The 1960s was a time when rock ‘n’ roll lit the world on fire, and the counter culture movement shook the world by its lapels. A brave new dawn arose, the future looked utopian, and change seemed to have finally kicked in with Jimi Hendrix as the chain-smoking, guitar-wielding poster boy.
Without the blues movement in the ’50s getting the wheels in motion, then the kids who grew up fascinating by rock ‘n’ roll wouldn’t have had the courage to carry on from where their heroes left off. While Muddy Waters, Elvis Presley, and Buddy Holly get the deserved recognition for their work as international messiahs of the blues, one name that is often left out of history is Eddie Cochran.
Cochran tragically didn’t live long enough to create as much history as others from his era, losing his life aged just 21 while on tour in the United Kingdom in 1960. Following a co-headline performance with Gene Vincent at the Bristol Hippodrome, Cochran was killed after the driver of the car he was travelling in lost control and veered into a lamppost.
Even though he only released two albums before his death, Cochran remains one of the most influential figures to ever pick up a bit of wood with six strings attached. Your favourite artist has probably declared their love for him at some point or other, with musicians like Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and David Bowie all covering Cochran’s work.
Jimi Hendrix, arguably the most famous guitarist of them all, never had any qualms about discussing the importance of Cochran’s work, often detailing the crucial role it played in his life. In fact, Hendrix once declared that he wanted it to soundtrack his funeral. Of course, just how much this particular era of music resonated with Hendrix is so vast, it remains too hard to quantify. Musicians, including Cochran, instilled a burning desire in him to go and pick up a guitar in a bid to replicate these greats he heard on the radio.
“I started playing the guitar about six or seven, maybe seven or eight years ago,” Hendrix recalled in 1968 to Rolling Stone. “I was influenced by everything at the same time, that’s why I can’t get it together now. Like I used to like Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran and Muddy Waters and Elvin James. See a mixture of those things and hearing those things at the same time, which way do you go…B. B. King and so forth.”
Hendrix had a gift from the God’s, along with a dogged determination to continuously improve as a guitarist. However, growing up on a diet of artists like Cochran and Buddy Holly taught him the principles that every aspiring rockstar needs to use as a foundation.
Starting at Zero: His Own Story, the mighty impressive book full of Hendrix’s words from interviews and diaries throughout his career, features a section about his dream to jam with Cochran in the afterlife. “I tell you, when I die, I’m going to have a jam session,” Hendrix is quoted as saying in the book. “I want people to go wild and freak out. And knowing me, I’ll probably get busted at my own funeral,” he characteristically adds.
“The music will be played loud, and it will be our music. I won’t have any Beatles songs, but I’ll have a few of Eddie Cochran’s things and a whole lot of blues. Roland Kirk will be there, and I’ll try and get Miles Davis along if he feels like making it. For that, it’s almost worth dying. Just for the funeral. It’s funny the way people love the dead. You have to die before they think you are worth anything. Once you are dead, you are made for life. When I die, just keep on playing the records.”
Sadly just a couple of years after the statement, Hendrix would join Cochran in the sky. Imagining them two going back and forth on the guitar is a thought which would elicit a smile from even the most-stoned faced muso. The impact that these two men had on guitar music is immeasurable, and while Hendrix deservedly takes the plaudits, it’s time that his hero takes a pinch too.