Born Jerry Neal Capehart, 22 August 1928, Goodman, Missouri
Jerry Capehart is best remembered for his association with Eddie Cochran. The two men met by coincidence in October 1955 (in Bell Gardens, California) and really hit it off, though Capehart was ten years older. Eddie had just turned seventeen at the time of their first meeting.
Born and bred in the small village of Goodman, Missouri, Capehart was a songwriter who had a brief moment in the sun in 1951 as the co-writer of “Beautiful Brown Eyes”. That song was a # 11 pop hit for Rosemary Clooney and a # 5 country hit for Jimmy Wakely. Capehart, who had fought in the Korean War as an Air Force pilot, also tried to get a singing career off the ground, but without success. By 1955 he was looking for someone to make demonstration records of his songs. That year Eddie Cochran had teamed up with the unrelated Hank Cochran. They called themselves the Cochran Brothers and Capehart started using them to cut demos of his compositions. Next he pitched the demos to various record companies. Early in 1956, the Cash label agreed to release the single “Walkin’ Stick Boogie”/“Rollin’”, which was credited to Jerry Capehart, featuring the Cochran Brothers. Other collaborations, like the Ekko single “Tired and Sleepy”/“Fool’s Paradise”, came out under the name of the Cochran Brothers or were released long after Cochran’s untimely death, on the British Rockstar label.
Capehart and Cochran were enthusiastic about the new developments in music, but rock ’n’ roll wasn’t Hank Cochran’s cup of tea, so a split was inevitable. Hank went off to serve in the army and later became a successful country songwriter in Nashville. Capehart was convinced that he had found a real gem in Eddie Cochran and he became Eddie’s co-writer, producer, manager and confidant. The pair spent many hours in the studio, creating and overdubbing instrumental tracks and gaining a mastery of studio techniques. They also put out the odd single by Jewel & Eddie and the Kelly Four on Capehart’s labels, Silver and Capehart Records. Meanwhile, Cochran supplemented his income with session dates in Los Angeles as lead guitarist.
Cochran’s first solo single, “Skinny Jim”, was released on the Crest label in July 1956. Capehart was a shrewd manager who soon helped Eddie to secure a recording contract with Liberty and a cameo role in the classic rock ’n’ roll movie “The Girl Can’t Help It”. Of the many songs that Cochran and Capehart wrote together, the two most famous ones are “Summertime Blues” and “C’mon Everybody”, both recorded in 1958. “Summertime Blues” was Eddie’s biggest hit in the USA, peaking at # 8. It has achieved the status of a true rock and roll classic and has been covered widely, with charting versions by Blue Cheer (# 14, 1968), the Who (# 27, 1970) and Alan Jackson (# 1 country, 1994). “C’mon Everybody” went to # 35 in the USA and # 6 in the UK. Also in 1958, Capehart cut a single for Dot under the name of Jerry Neal. The A-side, “I Hates Rabbits” featured his vocals, along with voice animations by Stan Ross ; the B-side, “Scratchin’”, was a guitar instrumental by Eddie Cochran, but credited to Jerry Neal. Both sides were co-written by Cochran and Capehart.
When Liberty set up its first subsidiary, Freedom Records, in the summer of 1958, Jerry Capehart was assigned the post of A&R man. He produced several sessions by Johnny Burnette and a number of other artists, but none of the Freedom singles sold in notable quantities and the label was closed down after little more than a year.
The Cochran-Capehart partnership came to a cruel end when Eddie was killed in a car crash during a British tour in April 1960. After Cochran’s death Capehart remained active both as a manager and songwriter. He managed Glen Campbell for some time and Campbell had his first chart entry in 1961 with Capehart’s composition “Turn Around, Look At Me” (# 62), on the Crest label. In 1968 the song was revived by the Vogues, who took the song into the Top 10 (# 7).
Capehart released three instrumental singles in the 1960s, first “Song Of New Orleans” (actually by Eddie Cochran, on guitar) under his own name on Crest (1962), then “Love On the Run” (1964) and “Lemon Pie” (1965), both as by Jerry Berryhill on Liberty. Capehart later managed the singer / actor / impressionist Frank Gorshin, who played the Riddler in the Batman television series. He also worked as a marine surveyor and studied to become an attorney. In the 1980s he had become a right-wing Christian fundamentalist. Jerry Capehart was diagnosed with brain cancer a month before his death. He passed away in Nashville, on June 7, 1998.
Obituary : https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/obituary-jerry-capehart-1165679.html
List of Capehart’s compositions : http://www.bigvjamboree.com/JerryCapehart.htm
Acknowledgements : Pierre Perrone, Stuart Colman.
Dik, December 2017
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