The power of a TV appearance back in the 1950s was undeniable. Even unlikely ones. Take Gene Vincent on Perry Como’s television show, for instance.
The story behind this appearance starts in March 1956, when Gene Vincent opened up a live show for Carl Perkins in Norfolk. Carl was heading north from Memphis to appear on the Perry Como TV show. Bill “Sheriff Tex” Davis, a local radio DJ, asked Carl about Gene’s potential and Carl was impressed, telling him to “Go ahead with that Be Bop a Lula Country Boy.”
Davis, who was also Vincent’s manager, arranged for some demos to be cut and this is what secured a contract with Capitol Records. On May 4, 1956, at Owen Bradley’s studio in Nashville, Tennessee, Gene recorded four songs, including “Be Bop A Lula,” “Woman Love,” and “Race With the Devil.” Capitol producer Ken Nelson picked “Be Bop A Lula” as the B-side of his first single, with “Woman Love” as the A-side.
Meanwhile, Vincent’s publishing company pressed promotional copies of “Be-Bop-A-Lula” and sent them to radio stations throughout the country. Capitol released the single in early June 1956, by which time “Be-Bop-A-Lula” had got a good deal of airplay. The song was picked up and played by other US radio stations, and on June 16, it made the Billboard Top 100, entering the charts at No.78.
By July 28, it was sitting at No.14 on the charts, the same day as Gene Vincent’s TV debut on the Perry Como Kraft Music Hall Show on the NBC network, on which he performed “Be Bop A Lula.” By the following week, the single had climbed to No.9 on the charts and Gene was on his way to becoming a bona fide rock ‘n’ roll star.