SHE SHE – LITTLE SHEILA
From 1956-59 Billboard (the American Trade journal) called every Caucasian Rock and Roller, a Rockabilly. It was coined to cover such new developments as Western and Loop, Country Rock n Roll, Cat music and others. By 1960 though, the music by some changed to meet the needs of the teenage markets. For instance Elvis with his ‘Good Rockin Tonight’, compared to his ‘Now or Never’. It helped they say, lay the foundations for future Rock and Roll.
Along came the screaming end as he was known, who had the stance of the underdog, the underprivileged. His name, Gene Vincent. Signing a contract with local radio station WIMS in Norfolk, Virginia, where he was born. Dj Bill Davis claimed management rights to Vincent as well as writing credits on the self-penned ‘Be-Bop-A-Lula’. The innovative Davis recorded the song sending it to Ken Nelson of Capitol Records. Impressed, Nelson had Vincent and his part time group flown to Nashville for recording, and by the summer 200,000 copies had been sold in only 3 weeks. It remained in the Top 10 for 4 months with the release of the movie at the end of 1956 ‘The Girl Can’t Help It’, showcasing Gene and the group The Blue Caps singing the song. As well as Eddie Cochran.
Releasing another hit single ‘Lotta Lovin’ backed with ‘Wear My Ring’ kept Vincent in the limelight but his popularity was short lived due to many obstacles. Dj’s were not keen to play his records due to his arrogance towards the media and his drinking problem. He alienated Dick Clark of Bandstand at a time when announcers were warming to the clean respectability of the boy next door image. For instance, Ricky Nelson.
Living in England for a time, manager Don Arden worked him hard, yet the hits eluded him. He released ‘My Heart’ ‘Pistol Packin Mama’, ‘Wildcat’ and ‘She She-Little Sheila’. Regardless, Ballroom managers agreed he was the major draw card at their venues, with his audience pre dominantly male. They looked up to this rock god who had the ability to swing a leg over a mike, or carry and spin the mike in the air, a show on its own.
They say, he lived not for personal adulation but merely to prove himself to an audience, and live he did, out of a suitcase.
He would travel anywhere just to play his music and is quoted as travelling at one time to France for very little money just to be heard, playing at small village fetes.
Sadly, rarely sober, he passed away in 1971 penniless.
First to be inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, in 1997.