by Margaret Chrystall
THE tragic early death of American rock star Eddie Cochran at 21 still leaves his musician nephew Bobby in tears – especially as a weird twist of fate saw his own daughter killed in a car crash at the same age as Eddie.
Bobby – in Inverness on Friday with group Somethin’ Else, named after a famous Eddie Cochran hit – will celebrate his uncle’s music as part of a set of golden rock classics.
And who better?
For though a lifetime of playing with bands including Steppenwolf and The Flying Burrito Brothers has given Bobby decades of experience, his first teacher – through vivid dreams – was Eddie himself.
Bobby (65) spoke from his home in America on the eve of his trip to the UK about the uncle who was at the start of a glittering career – with hits such as C’mon Everybody, Somethin’ Else, Summertime Blues and Twenty Flight Rock in legendary early rock movie The Girl Can’t Help It – when a road accident in England near Bath tragically cut short his life in April 1960.
"Eddie died when I was 10 and I started playing music when I was 12 and a half," says Bobby.
"It was something that I never talked about much, but when I started playing, I began to have these dreams about Eddie, more real than reality.
"It’s called lucid dreaming and I felt I had an entire relationship with him, a real closeness that was sealed and bonded with these long-term visitations.
"He used to teach me to play guitar – though I can’t say I remembered any specific lick that he taught me, but he would talk to me about life.
"The communication was telepathic, the colours were so vivid, the personality was so deep.
"Whatever that was, I was left with a sense when I would play, that the guitar was just unfolding for me. It was revealing itself to me.
"I practised for incredibly long hours – there were days I’d play for 12 hours," he laughs.
"I was very dedicated and there was a certain thing about the commitment that was unusual for a child, especially," Bobby admits. "There was a tremendous love for Eddie.
"But when he died, it hit our family so hard.
"It still gets me emotional," says Bobby, whose voice cracks as he breaks down in tears.
The emotion is still there when he talks about the loss of his daughter Bree.
And Bobby agrees that the parallel of her death in 1999 with Eddie’s – and also in April – is strange.
"But it’s not difficult to talk about," he says.
"Emotion is probably the best thing about my playing.
"I’ve had audience members come up afterwards to tell me that they were crying when I played.
"I think people connect with it, it’s the best aspect of music that we evoke."
He thinks it’s a quality of his music that he also shares with his late uncle, who he has written about in a book he’s co-written, titled Three Steps To Heaven: The Eddie Cochran Story.
"I think it is those things that endure – and I think Eddie knew how to connect with a song, as a singer, a guitarist, producer and as a songwriter.
"That’s what has endured about him for people.
"He had his charisma and his good looks and his innovativeness and all of that.
"But what I think in life we are all looking for is to connect with one another."
Bobby and his new band – including Brian Hodgson and Mike Bell, both founder members of Albert Lee & Hogan’s Heroes – are touring Europe to pay tribute to Eddie’s legacy.
The tour also marks 60 years since the release of the legend’s first-ever single Skinny Jim, released in the US in 1956.
Bobby’s early aim to become a world class guitarist has seen him compared to greats such as Eric Clapton, Duane Allman, Chet Atkins, Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix and Albert Lee.
Along the way Bobby played with some legendary bands – like Steppenwolf. And he laughs at the silver lame shirt he wears in a 1974 clip of the band playing one of their biggest hits, Born To Be Wild.
"That was the era of extravagent costumes," he laughs Bobby. "With Kiss and Elton John and the band wanted to get some outfits made, but the starting cost would be $2500 an outift – I couldn’t justify that.
"But I got a shirt with three-dimensional gold sequins on it and it looked as if gold had just been poured over me.
"It looked beautiful for the first two or three concerts, but I sweat like a maniac when I am onstage – it’s hard work up there under those hot lights.
"As I sweated, all the reflective colour came off"
"But that silver one, it still looks good.
"I had long blonde hair down to my tail bone and I’d wear it back in a ponytail then fluff it out when I went onstage!"
The ponytail may have gone but Bobby’s love of his uncle’s music remains.
Like his uncle, Bobby is driven by music itself.
He says: "Eddie is a renowned rockabilly guy but in my mind, Summertime Blues, Something’ Else – many other songs of his – they’re rock n roll, not rockabilly. And there are a whole bunch of songs where Eddie’s playing great blues guitar.
"Sometimes I’ve had strict rockabilly fans saying to me ‘You’re not being authentic’.
"But I learned some of Eddie’s guitar licks, literally lick to lick, when I was a kid.
"What I’m being – like Eddie – is being a true artist, true to what I feel in my heart.
"He was – and is – my idol."
Somethin’ Else comes to Eden Court tonight (Friday, February 26).