Death Of Pioneering 1960s US Soul Star Wayne Cochran

November 24, 2017

Wayne Cochran, once known as “The White Knight of Soul,” died on Tuesday, 21 November at the age of 78 after a battle with cancer. His passing was confirmed by his son Christopher in the Miami Herald.

Born in Thomaston, Georgia, Cochran played in Otis Redding’s band early on in his career (playing bass guitar on Redding's early recording of ‘Shout Bamalama’ and its B-side, ‘Fat Girl’) before being signed to King Records, where he established a close friendship with James Brown. “I never heard race in the music. It was just music that spoke to me. It moved me,” the Miami Herald reported Cochran as having said in 2011.

Cochran's energetic performances, rigorous touring schedule and appearances on television talk shows such as The Jackie Gleason Show helped to make the C. C. Riders a popular attraction. In the mid-1960s, Cochran made Las Vegas his base of operations and played residencies at several hotels, casinos and theatres. Known for his outlandish stage clothes and towering, pompadour-style haircut, Cochran's elaborate stage dress is also widely believed to have influenced Elvis Presley’s latter day, Las Vegas-era outfits.

His greatest chart success came when J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers took his song ‘Last Kiss’ to the top of the US charts. The song was later famously covered by the enduring American rock band Pearl Jam for the 1999 charity album No Boundaries: A Benefit for the Kosovar Refugees. As a stand-alone single, the track ended up reaching No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. To date, this remains Pearl Jam's highest position on the US singles chart.

Cochran recorded an album for Chess Records entitled Wayne Cochran! in 1967. This featured the blue-eyed soul and rhythm and blues style he had perfected on the road with his revue, but found him backed by session musicians for most of the cuts instead of his touring band. The album was followed by a return to King and two further LPs, Alive & Well & Living... In A Bitch Of A World and the instrumental High & Ridin', both in 1970.

These albums saw the C. C. Riders' guitarist and musical director, Charles Brent, take an important creative role, and featured a jazz-influenced sound comparable to the Chicago Transit Authority or Blood, Sweat & Tears. Wayne Cochran recorded a final album, Cochran, for Epic Records in 1972, then toured and made television appearances. Before retiring in the early ‘80s, he was honoured by The Blues Brothers with their cover of his track ‘Goin’ Back To Miami.’

Seeking an escape for years of rock and roll excess, Cochran became a pastor and founded the Voice for Jesus Church – an establishment that relied heavily on musical performance. “We’re not typical of a church,” he once said. “We’re loud. It burns. I believe in the power of music. If you don’t want to get ecstatic, don’t come to this church. There ain’t no tombstones sitting in there and if they are, we’re gonna resurrect them. We have a good time. We boogie.”

Cochran also discovered bass prodigy Jaco Pastorius, who joined the C.C. Riders for a time. “He made sounds on his instrument I had never heard before,” Cochran later recalled

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3 comments

  1. Guillermo F. Perez-Argüello
    Reply

    Rest in peace, Wayne Cochrane. Now there is an error in the article, namely that he influenced Presley’s wearing of jumpsuits and capes. Elvis opened at the Showroom Internationale of the International Hotel, in Las Vegas, on 31 July 1969. It had a 2000 seater capacity which was then world’s biggest. Separately, the International Hotel had a much smaller theatre, called the Casino Theatre which seated 500. It was there, at the Casino Theatre, that Wayne Cochrane, along with Ike and Tina Turner, then BB King and Kenny Rogers showcased their fantastic talents. But none of the above ever opened for Elvis. That was reserved for the Sweet Inspirations. When they opened in 1969, none used jumpsuits. In fact, the first time that Wayne Cochrane wore a jumpsuit was in April of 1970. Presley preceeded him by three months. Now as to the capes, Cochrane’s covered his entire body, as James Brown’s and Liberace’s did. Presley’s capes were totally different, falling right under his waist.

  2. Tim Beasley
    Reply

    I only discovered he was a real performer with a band last night after I watched a rare DVD of the Joe Namath – Ann Magret movie of 1970, “C.C.& Company, ” that featured him and band in a Flamingo Hotel Casino Las Vegas performance. Like many other millions, I had seen “The Blues Brothers” movie where Steve Lawrence as agent Maury Slines mentioned “Wayne Cochran and the C.C. Riders.” I always assumed that was a ficticious made-up name that only referenced in a humorous way of the many bands of the era with “trippy” names. I found the YouTube videos of Wayne’s performances that enlightened me that John Belushi was “channeling” Wayne in his interpretation of Wayne Cochran, in vocal likeness and attitrude while performing… I happen to have :”Cochran” as a family name, as my paternal side Grandma’s l maiden name was Cochran. God bless and rest Wayne Cochran, I wished I’d know of him sooner!

  3. Tim Beasley
    Reply

    I only discovered he was a real performer with a band last night after I watched a rare DVD of the Joe Namath – Ann Magret movie of 1970, “C.C.& Company, ” that featured him and band in a Flamingo Hotel Casino Las Vegas performance. Like many other millions, I had seen “The Blues Brothers” movie where Steve Lawrence as agent Maury Slines mentioned “Wayne Cochran and the C.C. Riders.” I always assumed that was a ficticious made-up name that only referenced in a humorous way of the many banmds of the era with “trippy” names. I found the YouTube videos of Wayne’s performances that enlightened me that John Belushi was “channeling” Wayne in his interpretation of Wayne Cochran, in vocal likeness and attitrude while performing… I happen to have :”Cochran” as a family name, as my paternal side Grandma’s l maiden name was Cochran. God bless and rest Wayne Cochran, I wished I’d know of him sooner!

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