It should have been a routine uneventful trip.

All they had to do was travel the 118 miles from Bristol to London, England.

But as soon as she got in the Ford Consul Mark 11 taxi, a sense of doom came over her.

She later said that when the taxi door shut, it felt like a “tomb was closing on me.”

She did not think they could have an accident but wondered when they would have one.

There were five people in the taxi in total.

The man in the backseat in the middle asked the taxi driver to slow down three times. He did so, in part, because she (his girlfriend) was visibly terrified at the high rate of speed they were traveling at.

After each request, the driver slowed down, but only for a while. He would soon speed back up again.

The minutes and seconds ticked away…

They were quickly approaching the point in time when everything would change.

Their lives. Their loved ones’ lives. Rock ‘n roll.

A legend was about to be born.

It came with a heavy price, though.  A young man full of promise, energy, life, and the pulsing beat of rock and roll would soon be dead.

Music, laughter, and fun would soon be replaced by fans quietly speculating, “I wonder what would have happened if…”

Then, suddenly, it happened.

The twenty-year-old girl remembers hearing a horrible blood-curdling scream. She quickly realized the scream belonged to her.

Patrick Thompkins, the front passenger seat occupant, later recalled how the accident unfolded…

“You come out from under the viaduct and come across a bridge in front of you. On your right is the A4 and then the bridge and on your left is the A4 to London. Well, he (the driver) saw the A4 and turned right, going the wrong way. When he  saw the milestone, he realized he was going the wrong way and hit the brakes.”

The taxi hit a curb and then slammed into a concrete lamppost on the other side of the road.

Just before the taxi smashed into the lamppost, the girl’s boyfriend had pulled her body over his lap to shield her from the upcoming destruction.

She later learned that doctors had given her only a 10% chance of surviving. She attributed that 10% and her survival to her boyfriend’s noble actions.

He gave me his life,” she would later say.

The date of the fateful crash was 11:50 pm, April 16th, 1960.

The only person who died as a result of the crash was a 21-year-old American male.

Minutes after the crash on that cold night in Chippenham, a lady from a nearby house, powerless to do anything else, put a pillow under his head and a blanket over his body.

Never regaining consciousness, he passed away at 4:10 pm the next day in St. Martin’s Hospital in Bath.

I remember walking up Yonge Street in Toronto in my twenties. I passed a guy wearing a black T-shirt with the following words emblazoned on it:

“Eddie Cochran October 3, 1938 – April 17, 1960”

I remember thinking how cool it would be to have a T-shirt like that.

I’d discovered Cochran’s music a few years early. I bought a few of his albums. I loved what I heard.

There was one song where, upon hearing it, I couldn’t get over Eddie’s unbridled enthusiasm that burst through the record at every rotation.  I also got a huge kick out of the lyrics.

The story of the song is simple. Eddie sees some pink slacks in a display window of a big department store. He instantly knows he has to have them. But he has no money. So he borrows some money from his girlfriend and returns to buy them. He’s two dollars short. At the end of the song, we’re left to assume, much to Eddie’s sorrow, that he was unsuccessful at acquiring the pink peg slacks. Eddie wants them so badly because he wants to go “catting.” He wants to prowl the town for fun and girls.

Co-writer (along with Eddie and Hank Cochran) Jerry Capehart once said of pink slacks and the song… “At that time, they were the thing. We tried to make it as ridiculous as we could.”

There are two versions of this song. The following (recorded in 1956) is the best version, in my opinion:

Capehart once said, “Everything Eddie Cochran did in his life had to have humour in it, or he wouldn’t have done it.”

Indeed, humour and a sense of fun are often found in the songs Eddie wrote and recorded.

His sense of fun shines through in his song Teenage Heaven. The lyrics are only eight lines, but they paint a pretty good picture of what Eddie wanted out of life at the time:

“I want a house with a pool, shorter hours in school
And a room with my own private phone
I wanna stay up all night, see the big city lights
No more troubles or worries at home

Mm, just gimme some time on my hands
I wanna make my own private plans
Yeah, I want my own Coupe de Ville
Make my dad pay the bill. Yeah, man, that’s heaven to me.”

From his performance here, you get a feel for Eddie’s stage presence. Fans who witnessed him in concert said he would often start his show with his back to the audience, sunglasses firmly in place and soon to be removed. He’d start playing his guitar, and when he got to the vocal part, he’d swing around and go into his act.

He’d stroll around the stage like some rock and roll spider luring fans into his web. The suits he wore often seemed a few sizes too big – but on second look, they appeared to fit…or did they?

He was big on charisma. Big on talent. Big on charm.

His influence on rock and roll can’t be overstated.

Eddie was one of the first rock and roll artists to write and overdub his own songs. He’s also credited with using an unwound third string to “bend” notes up an entire tone.

The Who’s Pete Townsend is a big Eddie Cochran fan.  He’s quoted as saying…

“Eddie’s playing on ‘Three Steps To Heaven‘ actually evokes heaven to me, tears fill my eyes sometimes when I hear it. His flamenco flourishes are sublime and decorative and yet part of the backbone. On ‘Cut Across Shorty,’ he whips up the energy of a wild dancing American Graffiti fool with just three or four instruments. He was a pop giant. He was also a very handsome man, like Elvis. He was destined to be an even bigger influence.  When Eddie and Buddy Holly died, R&B took over. But even though we were R&B bands, the Stones played Buddy Holly songs. We played Eddie Cochran. It was all rooted in the blues, of course, to some extent, but Eddie is my main man and always will be.” 

Former Stray Cats frontman Brian Setzer agrees…

“Eddie Cochran? He’s my main man. The guy really influenced me the most. First, it was just that album cover standing like that with those big baggy pants. And then I said: ‘Uh, this guy is really cool. I wanna look just like him’. And then I bought the album and took it home. It just blew me away! I mean, ‘Something Else’ that was like a theme song. ‘She’s so fine looking, man. She’s something else’. That was it. That was the best.”

British musician Vince Eager, who met Eddie in January 1960 and subsequently toured with him, had this to say about Eddie…

“Not only was he an amazing guitarist, he was generally a brilliant musician who could play guitar, bass, and drums equally well. He was also a very generous guy who enjoyed passing on his knowledge to other musicians.”

16-year-old Georgie Fame, who backed up Eddie and Gene Vincent on their British tour, was quoted as saying…

“We were told to report to this club in Soho to meet them. I remember Eddie playing guitar, and we were astounded. Apart from his own stuff, he could do all that brilliant finger-style stuff that Chet Atkins did. Then he played this amazing intro to “What’d I Say,” and apart from a few blues enthusiasts who had the Ray Charles record, nobody had heard it before. He played “What’d I Say” every night, and within six months, every band in the country was playing it.”

Eddie’s songs have been recorded by everyone from The Who and the Rolling Stones to Bruce Springsteen, Alan Jackson, and The Beach Boys.

A young George Harrison reportedly followed Eddie around on his British tour, in awe of his guitar playing. On July 6, 1957, Paul McCartney famously got John Lennon’s ok to join the Beatles after McCartney auditioned to Lennon playing Eddie’s rock classic Twenty Flight Rock.

The following is Eddie’s performance of Twenty Flight Rock from the 1957 film The Girl Can’t Help It.

British musician Johnny Gentle  (who once toured with an early incarnation of the Beatles) was a last-minute substitute on the bill that April 16th, 1960 night in the Hippodrome in Bristol.  After the show, Eddie, looking for a ride to Heathrow, asked Gentle if he had room in his car.  Gentle recalls his response…

“I said Eddie I’d love to, I really would – because he was a terrific guy, he really was a terrific guy – I said I’d love to, but I’ve got a party of four that I’m going back to London with…”

In what can only be described as a strange event, Gentle came across the crash scene that night. He had no idea Eddie Cochran was involved. Low on gas, he asked the person in the “breakdown truck” preparing to tow the taxi away if he could siphon some gas from its tank. He was given permission and made it back to London on gas from Eddie’s taxi.

The following is the song Eddie is most associated with: Summertime Blues. It’s a teenage anthem for the ages to be passed down from generation to generation.

For whatever reason, I’ve always gotten a kick out when a singer “name-checks himself or herself” in the song they are singing.

Freddie Mercury did in it Queen’s A Crazy Little Thing Called Love (Until I’m ready, Ready Freddie); Gord Downie did it in The Tragically Hip’s New Orleans is Sinking (Sometimes I feel so good I got to scream, She said, Gordie, baby, I know exactly what you mean); Martin Fry did it in ABC’s – The Look Of Love (They say Martin, will you ever find true love?)

Many other cases of this, of course, have occurred over the years.

Eddie was one of the originators of this (with a nod of the hat to The Big Bopper’s Chantilly Lace.) He mentions himself in his recording of Nervous Breakdown (Well, he said, “Eddie boy, you just gotta slow down. You can’t keep a traipsin’ all over town) and Money Honey (Eddie boy, just exactly what do you want with me.)

And in his take on Ray Charles’ Hallelujah, I Love You So: (‘If I call her on the telephone, say baby Eddie’s all alone’ ‘Eddie-baby, everything’s alright’ ‘Eddie-baby, everything’s swinging’).

In an update of the traditional Boll Weevil song (a traditional song sung by Tex Ritter), Eddie changes the line (modeled after Ritter’s version) to contain the lines…

Well, if anybody should ask you
Who it was who sang this song
Say a guitar picker from a-Oklahoma city
With a pair of blue jeans on
Just a-lookin’ for a home, just a-lookin’ for a home

It’s an interesting claim, given that Eddie was born in Albert Lea, Minnesota, and later moved to Bell Gardens, California.

So, what’s the deal with Oklahoma City?

If you’re interested Graham Pugh breaks it down the Eddie Cochran Oklahoma City connection. In the Town Hall Concert Video on YouTube, Eddie makes no bones about being from “Oklahoma City.”

Here is Eddie’s singing the Boll Weevil song:

The other occupants of the taxi that fateful day were George Martin (unscathed), Eddie’s girlfriend Sharon Sheeley (broken neck, back, and pelvis), rocker Gene Vincent (badly injured leg), and tour manager Patrick Thompkins (uninjured.)

George Martin (not The Beatles’ future producer, obviously) was the driver. Martin was convicted of dangerous driving, fined 50 pounds, and lost his license for 15 years.

Note: The original accident reports said one of the tires blew on the taxi. This was found not to be the case, although many sources have reported it as such.

Throughout my years as an Eddie Cochran fan, I always kept tabs on Sharon Sheeley.

A songwriter herself, she scored a hit when she was just 15 years old when Rick Nelson recorded her song Poor Little Fool (the first song she ever wrote.)

The story goes that she lived near Ricky Nelson in Newport Beach (a suburb of Los Angeles.) Sharon conveniently stalled her car outside his house one day, hoping Nelson would invite her in.  He did.

She presented the song to him, telling him it was written by her godfather.  She told Nelson that her godfather had written it for Elvis, but she thought it would be perfect for him.

Nelson was delighted at being given a crack at a song written for Presley. He quickly recorded it, and it topped the charts, making Sharon the first American female songwriter without the aid of a male writing partner to write a song that hit number one.

When he found out later that Sharon had written it herself, Nelson was annoyed at being deceived…but I’m sure he got over it.

Over the years, her songs have been recorded by Glen Campbell, Ritchie Valens, and Brenda Lee, among others.

She chummed around with Elvis, dated Don Everly, knew Gene Vincent (who she called “drunk and obnoxious”), and was part of a very interesting time in the history of rock and roll music that pretty much died with Buddy Holly’s death in 1959 and Eddie’s death in 1960 and would only regain its footing, life, and power when The Beatles emerged in 1963.

In 2000, a collection of Sheeley’s songs was released on a CD called “Songwriter.” As Sharon was not a vocalist, the CD featured guest artists such as Glen Campbell, Mac Davis, and Herb Alpert.  Half of the songs on the CD were born from her songwriting partnership with Jackie DeShannon.  No songs here would be recognizable to the casual music listener.

The Jackie DeShannon-Sharon Sheeley songwriting partner had notable success with their song Breakaway when it was recorded by Irma Thomas in 1964 (it’s not included on the “Songwriter” CD.)

She also wrote a few songs for Eddie. Her most famous song, which Eddie recorded, was Somethin’ Else, which she co-wrote with Eddie’s older brother, Bob. Many people mistakenly credited the co-writer of this song to Eddie himself. Some say that Sharon wrote the majority of the song, giving Bob credit because she asked for his help filling in some of the details about cars.

Eddie’s rock and roll has been described as raw. That is a good description.  He knew the teens of the day wanted a powerful beat that they could dance to, highlighted by a ragged, unforgiving guitar.

And that’s what Eddie gave them. Somethin’ Else exemplifies that.  This would be it if I had to choose a theme song for an advancing army.

Live version of Somthin’ Else:

In 1961, Sharon married Los Angeles disc jockey Jimmy O’Neill, but their marriage ended after five years.

I’m purely speculating here, but I always thought the memory of Eddie was so strong that it shaped many of the relationship decisions she made throughout her post-Eddie life.

Ok, maybe I’m not speculating.  At the start of the 2001 British documentary Cherished Memories, Sharon says about Eddie…

“He was the one great love of my life.  He was so unique he left a vivid impression on your mind.”

Irrespective of how her heart felt, Sharon would always be associated with Eddie.  She’d always be the girl in the taxi the night Eddie Cochran died.  She’d always be asked about him by curious fans and Eddie Cochran devotees.

In Cherished Memories, Sharon recalls a conversation with a “kind nurse” she met at the hospital after the accident…

“She said dear, many people will tell you that you’re young and you will love again, and time will heal all, and in time, it will become a faint memory, and you will forget. But she said you won’t, don’t listen to them. Because you will never forget. And it will never fade with time. It will always be with you. She said she lost her husband in the war. And her honesty was of great hope for me to know it’s alright. It’s alright not to have them fade. The pain is not as sharp today. That does fade, but not those beautiful memories and not those sad memories. They are always there.”

Sharon Sheeley died on May 17th, 2002, of a cerebral hemorrhage. She was 62 years old.

Somehow, I find it comforting to know that she was okay being a torchbearer for Eddie’s memory, helping keep his memory alive in the hearts of his fans and, of course, her heart. She seemed to accept it and enjoy it. It appears she never saw it as a burden.

Fittingly, one of the last songs Eddie recorded was Sharon’s song Cherished Memories which contains the lyrics:

“Now you say that we must part
And even though it breaks my heart
There’s one thing you can’t take from me
That’s my cherished memories”

I’ve looked online, and while there are a number to choose from, I can’t find the right Eddie Cochran T-shirt to buy. I would love to find a black one that says…

              Eddie Cochran
October 3, 1938 – April 17, 1960

Other than their standard use, this, in my opinion, is what T-Shirts should be used for. Not to become a walking advertisement for a multinational company brand, but to say, “Yeah, I think this person was good stuff. Deal with it.”

Ok, maybe the attitude wasn’t necessary, but this is Eddie Cochran we’re talking about.

And while no such “Sharon Sheeley shirts” exist, another cool shirt would say…

            Sharon Sheeley
April 4, 1940 – May 17, 2002.

ochran and Sharon Sheeley

(photo from

EC - dontforgetme

Eddie often signed autographs, “Don’t Forget Me, Eddie Cochran.”


A few notable Eddie Cochran-related videos.

Paul McCartney talking about (and performing) Twenty Flight Rock.

Conan O’Brien and Jack White do a blistering version of Twenty Flight Rock:

Eddie’s famous call for everyone to party…at this parent’s house. C’mon Everybody contains what I consider to be a classic line “Well my baby’s number one, but I’m going to dance with three or four.”

My Way:

Nervous Breakdown (rare version):

Alan Jackson’s take on Summertime Blues:

Ricky Nelson – the Sharon Sheeley-written Poor Little Fool: