Presley -- pshaw! Here's the real goods.
And, we have all been lead to believe that Elvis Presley personified the genre in the early days. There is some justification for this. His image befitted. His early Sun Record offerings (the only ones 'really' worth listening to) were creme-de-la-creme bits of rockabilly. And, of course, he had the looks and the image. At the same time, Elvis wasn't truly what rock was all about. He was no JD. He was good to his Mom (some thought a bit unnaturally), he didn't smoke, drink or cuss (back in them days), and he was a God-fearin' lad from Tupelo, Miss.
Truer to what rock really was could be found in Jerry Lee Lewis -- it's still found in Jerry Lee -- with all his shenanigans with 13-year-old bride Myra; Chuck Berry, who was imprisoned in the late 50s for transporting a minor across a state line for purposes of prostitution, it was alleged. The real truth may have lain in the fact he was a black dude who was just entirely too popular with clean-cut white kids. "And that ain't right, now is it," went the revolting sentiments of the day.
But, there is one. One who always seems to get lost in the shuffle when they do those retro shows, and that is one Eugene Vincent Craddock -- aka Gene Vincent. Gene Vincent (pictured in 1962 in the foreground above -- don't know who those other guys are) was everything any decent parent would find detestable. He was a greaser. He was surly. The boy from Norfolk VA didn't fit anybody's idea of what youth should be about.
His biggest hit was 'Be-Bop-a-Lula', though there were others. Many others. But, the big guys didn't really like what he conveyed, nonetheless. Ironically, that aforementioned hit was as innocent as they come. It was inspired by the fact that Vincent liked the character 'Little Lulu' in the comic books and yes, unlike Presley, he wrote and arranged his own stuff.
Gene Vincent also was not glamorous in that he was physically disabled. Well, damn, that just don't look right. He, a Coast Guard veteran, had smashed his leg to ratshit when he was in the service. It never really healed. He wore a leg brace and was constantly in excruciating pain -- which led him to brutally abuse alcohol. So, yeah, he was a drunk, too.
There isn't a great deal of film footage of Vincent performing, more is the pity. If you want to catch him, he has a bit (with his group, the Bluecaps) in the film The Girl Can't Help It, which starred the bountiful Jayne Mansfield (hard to believe that she was ladylike and classy Mariska Hargitay's Mom).
So, Vincent had pain. He had even worse emotional pain. In 1960 he was riding in a cab from the English city of Bristol to London with his best friend, Eddie Cochran. The cab was in an accident. Eddie 'Summertime Blues' Cochran was killed outright, Vincent's leg was smashed even more.
But, Gene soldiered on. He was very popular in the UK and stayed there for many years. The Beatles (so, that's who those guys are), particularly John Lennon, regarded Vincent as an icon. Gene, sang, and he drank, and made bad decisions, and got married a few times, and drank, and sang, and drank some more to en ever diminishing audience, ultimately in shithouse honky-tonks in the US and Canada, and downmarket pubs in the UK.
Eventually it all got too much for him. He died in 1972 of a massive gastric hemorrhage brought about by ulcers aggravated by severe alcohol abuse. He was 36-years-old.
For some reason I felt an impulse to pay homage to Gene today. He would now be 71. If you want to bring a tear to your eye, Google the Vincent song 'The Last Word in Lonesome is Me.' It says it all.