proud of their favorite sons. If you are an “Okie”, you hear
mention of names like Will Rogers, Patti Page, Garth Brooks and
Vince Gill (to name a few) almost on a daily basis. Having lived in
Oklahoma for the past 30 years, I have always wondered why I never
heard much about Eddie Cochran. After all, from what I have read,
he was born here!
Eddie …. He’s the guy that recorded the rock classic
back in 1958. His life story reads like a movie script: From
poverty to stardom, from hit records to movie contracts to an
untimely death at age 21. Rock historians consider Eddie as one of
the most significant figures in rock music. A young lad named Paul
McCartney played one of Eddie’s songs on the guitar to audition for
John Lennon’s group that later became The Beatles!
I have always
heard that Eddie Cochran was from Oklahoma City. The rock n’ roll
encyclopedia Rock On
by Norm Nite says that Eddie was born and lived in Oklahoma City.
Other accounts tell of Eddie being born in Oklahoma City then moving
to Albert Lea, Minnesota. Yet other reports say he was born in
Albert Lea, Minnesota, and so on .........
Well, what about all of this? To
find the true story, I wound up taking a fascinating journey back to
the 1920’s, drawing information from old city directories and
telephone books, newspapers and Oklahoma City Public School
records. I was able to locate and interview family members,
including two of Eddie’s first cousins who live in Oklahoma City. I
have also become acquainted with Bobby Cochran, Eddie’s nephew who
lives in Nashville, Tennessee.
If you are interested in
Eddie Cochran, a lot of biographies are available, both in print and
on the Internet. Some claim that he was born in Oklahoma City,
moved to Minnesota in his early teens and then moved to Bell
Gardens, California where he found his fame and fortune. Others
claim that he was born in Albert Lea and later moved to Oklahoma
City! This dichotomy became the inspiration for a research project
that took over five years to complete and led me through a
fascinating journey into the1920’s!
In Oklahoma City back in the
early 1900’s, the area north of present-day Interstate 40 and west
of Western Avenue was a low-rent, working class neighborhood. Here
at 1012 West 1st Street lived Joseph and Corda Cochran
with their children Frank, LaVerne, Flo and Trella Faye. The year
was 1922. Not far away, and within easy walking distance was the
family owned business J.T. Cochran & Son Auto Repair, 116 North
Western Avenue. Joseph’s eldest son Frank (17 years old at the
time) was in partnership with his father and worked as a mechanic at
the repair shop. In 1923, the family moved two blocks west to 1200
W. 1st Street. Frank married 16 year-old Alice Whitley
later that year and the family moved to 1228 W. 1st
Street. This move was probably a downsizing of accommodations since
Frank had moved out with his new bride.
By 1925, the family business had
folded and both Frank and his father worked at various jobs as
mechanics and laborers. While living in Oklahoma City, Frank and
Alice Cochran gave birth to three children: Gloria (1924), Bill
(1925) and Bob (1928). The era of the Great Depression was fast
approaching, and times were getting tough for the Cochran Family.
The corporate offices of Wilson &
Company, Inc. were located in Oklahoma City not far from the world
famous Oklahoma City Stockyards. Frank’s sister Flo and her husband
Vance worked there, apparently holding positions in management. As
the Great Depression drew nigh, Flo and Vance were transferred to
the Wilson & Co. plant in Albert Lea, Minnesota. It is documented
that in 1928 they were living in Albert Lea at 221 S.W. 2nd
Avenue. Knowing of the situation in Oklahoma City, Flo was able to
secure a job for Frank at the Wilson meat processing plant in
Minnesota. With few options, Frank and his family packed their bags
and moved to Albert Lea, some 700 miles to the north. This event is
generally thought to have taken place in 1930, however, there is
some inconclusive evidence that it could have happened a year or so
Upon arrival in Albert Lea, the
Cochran family lived at 108 Shell Rock, not far from the Wilson &
Company processing plant where Frank worked as a “Houseman”. While
living at this address, their fourth child Patty was born. In 1938,
the family moved to 909 Marshall, a few blocks to the north of Shell
Rock. The Cochran’s fifth child, Ray Edward “Eddie” Cochran was
born while the family lived at this address. Eddie’s birth
certificate shows that his mother Alice was a housewife and his
father Frank was employed as a mechanic, probably at Wilson & Co.
The Cochrans lived on Marshall for about three years before moving
to a small two-story wooden house at 230 ˝ Charles Street. The
entire family lived at this address with the exception of Bill who
was away in the service.
Eddie’s life in Albert Lea is
well documented and to the best of my knowledge, undisputed. He
attended school there, first at Ramsey Elementary School and then
junior high school at Albert Lea Central. His picture appears in
both the 1952 and 1953 high school yearbooks. Eddies picture also
appears in the Albert Lea Methodist Church’s confirmation class
photo of 1950.
Frank and Alice Cochran were
homesick for Oklahoma and throughout 1940’s and early 50’s would
often take Eddie back with them to Oklahoma City to visit family and
friends. They would stay with Eddie’s grandmother, Corda Cochran at
620 S.W. 28th Street, and later at 515 S. W. 28th
It is unlikely that Eddie ever
saw his grandfather Joseph Cochran. When Eddie's aunt Trella Faye
Hallmark died in 1939, it is known that Joseph had been estranged
for several years. Furthermore, he died that same year. It is
thought that he was living in Arkansas at the time of his death.
Eddie would have only been 3 years old at the time.
Eddie’s grandmother Corda Cochran
lived at several addresses in Oklahoma City until her death in 1974
at the age of 91. Frank and Alice Cochran continued to visit Corda
in Oklahoma City until Frank's death in November 1962. Alice died
on September 30, 1994 in Buena Park, California.
In 1952, Eddie’s brother Bill,
now out of the service, had settled in Bell Gardens, California.
Bill suggested to his parents that they should consider moving
there. It would be a tough decision for Frank Cochran, as he was
considering moving back to Oklahoma City to be with his 70-year-old
mother. What happened next, and heretofore unpublished, is that the
Cochrans actually did move back to Oklahoma City! According to the
recollections of two of Eddie’s first cousins who live in Oklahoma
City, the Cochran Family moved back to Oklahoma City sometime in
1953. As teenage girls, they recall seeing their younger, handsome
teenage cousin Eddie a number of times during this period. Along
with Corda Cochran, Frank, Alice and Eddie lived in apartment #6 at
the Darliene Apartments, 215 N.W. 4th Street. The
Darliene Apartments stood at what is now the site of the Oklahoma
City National Memorial in downtown Oklahoma City, former site of the
Alfred P. Murrah Building where 168 people lost their lives in the
Oklahoma City Bombing!
Eddie's picture appears in both
the Albert Lea and Bell Gardens 1953 school yearbooks. This
pinpoints the year of the move and suggests that the Oklahoma City
stay was brief, however it most likely lasted for several months.
back to Oklahoma City is further substantiated by Eddie's close
friend, John Rook. John told me Eddie's mother had said that the
move to Albert Lea didn't work out well for them and that Frank
wanted to move back to Oklahoma City to be with his aging mother.
After returning to Oklahoma City, they were encouraged by by friends
and relatives to head west as the economy was starting to boom
there. Sometime in 1953, they packed their belongings and left
Oklahoma City for Bell Gardens, California.
The details of Eddie’s life after
he left Oklahoma City are beyond the scope of this report. It
should be mentioned however, that early in his musical career, Eddie
teamed up with Hank Cochran (no relation) to form a Country and
Western duo. During this period, Eddie told everyone that he was
from Oklahoma City. Bobby Cochran told me that he did this to lend
authenticity to his C&W act; after all, who ever heard of a country
guitar picker from Albert Lea, Minnesota? Eddie's comments about
Oklahoma City eventually wound up in print, thus contributing to the
confusion of where he was really from. Hank Cochran went on to
become a notable performer and songwriter, co-writing the Patsy
Cline classic “I Fall to Pieces”.
documentary is copyrighted
be used with the author's permission.