The Eddie Cochran Story


From Left to Right: Alice, Eddie, Pat & Frank


PLEASE NOTE:  The following biography appeared on the internet several years ago and has since disappeared.  I printed it out at the time, and have painstakingly re-typed it in order to present it here.  I am not sure of the source, but in no way do I claim to have written it, although I did do some editing.  Some of the information in this biography is unquestionably inaccurate; for example, it speaks of Eddie being in Bell Gardens in 1951. How could this be possible when Eddie's picture appears in both the 1952 & 1953 Albert Lea school yearbooks?  Regardless, if you're an Eddie Cochran fan, you'll like this biography!


Part I


Ray Edward Cochran was born in Albert Lea, Minnesota on October 3, 1938 to Frank and Alice Cochran who were originally from Oklahoma City. He had four older brothers and sisters: Gloria, Bill, Bob and Patty.  The Great Depression forced the Cochrans to move north to Minnesota.  Eddie was the only one in the family really interested in music.  At the age of 12, he wanted to join the school band as a drummer but opted for the trombone when he discovered he would have to take piano lessons in order to play the drums!

His musical career had another twist when the director of the school orchestra informed the family that Eddie didn’t have the “lip” for the trombone and suggested the clarinet instead.  When he saw what the clarinet looked like, he refused to consider it stating that he would quit the orchestra if he could not play what he wanted.  So, as his mother recalls, he asked his brother Bob to show him some chords on Bills old Kay guitar that was not played very often at the time.  “Then he got a chord book and seemed to just naturally take it from there”.

In 1951, the Cochrans decided to follow the golden trail to California to join Bill that had already moved there after a hitch in the service.  Two cars totally packed up, Eddie would not part with his guitar.  “For pity’s sake Eddie, with all the other odds and ends we have to carry, that guitar isn’t the prized possession in this household, you know”.  “Possession, Mom?  This guitar is my best friend!”

 In Bell Gardens, California, the new kid on the block focused his attentions on the guitar to compensate for the lack of companionship.  In September 1951, he met Conrad “Connie” Smith.  Connie shared the same musical interests as Eddie and played the upright bass in the school orchestra.  He was also competent on the steel guitar and the mandolin.  In late 1953, they formed a trio with another student on lead guitar.  They often practiced in a rehearsal room in the back of a local music store (The Bell Garden Music Center) which owner Bert Keither was very interested in Eddie’s music and would later sell him his legendary sunburst Gretsch guitar.  The trio started playing at parties, amateur gigs, supermarket openings and other local affairs that would help them gain experience, not to mention a few extra bucks!

 After graduating from junior high school in 1954, Eddie actually enrolled in high school but spent all of his time hanging out with local musicians and jamming wherever he could, trying to realize his dream of quitting school and earning his living as a musician.

 The great country picker Chet Atkins was one of Eddie’s favorites and mastering his complex bass-melody picking style with lightning speed helped build Eddie’s incredible dexterity and versatility.   Eddie was also very bright and his natural curiosity drove him to research and experiment new sounds and techniques.  His mother claims that everything came easily to him, that he was an honor student, and that there wasn’t anything he couldn’t play after hearing it once or twice.  All of his associates confirm this last point; Chuck Foreman jammed with him in the early days: “When I met Eddie he couldn’t have been more than 15-16 years old, and we were listening to a lot of jazz in those days.  I remember we had old Johnny Smith Royal Roost 78 rpm records; Smith was playing a lot of triads and this really fascinated Eddie.  He’d say ‘I wonder how in the hell is he doing that” and in no time at all, he was playing it.  Eddie was very aware, very astute, he retained things.  He was playing a lot of Chet Atkins, Joe Maphis – he could duplicate all those Maphis high speed licks note-for-note very easily".