“BE-BOP-a-Lula, She’s my baby.” They don’t write song lyrics like that any more, do they?

It’s one of the iconic songs of the 20th century sung, of course, by leather-clad Gene Vincent, who also wrote it.

Scroll through the gallery of pictures above to see more of Gene Vincent...

It spent five months on the charts in 1956 and could have been the start of a long career, but it was not to be. Gene troubled the charts just once more that year and then became a paid-up member of the ‘one-hit-wonders’ club.

He was softly spoken, very polite, always addressing his interviewers as “Sir” but behind the scenes Vincent’s life had all the elements of a rock and roll legend — drink, drugs, women, a crippled leg and tragic motor accidents.

Isle of Wight County Press: The County Press advertisement for the Royal York appearance in November 1969. © Alan Stroud/County Press.

Gene wasn’t beyond threatening people with guns or afraid of sorting people out with his fists — and not just men.

By 1969 Gene was well and truly down the dumps and he was struggling to make money. Lucrative record contracts were a thing of the past so touring was his only source of income.

Vincent still had a small but loyal fan-base of former Teddy boys (ask your grandad) so a tour of the UK was arranged — not in the glamorous theatres he had been used to in his heyday but in small clubs and venues.

On November 5 that year Gene arrived in the UK for his concert tour. Times had changed and small venues were now the order of the day and one of his appearances would be here on the Isle of Wight, at the 69 Club at the Royal York Hotel in Ryde, courtesy of the Island’s favourite group of the day, the Cherokees, who agreed to include him in their Saturday-night show.

A BBC film crew were following Vincent and for four days they filmed his every move for a documentary, beginning with an appearance on Thames TV’s Tonight show, shown only in the London area.

In the dressing room, the leader of the band asks when they are going to get their money for the Ryde show. Gene’s agent tells him, “Tomorrow night. You’re going to pick up the whole lot after the show because Gene’s going to get his money before the show; there won’t be any aggro.”

The leader asks, “We leave Gene to get our money as well?” Agent : “You will get your bread before you go on.” Vincent chips in, “I hate to do it that way, Graham.” Agent : “You’ve got to. You’ve got no money. You can’t afford to do it any other way.”

The next morning, Saturday, the BBC crew follow Gene down to Portsmouth where he catches the ferry to Ryde and makes his way to the Royal York Hotel. He checks in under the gaze of the cameras. Luxury suites are not on the menu; Gene tells the receptionist that he will be sharing a room with his roadie. She books them into room 33.

According to Wilf Pine’s autobiography (Google him), as show-time approached, Gene stayed in his room, loudly refusing to appear on stage without money upfront.

The Cherokees were trying to scrape some cash together, finally coming up with half in notes and the other half in a cheque, which Gene accepted. His agent said: “For Christ’s sake, Wilf, go and talk some sense into him. Get him to go on stage and tell him no one’s going to cheat him.” Wilf entered the room to find a camera crew filming him and apparently told one of them “Stop or I’ll smash yer –– ing head in.”

Gene addresses the camera crew: “Well, the procedure now is I do my show. The manager’s supposed to bring me my money, with the receipts and so on. I’m supposed to take the money, sign the receipts, pay the hotel bill in the morning and leave — which is not going to happen. You can make a movie just out of this.”

His performance goes down a storm; the crowd are very appreciative and call for an encore. Back in his room Gene is filmed telling his agent: “Tell the promoter I want my money or there’s going to be trouble. What’s in my pocket? Ninepence. (To camera crew): You even had to buy the sandwiches. It’s embarrassing, man, you know.” Indeed it was.

Two years later Gene Vincent died from a combination of a ruptured ulcer, internal haemorrhage and heart failure brought on by alcohol. He was 36.

In October 1971, a few days before his death, he was interviewed by, now infamous Radio One DJ, Chris Denning (Google him), who told Gene: “I remember you ten years ago playing with Heinz (Google him). He was booed off the stage, he was terrible.”

Vincent took offence : “You say he was terrible — and I say to you that’s not true. Who are you to judge anybody’s music? Who do you think you are? Who are you to say who is good or bad? You’re no judge of music. You don’t read it. You don’t talk it. You don’t live it — I do. Now politically, business-wise, husband-wise, I might be a no good son of a gun, but there’s one thing I can do. My music. You can’t mess me up on that.”

Not a bad epitaph.

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