Sharon Sheeley & Eddie Cochran
a star-crossed tragic love...
The Rock'n'Roll Couple!
The Story of Two Fateful Hearts
Stories from the Rockabilly Days
by Stu Frederick
The Songstress and the Star
Sharon Sheely is referred to in many a biography of Eddie Cochran as "Eddie Cochran's Girlfriend" and little else. But to Eddie, she was clearly a creative partner as well as a life partner. To many, Eddie and Sharon were the quintessential rock and roll couple, combining their talents and their lives into a single, romantic entity.
Sharon met Eddie in 1958, introduced by ex-boyfriend Don Everly. It was the same year that she wrote "Poor Little Fool" for Rickie Nelson, a number one hit for an 18-year-old girl in a male-dominated industry. At the time, she was the youngest woman to write a number one hit song. Sharon went on to write songs for Richie Valens and Johnny Burnette, among others, with Eddie's help recording the demos.
For Eddie, 1958 was also the year he charted in the top ten with "Summertime Blues." Together, Eddie and Sharon co-wrote a score of other recordings including one inspired by Gene Vincent. Gene and Eddie were friends who had toured Australia together in 1957. One day Gene remarked to Eddie that his girl Sharon was "Somethin' Else!" This resulted in the beginnings of a song that Sharon and he eventually finished together. One of my personal favorites, it is a modern parable about making things happen in your life, a great lesson for teens!
Sharon and Eddie became engaged in 1960. Gene Vincent had been having hard luck in the US and took off for England where they gave him a regular spot on a popular local TV show "Boy meets Girls"(England still loved Gene!). On Gene's invitation, Eddie left for England to appear with him on the show and do a tour of the UK. It was a resounding success and Eddie's popularity soared.
Meanwhile, Sharon had caught up with Eddie in England where they celebrated her 20th birthday together. Two weeks later, Sharon, Eddie, and Gene booked a flight back to the US. The taxi they were riding in crashed on the way to the airport in a bizarre, one-car collision with a sign post. All three suffered serious injuries. Eddie was thrown from the car. He had head injuries from which he never recovered. He died two days later in a hospital in Bath, England. He was 21.
Ironies are the stuff of legends. Eddie had only days before recorded the fifth song for his upcoming album. It was called "Three Steps to Heaven." He had also, just the year before, recorded "Three New Stars," a touching tribute to Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and the Big Bopper.
Gene Vincent had lost a good friend and was experiencing career problems in the US. Living a life in constant pain from injuries sustained during his army tour of duty in Korea, his health would fail and he, too, would pass away little more than a decade later at age 37.
Sharon Sheeley continued writing songs and would team up with Jackie DeShannon on early hits for Brenda Lee, The Fleetwoods, The Crickets, and the Searchers. She would later pen tunes for Glen Campbell, Leon Russell, PJ Proby, Herb Alpert, and many others.
Sharon married once, briefly, in the days that followed, to Los Angeles DJ Jimmy O'Neil with whom she remained lifelong friends. In the year 2000, a tribute album of her songs was recorded by Glen Campbell, Leon Russell, David Gates, Hal Blaine, and Herb Alpert, with many other recording stars for whom she had written. Then, suddenly, in May of 2002, she passed away soon after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 62.
Sharon Sheeley and Eddie Cochran
Each a story in themselves, the combined story of Eddie and Sharon (with their friend, Gene), has a tragic, almost operatic quality to it. To be lifted to the heights, then fall to the depths has an all too familiar ring. But it could be said that at least it wasn't a fall from grace or the excesses of stardom, that jarring tragedy on the road to Heathrow Airport.
What's left for all is the music, a legacy in song.