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Race with the Devil: The Gene Vincent Story - Episode 1

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Roger Daltrey of The Who assesses the influence of leather-clad rocker and personal hero Gene Vincent.

Roger Daltrey, frontman of The Who, assesses the influence of leather-clad rocker and personal hero, Gene Vincent.

Born in 1935, Vincent Craddock was brought up in a naval community in Virginia and left school early to become a sailor. His naval career came to an end when he was hit by a car, nearly losing a leg, and he threw himself into making music.

With a new name and a manager - local radio DJ "Sheriff Tex" Davis - Vincent began writing songs and almost immediately came up with the classic he'll always be associated with, 'Be-Bop-A-Lula'.

Follow-up hits of such magnitude were not easy to come by. 'Race With The Devil', 'Bluejean Pop', 'Lotta Lovin' and 'Woman Love' did not achieve the same commercial success.

Vincent went on tour, performed on television, and starred in a film 'The Girl Can't Help It 'with Jayne Mansfield. He was one of the first rock 'n' roll stars to make a career in movies and appeared in three more, but by 1960 his star was on the wane in America.

Tours in Europe gave him a shot in the arm but trouble seemed to find Vincent wherever he went. A car smash near Chippenham killed tour mate Eddie Cochran while Gene broke his ribs, collarbone, and further damaged his weakened leg.

In 1963 he moved to England and it was here that he made his mark on the burgeoning British pop scene. His stage shows and 'dangerous' image, assisted by his trademark leather outfit, greatly influenced artists like Lennon and McCartney, Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, Ray Davies, Shane Fenton and Eric Burdon.

Gene Vincent died in 1971 at the age of 36.

First broadcast on Radio 2 in 2009.

  • Broadcast on BBC Radio 6 Music, 4:00AM Sat, 18 May 2013
  • First broadcast BBC Radio 6 Music, 4:00AM Sat, 18 May 2013
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  • Duration 30 minutes

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