5 February 1934
Dalton, Whitfield County, Georgia, United States
15 March 1998 (aged 64)
Jackie Lee Cochran (Dalton, Georgia, USA, February 5, 1934 – March 15, 1998) was an American rockabilly musician, known as Jack the Cat.
Cochran had a twin brother who died at the age of two. He began playing guitar at age six. His father was sentenced to 30 years in prison for murder, and as a result Cochran spent much of his youth living with relatives in Louisiana, Meridian, Mississippi, and with his grandmother in Gadsden, Alabama.
Cochran first began performing on the local music scene in Gadsden, which displeased his grandmother, who wanted him to join the military. She convinced him to enlist in the Air Force, where he was stationed in San Antonio. He traveled each weekend to Abilene to play on Slim Willet's radio show. This brought him to the attention of the managers of the Big D Jamboree, who had him perform on this program as well. He was then transferred to Selma, Alabama, where he founded the country group The Flying C Ranch Boys. This group performed in local bars and restaurants, as well as on radio station WBAM. He was dismissed from the Air Force in 1955, and following this he became a member of Jimmy Swan's band in Hattiesburg. In the mid-1950s he appeared on Cliffie Stone's Hometown Jamboree in Los Angeles. He began playing rockabilly shortly after hearing Elvis Presley.
Cochran hired manager Pat O'Donnell, who came up with Cochran's "Jack the Cat" name and image. Through O'Donnell, Cochran was offered a recording contract with Sims Records. His first singles for the label appeared in 1956. After further appearances on the Big D Jamboree he was asked to play on the Spade Cooley show in California. Despite O'Donnell's disapproval, Cochran moved to the West Coast and performed on the show. He then signed with Decca Records, and his single "Ruby Pearl" sold well and nearly hit the Billboard charts, but his manager let the Decca contract lapse, and the single fizzled before charting.
After a short time with Viv Records, Cochran took up work at the Douglas Aircraft Company and quit music for a time. He restarted his career during the rockabilly revival in Europe, releasing an album on Rollin' Rock Records in 1973 and touring Norway in 1981. He took up the nickname "Waukeen" in the 1970s as well. Further appearances in Europe followed, particularly in England, as did regular releases in the 1980s. He died in 1998 in his apartment in Burbank, California at age 64.
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