Wayne Cochran & the C.C. Riders

Wayne Cochran in a get up only he could (or would) wear.

Wayne Cochran: The Man, The Hair.

On The Jackie Gleason Show, 1968.

Late 70’s, Wayne on guitar.

Another tune from the Jackie Gleason Show.

From C.C. & Company (1970) with Joe Namath and Ann Margret.

Re-Union of the C.C. Riders at Wayne’s church in Margate, Florida, 1999.

Growing up in South Florida, which had an eighteen year old drinking age, but nobody ever got carded, you could have driven into most bars on a tricycle back then and gotten served, something we used to do for yuks about once a year was to go see Wayne Cochran & the C. C. Riders, a wacky show band whose home base was a club in Miami on the 79th Street Causeway called The Barn. Usually drugs were involved. I distinctly remember tripping on at least one of these occasions. When the Barn closed, Cochran would often appear at some of the swankier hotels like the Diplomat in Hollywood, Florida (which was full of New York wise guys waiting for things to cool off back home), or Fontainebleau at the north end of Miami Beach (back in those days, the south end of Miami Beach was like an ocean front version of the Bowery), which had a real borscht belt type of crowd, or clubs like the Bachelor’s Three in Ft. Lauderdale (one of the three Bachelors being football star Joe Namath, Jerry Lee Lewis played for two weeks straight one night, or for him it was one long night, his long time guitarist, Kenny Lovelace told me on their final night “Jerry ain’t been to sleep since we got here, we been havin’ so much fun”). Wayne Cochran spent a lot of time in Vegas, where he made lots of money, so when he came back to Florida, three or four times a year, he would really packed ’em in. Most of the audience were middle aged couples in polyester leisure and pants suits trying to act hip, the kind of folks who bought Chicago and Chuck Mangione albums. At least they seemed middle age to me then, when you’re sixteen everyone seems old, when I think about it now, the crowd was probably in their early 30’s for the most part. Often the places he appeared at didn’t want to let me and my friends in (to them, we probably looked like Manson family) and on more than one occasion we were refused entrance for the way we were dressed and/or for having long hair (same thing used to happen at Disney World). It’s hard to fathom in this day and age of tattooed and pierced faces that not so long ago you could be beaten or killed for having hair over your collar. But I’ll always have a soft spot in my admittedly soft brain tissue for Wayne Cochran, he was like the (wrestler) Gorgeous George of the music world. By the time I got to see him, Wayne Cochran wasn’t exactly a rock’n’roll singer, he pitched himself as a white soul man (“The White Knight Of Soul”), but he was closer to Tom Jones, the Elvis of American Trilogy/Never Been To Spain/Steamroller Blues, and Blood, Sweat and Tears (remember David Clayton-Thomas? Don’t you hate “muscle” singers?) Anyway, the horn rock sound was very popular back then. But Wayne Cohran was something of a genre unto himself. He wore a huge white pompadour that had to be seen to be believed, fitted out in outlandish outfits that would have embarrassed Liberace (self designed but tailored by Nudie), he was a hoot, but he put on a great show and really worked his ass off onstage.
Wayne Cochran (b. 1939), from Thomaston, Georgia, had been scrappin’ around the music biz since the mid-50’s. In his late teens he moved to Macon, Georgia and there, in 1955, formed his first band. His debut record, a sleazy rockabilly grinder called The Coo, on the flip was My Little Girl, a light weight, guitar rocker, it was released on Scottie in ’59, and became a minor local hit (an even sleazier version– The Naughty Coo was issued under the name of The Great Sebastian, you’ll have to buy the Norton compilation The Rock-A-Round (Norton 332) to hear that one). The Coo was followed by the Buddy Holly style bopper Cindy Marie b/w Edge of The Sea, a snuff ballad in the Endless Sleep vein, it foreshadowed Last Kiss, and was released on the tiny Aire label. He cut a nice a couple of more singles, wrote and produced a good rockabilly record by Bobby Cash on King, he even played bass on Otis Redding’s screamer Shout Bamala. Wayne Cochran never scored a hit single and as a recording artist he is best remembered for writing and recording the original version of uber teen snuff ballad, Last Kiss which became a huge hit for J. Frank Wilson, and, I’m told (but have never heard) Pearl Jam. By the early 60’s, Wayne’s band–the C.C. Riders, had morphed from a small, guitar oriented, rockabilly group into a big, horn driven, soul revue. The money was in live performances, and having acquired a beat up old bus, he hit the road. At this point he had adopted the style of fellow Maconite James Brown (another performer who was inspired by Gorgeous George, that’s where Mr. Brown as he liked to be called, got the cape routine from). Wayne Cochran & the C. C. Riders, as they were billed, toured the chitlin’ circuit and cut sides for Confederate, Gala, King, Mercury, Chess, Epic, Bethlehem, Drive and I’m sure a few other labels I missed. He made many memorable TV appearances, and in addition to the above clip from The Jackie Gleason Show, he was seen on the Wild Wild West, The Merv Griffin Show, The Mike Douglas Show (great show, once Douglas had John and Yoko as his guest hosts for a whole week), and dozens of others. He even shows up in the 1970 Joe Namath/Ann Margret biker flick CC & Company. But it was the hair that really got wowed ’em in Miami and Vegas. Where as fellow white soul man Roy Head impressed the audience by doing splits, flips, knee drops, and all manner of acrobatic showmanship, all Wayne Cochran needed was his hair. What sat atop his dome was a magnificent work of art. It was a golden, teased, bouffant meets ducks ass kinda thing that was about eight inches high and sprayed, shellacked, and greased until it was the texture of granite. Swept back and piled high, when it caught the spotlight it seemed to glow like a full moon over the ocean. No matter how much he sweated and strained, his hair never changed shape or drooped even a little bit. In fact his hair alone could have been the basis for a religion. I’m sure the religion idea was suggested to him because after the not unusual sad show biz story–struggles with cocaine and booze, etc. , Wayne indeed went into the religion business (where income is tax free, why do you think so many R&B singers go in that direction when the pop hits dry up?) in the early eighties. Starting out with the Abundant Life Christian Church in Margate, Florida he made a brief move to Hialeah, Florida and a name change to The Voices For Jesus Family Center. Today, Wayne and his wife Monica are back in Miami where he’s raking it in as a televangelist. He can be seen on the Church TV channel (to find out when/if he’s on in your area click here). I watch him when ever I go back to visit my mom in Florida. He’s a natural, almost a white Reverend Ike. Every once in a while the C.C. Riders hold a reunion show, usually in his church, the last one was in 2001.
As far as his recorded legacy goes, even without the hair to mesmerize you, Wayne Cochran has made some fairly cool rock’n’roll records early in his career, and even some enjoyable non-rock’n’roll later on. For you rockers are The Coo, My Little Girl, Cindy Marie, Edge of the Sea (sorry about the skips) and his original version of Last Kiss. From the “White Knight Of Soul” days I kind of dig Get Down With It, a re-make of The Coo, these (possibly fake) live versions of John Lee Hooker’s Boom Boom and Don & Dewey’s I’m Leaving It Up To You , his theme song Goin’ Back To Miami, and a sappy version of Charlie Rich’s Life’s Little Ups and Downs that I sort of like.
As a teenagers who thought we were cool, my friends and I used to laugh at Wayne Cochran, but in my feeble old age, I appreciate what a hard worker and great showman he was. I got a lot of respect for the guy. And even more for his hair. In fact, when I think about it, he was a much harder worker than Johnny Thunders, the only other performer I’d seen at that point who teased his hair that much, and hell, Johnny couldn’t be bothered to tune his guitar half the time. When punk rock came in, Thunders, rest his battered soul, sold his hair to Motley Crue for a bundle of dope and started sporting a greasy da (while I’m at it, I refuse to recognize that crappy band that David Jo-has-been has been attempting to sell as the New York Dolls, Johnny and Jerry Nolan where the best part of the group, and without them, they’re just a crappy bar band, it looks silly seeing 60 year olds wearing their grandma’s clothes). Come to think of it, Wayne Cochran, for sheer flamboyance made the New York Dolls, Gary Glitter, David Bowie, Slade, and all the other glam rockers of the day look like the Allman Brothers’ road crew. Wayne Cochran, the man, the legend, the hair.

32 thoughts on “Wayne Cochran & the C.C. Riders”

  1. Thank you, Hound. I really like Wayne Cochran, I wish he'd perform at the Ponderosa Stomp or something. Maybe I should just go to his church. David Letterman had him on his show quite a few times as well.Did Kenny Lovelace pass away? I didn't know that, I just saw him with Jerry Lee a couple years ago in Rochester.

  2. I remember seeing that Jackie Gleason show when it was broadcast. My normally even-tempered father could barely sputter out his flabbergastedness that a tasteful entertainer like Jackie Gleason would put this freak on his show, while I just contemplated The Hair in silent awe.

  3. Some good laffs in your text!I must be getting old, too. Forty-odd years ago, we used to laugh at Wayne on TV. Now that 1968 stuff sounds pretty good!PS: I love the way Gleason just had to light a cig before introducing Wayne. Like he couldn't wait three seconds longer before having a puff.

  4. “Did Kenny Lovelace pass away?”As it turns out he's still alive, I went back and fixed the error. I thought I'd read an obit for him a few years ago, I must have dreamed it. Lovelace, Jerry Lee Lewis long time guitarist and sometime brother in law (at various times he's been married to Linda Gail and Frankie “Scourge of the Family” Jean, although not at the same time), still leads JLL's band and has a second solo LP that just came out, you can find it here:http://web.mac.com/kenlovelace/Web-Site/Bio.htmlHe's a pretty good fiddler too.

  5. Wow, I’m amazed with your knowledge man! OK, we have an age distance of 20 years or so, but man every time I read a piece here you make me feel that there’s no reason for runnin’ a blog… It’s the Hound’s blog and all the others!By coincidence a few days back, I’ve posted on my page a great compilation of Wayne. If someone wants to hear it, here’s the link:http://whitetrashsoul.blogspot.com/2010/04/wayne-cochran-white-knight-of-soul-1964.htmlYou wrote “he even played bass on Otis Redding's screamer Shout Bamalama”… I thought this was with the Pinetoppers…It wasn’t an all black band? Need your lights on this one!Thanks anyway.

  6. ” thought this was with the Pinetoppers…It wasn’t an all black band? Need your lights on this one!”Have you ever seen them? Like all bands, Johnny Jenkins & the Pinetoppers changed members regularly, Wayne was only in the band for a few months but plenty of white musicians passed in and out of the group over the years. I saw them in the 70's when they were a funk band and they had three white guys and three black guys in addition to Jenkins.BTW, the Pinetoppers name is credited to Shout Bamalama usually by bootleggers who don't want Otis name to raise any red flags, the disc came out on three different labels and only one of 'em has a credit for the Pinetoppers, in much smaller letters than Otis' name.

  7. Thanks for the info man! That's great! The only photo i ever saw from the Pinetoppers is the one google brings, when you type their name. I wish Otis recorded more with them! I got “Shout Bamalama” n' “Fat Gal” from compilations but i did saw their name on the credits of the Otis' box that came out by Rhino. If you ever found the time please make a piece here for Otis' earlier recordings. It always fascinated me the thing it was for a moon vocalist of the Upsetters! Thanks again!

  8. I remember being flabbergasted by Wayne on The Jackie Gleason Show. Lord only knows what my dad thought. Here was this platinum pompadoured screamer sandwiched between the June Taylor Dancers, Frank Fontaine (did he cut a jokey R&B record ?) and Honeymooners redux. Television was a lot more surprising then.

  9. “Imagine what the folks woulda thought if James Brown had been on The Jackie Gleason Show in 1968.”He was on Ed Sullivan two years earlier than that ('66) which was even more popular than Gleason's show, in face, I think they were both on Sunday nights on CBS, Sullivan @ 8 PM, Gleason @ 9 PM. He even did the cape routine. You can see the clip here:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UnRgrG951Gc

  10. Have any of you seen this great old “High Boots” Scopitone clip?

    People have speculated that it is a black haired Cochrane singing it, and after seeing the clips from the Hound's blog post, I strongly agree.

  11. “People have speculated that it is a black haired Cochrane singing it, and after seeing the clips from the Hound's blog post, I strongly agree.”I dunno, I never heard Wayne hit high notes like that, although it does look a bit like him. My guess is it's his brother Alane who cut a couple of Wayne produced twist discs in the early 60's (there was one called Gone Twistin' on Conco that I used to have,released under the name Alane Cochran & the Nomads, it wasn't very good and I either sold or traded it away years ago).

  12. Its 6:30 AM I just woke up and I played the Gleason show clips – Holy Jeez – its like ten cups of coffee runnin through my veins !Thanks Hound ! I am gonna go out there and kick all my demon's asses to-day !P.S. – How the hell did he manage to pay all those bandmembers ? And where can I git me one a those lime green suits ?

  13. Actually the Confederate and Gala sides were before the CC Riders with whom famed bassist Jaco Pastorius played for a while . Yes, Kenny Lovelace is alive and well . I see him occasionally shopping in Sam's Club here in Franklin TN. Nice guy too.

  14. “How the hell did he manage to pay all those bandmembers ? And where can I git me one a those lime green suits ?” Things were cheap back then, you could live on $150 a week. I'm sure a lot of those suits can be found in thrift stores all over Florida.

  15. My previous comments did not post so sorry if any dupication appears. Great post. Regarding his recorded work, he did a great LP for Chess in 67 (his other LPs suck). It was mostly recorded at Fame Studio in Muscle Shoals and it sounds like the Fame house band playing on it even though liner notes mention his touring band. He rips thru a bunch of blues and soul covers like Hoochie Coochie Man, Little Bitty Pretty One and Boom Boom backed by a kick ass rhythm section! By the way supposidly he owned the record label that Otis Redding's Shout Bmalama initially appeared on. The name of the record label? Confederate!

  16. As always, just pure awesomeosity from the Hound. Publication of The Hounds Guide to Blues, Rock and Assorted Cultural Oddities is really overdue. You must spread the knowledge!I love the Snyder Clip where he sings, “Don't try and take me to a di***-I just can't say that word.” Apparently he has trouble with the words “guitar tuner” as well. HA- kidding! I can't really explain it, I just get him. Somewhere around here, I have some pics of my pals sporting Wayne-inspired dyed pompadours circa 1983. Thanks for reminding me just how mulletastic that clip from the C.C. Rider movie is.-toke!

  17. Stunning and inspiring. The hair, Wayne and his story, and the usual Hound display of knowledge and storytelling. Hound – your blog is fantastic.God bless Jackie Gleason for having the balls to put Wayne on his show. Can you imagine the disbelief and protests Gleason must have gotten from his producer, and others ? And thankfully we have the clips to see what Wayne was like in his heyday. Just amazing and wonderful. Thanks, Hound !

  18. I'm a bit too young to have watched The Jackie Gleason Show. Was the audience that excited (while remaining seated) for other performers?

  19. Some of the youtube clip comments are from the band members wives and can tell you of their whereabouts these days. (If you feel like weeding through them all – this was awhile back.) I've had that Scopitone for years! Now I have to go see it again.

  20. Saw Wayne & the C.C. Riders at a downtown singles bar in Minneapolis, probably in '74 or '75. This joint did not regularly feature live music so the band just set up on the dance floor. Wayne had a fantastic presence even if I didn't rate him as a singer (still don't). I remember being very impressed with his youthful-looking guitarist, who played a clear-bodied Dan Armstrong instrument. When I slipped backstage after the set to pay my compliments to this chap, he seemed nervous in the presence of a stranger; when I asked why, he replied “'Cos I'm only 17 and not old enough to be in this bar!”

  21. Never have seen him live, but love his music! “Some-a Your Sweet Love” should've been a big hit in '68.

  22. Hell, I remember him at The Barn on 79th street…and the whole Miami music scene, The Wreck Bar at The Castaways and the entire motel row scene. As a musician it was great growin up in South Florida and playing with the likes of Jaco, Bobby Economeau, Randy Bersen, Peter Graves, etc…what times.

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