendary rock ‘n roll DJ Alan Freed. Among the other artists are Chuck Berry, Jackie Wilson and Bo Diddley.
In January 1959, Cochran appeared in the movie Go, Johnny, Go! performing “Teenage Heaven.” During a saxophone solo in the song Cochran danced with his guitar (just check the “Teenage Heaven” link in the previous sentence). Chuck Berry, Jackie Wilson and the Ritchie Valens also starred in the movie. Then on February 3, 1959, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper were killed in a plane crash in rural Iowa. On February 5th Cochran recorded “Three Stars,” a song penned by DJ Tommy Dee. Eddie Cochran made multiple takes of the song and found himself tearing up each time. Liberty Records chose not to release the song as they weren’t satisfied with any of the recordings that day by Cochran. Eddie Cochran played guitar on “Opportunity”, and “Doin’ The Hully Gully” for Jewel Aitkens in the fall of 1959. Cochran also played guitar on a number of unreleased demos for Johnny Burnette in late 1958 into 1959, as well as other records for Margie Rayburn and others.
On January 8, 1960, Eddie Cochran recorded his last session for Liberty Records. “Three Steps To Heaven” was among several songs he recorded with the remaining Crickets, formerly with Buddy Holly, as back-up band. After the session Eddie Cochran left for the UK to join Gene Vincent in a tour of the Scotland, England and Wales. While in England Eddie appeared on the first of four TV-shows, Boy Meets Girls, on January 16th. Eddie and Gene had a big impact on the British teenagers and budding rock ‘n roll bands. Cochran has had his songs covered by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Cliff Richard, Led Zeppelin, Rod Stewart, Keith Richard, U2 and others in the UK pop music scene.
On April 17, 1960, at the end of the tour, Cochran and Vincent drove to the airport in a taxi, along with Eddie’ fiancee Sharon Sheeley. The taxi got in a motor vehicle accident near Chippenham. Sheeley and Vincent were only slightly hurt, but Eddie Cochran died of severe head injuries later that night. The following month, “Three Steps To Heaven” was posthumously released. In the UK the song climbed to #1 and #5 in Vancouver. Oddly, this born-in-the-USA rock ‘n roll star’s posthumous release didn’t crack the Billboard Hot 100.
July 21, 2017
Eddie Cochran inductee, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, 1987
Eddie Cochran, “Cotton Picker,” Untamed Youth,
“Three Stars” ~ Eddie Cochran recording
Cochrane, Bobby and Van Hecke, Susan. Three Steps to Heaven: The Eddie Cochran Story. Hal Leonard, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 2003.
Mundy, Julie. Don’t Forget Me: The Eddie Cochran Story. Billboard Books, New York, 2001
Eddie Cochran, “Teenage Heaven,” 1959
For more song reviews visit the Countdown.