Eddie Cochran Weekend

Lin and John from Cheltenham won tickets for the Eddie Cochran Weekend at Chippenham in September 2002. This is an article they wrote for the newsletter.
Lin and John

Back in July, Dell received two tickets for the Eddie Cochran Rock'n'Roll Weekend in Chippenham, UK, kindly donated by the Eddie Cochran Appreciation Society, to be used as prizes in a competition. Although we live quite close to Chippenham, we had never been able to go to the Weekend. So when Dell posed the competition question "What was Eddie's full name", we wrote the answer on the bottom of one of our faxes to the show, and pressed "Send". We didn't think we had much chance, because there must be hundreds of listeners that would like to go, and we forgot about it. Then one Friday, we heard Dell ask John Fisher to pick out a winner, and it was us!! Amazing!!

Chippenham Butter Market

Chippenham is a small market town in North Wiltshire, UK, which lies on the banks of the River Avon. The town centre is traffic-free, unlike that tragic day 42 years ago when the main Bristol to London road ran through the middle of the town. The site of the accident which killed Eddie is not far from the town centre, and all weekend there was a small trickle of visitors to the memorial monument. The festival runs for three days, and it's held in the Olympiad Leisure Centre, which is in a lovely setting with a view over a bend in the river towards the town.

The entertainment started on Friday evening, this year featuring the Hell Raisers, The House Rockers, the Rapiers, and Jet Harris. The main event was on Saturday, with Rocky Burnette, Bobby Cochran, Scotty Moore, the Big Bopper Junior, Darrel Higham and the Enforcers, the Alabama Slammers, Rockin' The Joint, the Corsairs, and the Drugstore Cowboys. Sunday had just one band, the High Flyers, and was a day for socialising, remembering and recovering! There's also Car and Bike cruises through the town on the Saturday and Sunday, and there was a funfair nearby. Something for everyone.

Friday 27th of September arrived, and we set off for a leisurely drive to Chippenham. We arrived very early, but the organisers were happy for us to go in, and we watched Jet Harris and the Rapiers doing their sound checks: it sounded good. There was one stall set up, selling clothes and memorabilia, and we had chance to have a good look around. While we were there Jet and his wife also came to look round. We got chatting, what a nice couple. Lin spotted a drape jacket that fitted me, and Jet's wife helped her decide that we were buying it. An hour before the start, and already I had to go to find a cash machine! While I was walking through the town it struck me how friendly the local people were, several said 'Hi, enjoy the Festival'.

Once our purchases had been safely stowed away in the car, things were starting to happen in the dance hall. People were arriving, a few faces we recognised, then John from Birmingham stuck his head round the door. Lin was happy, at least one good dancer to keep her busy! Then Doreen from Gloucester came in 'What are you doing here' she said! (silly question!) Lin and Doreen had bumped into each other in Cheltenham just the day before, but hadn't mentioned the festival. A few more people we knew from Gloucester arrived and came to sit with us, the hall was starting to fill. 'Birmingham' John soon had Lin dancing, first up as usual, and the evening was under way.

Soon the first band were on, the Hell Raisers. This band was specially formed for the Festival, though the band members were all experienced musicians from the Derby area. They played Rockabilly standards, very fast!. They were good, and were well received, but several people said it was a shame there wasn't a chance to dance. They were followed by the House Rockers. These guys were also playing rockabilly, some self-written. They aim to be an authentic band, even down to the equipment they use, which was all original 50's kit.

The Corsairs

Then the Rapiers. We'd heard Colin Pryce-Jones, the lead guitarist, chatting with Dell on Good Rockin' Tonight a few weeks before, and he talked about how they strive to reproduce a Shadows show as they were at the peak. I was lucky enough to see the Shadows in the early 60's and they took me right back to my youth. It was good to see the Mayor of Chippenham in the audience, also enjoying a trip back in time. The festival receives a lot of support from the town and the local district council. The Rapiers played many Shadows standards, but after a few numbers Wayne, the rhythm guitarist, broke a string and went off the stage to change it. They carried on for a few numbers as a three-piece, but when Wayne didn't re-appear, Colin started to get worried, then a message came through that Wayne was locked out of the dressing-room!! Unfortunately the flow of their show had been destroyed, so when he did eventually re-appear, they decided to bring on Jet Harris straight away.

Jet came on with his trademark six-string bass and they played all of Jet's hits, some more Shadows, and some others like Duane Eddy. They were also joined by the legendary Cliff Hall on keyboards, another ex-Shadow. There was some interesting chat about the old days in between numbers, and a few jokes. A great show. They were, of course, dragged back for several encores, finishing with F.B.I. and Jet managed the high kicks perfectly! A great night, and that was only the start of the weekend.

Next morning we were up early, determined not to miss any of the action. We got to the Olympiad Centre early again, but today was a lot busier. There were Chevvies, Cadillacs, Harleys, Triumphs and BSA's, and Rockers everywhere. The town was completely taken over by the Rockin' fraternity, and again everyone was so friendly. When we finally got into the Centre, the hall that had hosted last night's dance was now full of stalls. Records, CD's, Clothes, Shoes, Memorabilia, it was all there. In the corner was our mate Phil from Gloucester with his Crazy Cavern clothes stall. Phil spotted us, and the jokes started, most of them un-printable! We spotted some more friends, Jenny and Gary, and Pat and Derek, and also, in the distance, Maggie and Tel of Maggie's Blue Suede News. We wanted to catch up with Maggie later to say Hi, and thank her and Tel for taking the trouble to visit Radio Caroline. Unfortunately we didn't see them again!

The Drugstore Cowboys

The first priority that morning was to put out 'Good Rockin' Tonight on Radio Caroline' flyers on all the tables. Hopefully we'll get a few new listeners for the show, We hope they ring in to Roy on a Friday night, and mention that they found out about the show from the flyer. Next, we had to search out John Knight, the chap who sent our tickets to Dell, and say thanks for everything. We also bumped into Geoff Barker, who was compering the whole weekend.

Many years ago, Geoff presented a brilliant Rock'n'Roll programme on our local radio station, and we used to fax into his programme with requests. Geoff was the guy who first got us involved in the Rock'n'Roll scene, because he plugged a local gig where Darrel Higham and the Enforcers were playing. He also told us that we could get Darrel's CD's from Nervous Records. When Lin rang Nervous, she found herself talking to Roy Williams and had a long and very interesting conversation in which he played most of Darrel's CD's down the phone, and also told us about Good Rockin' Tonight on the old Country Music Radio. And the rest, as they say, is history!! Geoff is now presenting a Rock'n'Roll programme on BBC Radio Wiltshire on Sunday afternoons, which he did live from the Festival on the Sunday.

Geoff Barker and Darrel Higham

The main hall for Saturday's show was designed as a sports hall, with tiered seating opposite the stage. There was good lighting on the large raised stage, and a good PA system. There was a large dance floor, and plenty of tables and chairs on the floor, with lots of room between them. The DJ for Saturday's show was Wildcat Pete, and he was already doing a great job, playing a wide selection to get everyone in the mood. Unlike some sports halls, the acoustics were quite good. There was also a good restaurant upstairs, which was serving hot meals and snacks most of the time.

We didn't see very much of the first three bands, the Drugstore Cowboys, the Corsairs, and Rockin' The Joint. What we saw was too fast for dancing, so we took the chance to look around and catch up with old friends. We also bumped into Darrel Higham by the record stalls, with Mick Wigfall and Rob Tyler, the Enforcers. Darrel signed a copy of the book 'Don't Forget Me' which he wrote with Julie Mundy about Eddie's life story, and also flogged us a copy of his latest CD 'The Sweet Georgia Brown Sessions'.

Rockin' the Joint
Rebel Dean

Back in the hall again in time to see Rebel Dean, doing a tribute to Eddie. Rebel is currently touring in the 'Rockin' on Heavens Door' stage show, which will soon be going into London's West End. He gave us a good impression of what an Eddie Cochran show must have been like over 40 years ago.

Next on stage was the Bobby Cochran band. Bobby is Eddie's nephew, but of course he is a great guitarist in his own right, and has played with many bands, including Steppenwolf. Bobby would normally have been playing much later on the bill, but he had another show to do later that night over 100 miles away! He gave us some of his uncle's hits of course, and also some later rock music, finishing with a wild version of 'Born To Be Wild'. This break from the standard Rock'n'roll/Rockabilly menu was a refreshing change, which was very well received.

Bobby Cochran
Darrel Higham

Wildcat Pete kept the dancers on the floor during the intervals, with a wide selection of music for all tastes. But soon he gave way for the next act, Darrel Higham and the Enforcers. They gave us a blistering set of Eddie's songs interspersed with other favourites. As always Darrel's playing was incredible, but this time his guitar sound had a wonderful 'growling' quality we'd not heard before, whether it was his new space-age amplifier or a new guitar, we don't know.

This was the first time we'd seen Rob Tyler as drummer with the Enforcers, and his solid beat enhances their sound. Mick Wigfall gave his bass a pounding, and considering it's held together with large amounts of sticky tape, it's a miracle it manages to stay in one piece!

Rob Tyler Mick Wigfall

Big Bopper Junior

Next on stage was the Big Bopper Junior, backed by the Alabama Slammers. He was born just three months after his father died in the plane crash with Buddy Holly and Richie Valens. He performed all his fathers hits, such as Chantilly Lace, the Big Boppers Wedding, and White Lightning, and also some songs that his father wrote for others, such as Johnny Preston's hit Running Bear. A great show.

The next interval was longer than normal, due to technical problems, but Wildcat Pete kept things rocking. But soon Scotty Moore was on stage with his band performing, of course, mainly early Elvis material. The singer was Paul Ansell (Number Nine) who'd flown in from Germany earlier that day to join them. Although Paul wasn't trying in any way to mimic Elvis, the whole sound was uncannily like those early Elvis records.

Scotty Moore
Rocky Burnette

The last act for the evening was Rocky Burnette, with Darrel and the Enforcers again. Rocky (Johnny Burnette's son) and Darrel performed many of his father's songs, as they have done on their CD, Hip Shakin' Baby. Towards the end of the set they were joined by Paul Ansell on stage, and the Olympiad Centre rocked on into the early hours.

Sunday morning dawned bright, and we set off early so that we could visit the Memorial at Rowden Hill, where the tragic accident happened, and to see the classic car cruise scheduled for Sunday morning. Unfortunately our car broke down on the way, and we had to call out the breakdown service and return home. We'd been looking forward to the Sunday show very much, but it wasn't to be.

We enjoyed the weekend very much, and we'd like to thank lots of people for allowing us to go. Dell, Roy, and John Fisher, of course, for running the competition and picking us out. The Eddie Cochran Appreciation Society, and John Knight in particular, for sending Dell the tickets, and for the enormous effort that must have gone into the organisation of the Festival. The local councils, the Olympiad Centre, and the townspeople, for making everyone so welcome. And of course all the bands and artists, the DJ's Wildcat Pete and Rich Marsh, and Geoff Barker for all the entertainment. Thanks everyone.