Born Garland Perry Cochran, 2 August 1935, Isola, Mississippi
Along with such figures as Harlan Howard, John D. Loudermilk, Bill Anderson and Dallas Frazier, Hank Cochran defined country songwriting in the 1960s. Gems from his pen include “I Fall To Pieces”, “She’s Got You”, “A Little Bitty Tear”, “Make the World Go Away”, “Don’t Touch Me” and “Don’t You Ever Get Tired Of Hurtin’ Me”.
Hank Cochran had a tough childhood. Following the divorce of his parents when he was nine, he wound up living in a Memphis orphanage. His closest relative was an uncle who worked as oil field roughneck. At the age of 12, Hank joined him to work in the oil fields of New Mexico and it was this uncle who taught him the basics of the guitar. By his mid-teens he was working at the Sears & Roebuck Mail Order building in Los Angeles. He began to write country songs and looked out for a musical partner. In 1954 he found one in Eddie Cochran, who shared his passion for music.
Although Hank and Eddie were unrelated, they called themselves the Cochran Brothers. Soon there were plenty of bookings in the L.A. area and thanks to Cliffie Stone, who handled their representation, they had the chance to make regular appearances on local radio and TV. During the spring of 1955 the Cochran Brothers were signed to the Ekko label, for which they cut three singles. The first two were in a straight country style, but by the time they made their third record in April 1956, the duo had been bitten by the rock n roll bug. “Tired and Sleepy”/ “Fool's Paradise” (Ekko 3001) was to be their last release before they split up in the summer of 1956, due to ‘musical differences’. The Cochrans left behind some unreleased material, which would eventually be issued much later, especially by the British Rockstar label. Among these recordings was Hank’s excellent demo of “I’m Ready” (on which Eddie played guitar, but did not sing), which was first released in 1971 on the United Artists LP “The Legendary Eddie Cochran”.
The lessons learned on the road and in the studio proved to be very valuable for both Hank and Eddie in their subsequent careers. While Eddie went on to become a major rock n roll star, Hank’s career was curtailed by two years of military service. Upon his demob he recorded a one-off single for the Dore label in 1958 (“Goofin’Around”/“Don’t Apologize”) before he decided to concentrate on songwriting. He moved to Nashville in January 1960 and signed a publishing deal with Pamper Music.
This was the beginning of the Hank Cochran story proper. The first major country artist to record one of his songs was Skeets McDonald (“Where You Go I’ll Follow”, late 1959). Hank’s first chart success came in 1961, not with a wimper, but with a bang. He had co-written “I Fall To Pieces” with Harlan Howard and watched as Patsy Cline took it all the way to the top spot on the country charts in August 1961. The song also made the pop charts, peaking at # 12. Seven months later, Patsy Cline scored her second number one, “She’s Got You” (for five weeks) and this time Cochran didn’t have to share the royalties with a co-writer. Around the same time in 1962 Burl Ives scored crossover hits with “A Little Bitty Tear” (# 2 country, # 9 pop) and “Funny Way of Laughin’” (# 9 country, # 10 pop) ; the latter song won Cochran a Grammy award. So did Jeannie Seely’s version of his “Don’t Touch Me” in 1966. Cochran and Seely were married from 1969 to 1979. Other artists who had major country hits with Hank’s songs include Eddy Arnold, George Jones, Ernest Tubb, Ray Price, Jim Reeves, Merle Haggard, Don Gibson, Loretta Lynn and Mickey Gilley.
As a singer, Cochran recorded prolifically during the 1960s, for Liberty, RCA, Monument and other labels. He scored three Top 30 hits (country) in 1962-63 : “Sally Was A Good Old Girl” (written by Harlan Howard and covered by many), “I’d Fight the World” (also a posthumous hit for Jim Reeves) and “A Good Country Song”.
In the 1970s he recorded duets with Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson and continued to have success as a songwriter. He was elected to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1974. During the 1980s, George Strait had # 1 country hits with “The Chair” and “Ocean Front Property”, both co-written by Hank Cochran and Dean Dillon. In the 1990s Lorrie Morgan and Etta James both revived “Don’t Touch Me”.
Most of Cochran’s big hits were written solo, but at times he has co-written with such notables as Harlan Howard, Willie Nelson, and later Dean Dillon and Vern Gosdin. Hank Cochran died on July 15, 2010, from pancreatic cancer, at his home in Henderson- ville, Tennessee, aged 74. He left a legacy of more than 550 songs.
Interview : http://www.rockabillyhall.com/BarryHankCochran.html
Discography : http://countrydiscoghraphy2.blogspot.nl/2016/05/hank-cochran.html
The RWA label (Richard Weize Archives) has just issued a 10-track vinyl LP “Latch On With the Cochran Brothers”. CD 1 of the Eddie Cochran Bear Family box-set (“Somethin’ Else”, 2009) contains all the recordings by the Cochran Brothers that have been released over the decades.
Acknowledgements : Stuart Colman, Robert K. Oermann.
Hank Cochran solo :
Dik, May 2017
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