Rockabilly Tribute : Pioneers, including the late Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran, will be celebrated at the Palomino.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Steve Appleford writes regularly about music for The Times

Rocker Gene Vincent was certainly broke and near-forgotten by the time he died in late 1971, even if his song “Be-Bop-A-Lula” had sold about 9 million copies by then. Newer generations of rockabilly fans tend to ignore such paradoxes and concentrate instead on celebrating the legacy Vincent left behind.

That celebration of Vincent’s music, and that of his rock ‘n’ roll colleague Eddie Cochran, re-emerges Tuesday night at the Palomino in a tribute to the late rockabilly pioneers. Hosted by Ronnie Mack as this week’s Barndance show, the free concert will feature at least 16 local rockabilly acts, including Big Sandy & The Fly-Rite Boys, James Intveld, the Dave and Deke Combo and others, all performing songs by Cochran and Vincent.

“They were part of California rockabilly,” Mack says of the style that mixed blues with country, ultimately creating rock ‘n’ roll. “Most of it came from Memphis and stuff, the whole Sun Records thing. Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran and Ricky Nelson really brought out California rockabilly, rode motorcycles together and created a disturbance.”

Like Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis did before them, Cochran and Vincent helped define the early rock ‘n’ roll sound. Before he was killed at 21 in a car crash, while touring England with Vincent in 1960, Cochran wrote and recorded a handful of still-influential tracks. His “Summertime Blues” was redone by the Who, and his “Somethin’ Else” was covered by the Sex Pistols, among others.


At the Palomino, some punk-flavored psychobilly versions of Cochran and Vincent tunes will be played by Terror Train and by the Hyperions. And Harmonica player Juke Logan will probably offer his usual roaring blues renditions.

“He just sweats himself to death man,” says Mack. “He puts his heart and soul in it.”

Twice in recent years, Mack has dedicated his regular Tuesday night Barndance show to the rockers. “It’s totally different from everything that is on MTV,” he says. “There’s nothing like this music on the radio or in videos. The feeling is that it tends to be a lot more fun to listen to this type of music. And it attracts fans of all ages.”

Crowds at the rockabilly tribute shows tend to be dominated by those younger than 30, in ducktails or poodle skirts, arriving in vintage cars. “There is a whole big audience out there that knows more about it than I do, and some of them are only 18 years old. They live it,” says Mack.


“It’s just a sound and an attitude that is really appealing. It’s just really fun, really danceable and exciting.”

Other fans who attended the last tribute, in 1992, included such established rock and country artists as Marshall Crenshaw, former-Stray Cats members Brian Setzer and Slim Jim Phantom, and country rocker Rosie Flores.

Focusing on the music of Vincent and Cochran, singer and author of such hits as “C’mon Everybody” and “Three Steps to Heaven,” is a continuing crusade for Mack that began when he was a youngster in Baltimore listening to old records.

“Since I was a little kid, that always was my favorite sound,” he says of rockabilly. “Growing up in the ‘60s and ‘70s, I was always into that stuff, but at the time you were laughed at for being into that. Most people were into Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, etc.”


Mack says he has plans to honor other important musical figures at the Barndance next month. On Sept. 6, there will be a Buddy Holly and Patsy Cline tribute. And the birthday of Hank Williams Sr. will be celebrated on Sept. 13.

“All the acts that we have on these shows tend to do it stripped down and bare, so that it has total integrity,” Mack says of his guest performers. “That is what I think is missing so much from the country charts today. It’s gotten too much about how big your muscles are, and can you shake your crotch around.”

But the fans who come to the tributes at the Palomino seem to understand, says Mack. “We’ll probably have a line outside. We always do.”



What: Tribute to Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent, with performances by Big Sandy & The Fly-Rite Boys, James Intveld, the Dave and Deke Combo, Terror Train, the Hyperions, others.

Location: The Palomino, 6907 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood.

Hours: 8 p.m. Tuesday.

Price: Free.


Call: (818) 764-4010.