Special thanks to ThisDayinMusic.com.

Late Saturday night on April 16, 1960, Eddie Cochran was being driven through the English countryside by driver George Martin. He and pal Gene Vincent had been touring the U.K. since January.

Just before the birth of The Beatles and after the first angry flush of rock and roll, Cochran and Vincent reminded the U.K. that real rock and roll should be tough and dirty. No wonder George Harrison was a huge fan and Paul McCartney played Cochran’s “Twenty Flight Rock” to impress John Lennon at their famous fete meeting. Aside from that rock and roll barnstormer, Cochran also had hits with all-time classics “Summertime Blues” and “C’mon Everybody.”

By spring 1960, the tour with Vincent was drawing to a close and on Monday, April  11, Eddie and his girlfriend, songwriter Sharon Sheeley, arrived in Bristol for a final weeklong residency at the Hippodrome with Vincent and support acts Georgie Fame, Johnny Gentle and Tony Sheridan. 

After the final Saturday show, an exhausted Eddie decided to head back to London and someone arranged for a taxi. At around 11 p.m., a Ford Consul and its driver George Martin (no, not The Beatles producer) showed up to take Eddie, Gene, Sharon and tour manager Pat Thompkins to the capital.

Thompkins rode shotgun with Eddie, Sharon and Gene sitting in the back. Taking a short cut through Chippenham, Martin suddenly realized he’d taken a wrong turn. He hit the brakes and swerved but lost control of his vehicle. The car spun into a lamppost and Cochran was pushed into the car’s roof that forced the back door open and he was thrown onto the road.

The driver and Thompkins suffered only mild knocks and walked away, but Vincent, Cochran and his girlfiend lay still on the ground. Sharon was suffering from shock and Vincent from a broken collarbone, but Cochran looked much worse.

The police officer’s on-site report stated that: “At 12:07 a.m. Sunday 17th April I arrived at the scene. I found that a cream colored Ford Consul Saloon Motor Car reg no. RBO 869 travelling from Bath along the A4 towards the direction of Chippenham was the only involved vehicle and that it had not been moved prior to arrival.

“I took its position the vehicle being on the driver’s nearside facing obliquely towards the crown of the road and in the direction of Chippenham. The rear nearside of the vehicle was tight into the driver’s nearside kerb. The rear nearside of the vehicle was extensively damaged – the nearside doors being smashed and the rear window torn out – the rear of the car being completely twisted.

“I examined the road and found skid marks commencing on the Bath side of the location and extending for 50 yards. These marks veering over to the driver’s offside of the road and then back to the driver’s nearside. I found traces of paint on a lamp standard located on the driver’s nearside kerb – this paint being cream in color.

“The width of the road was 30 ft., there being a pavement on either side. The location is a gentle rising left hand bend when travelling towards Chippenham and is well inside the built up area. The weather was fine and the road dry. The occupants of the car were all taken to the Chippenham Cottage hospital and later transferred to St. Martin’s Hospital.”

Cochran died of his injuries during the afternoon of Easter Sunday at St. Martin’s Hospital in Bath, as a result of his head injuries.

As for the driver, George Martin was sentenced in June 1960. The Clerk of Assize in Bristol wrote to the Official Coroner saying that: “On the 24th of June, George William Thomas Martin was convicted of causing the death of Edward Ray Cochran by the driving of a motor vehicle at a dangerous speed and was fined fifty pounds. He was disqualified from driving for a period of 15 years. In default of payment of the above fine it was ordered that he undergo imprisonment for a period of 6 months.”

That same day Eddie Cochran was at #1 in England with “Three Steps to Heaven,” a fitting tribute to yet another rock and roller lost long before his time.