The visit of Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent to Sheffield Gaumont has become the stuff of legend

If the star of the show had survived the tour the face of sixties music could have been very different.

Monday, 22nd February 2021, 2:14 pm

The visit of Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent to Sheffield Gaumont in February of 1960 has become the stuff of legend and the authors of a forthcoming book are keen to speak to anyone that attended.

Many people say it took the rise of the Beatles to put the ‘swinging’ into the sixties. But Adrian McKenna, with the help of Joh n 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’ - knew better than to take any notice of reports compiled by writers totally out of step with what was going on.

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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.

Gaumont girls

The dawn of the sixties was already a major cultural crossroads for Sheffield.

The city was finally looking forward to a bright new future rather than dwelling on the ravages of World War Two.

1960 was the year that saw the opening of the brand new Atkinsons store on the Moor – their previous one had been flattened in the Blitz of 1940 – and the unveiling of Club 60 on Shalesmoor, a teenage club that staged some of the earliest shows by future local hit artists like Dave Berry and Jimmy Crawford.

Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent were booked to perform at the Sheffield Gaumont in Barker’s Pool on February 7th.

Eddie Cochran and his adoring fans

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 poster advertising a gig

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.

If you’ve got memories of the Sheffield Gaumont show contact John Firminger at: [email protected]

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.

The queue to get in went right around the building
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