Weeell Be Bop A Lula she’s my baby … This is how the most famous Flip-Side of all time begins and one of the most perfect definitions of the term ROCK’N’ROLL concentrated in 2 minutes and 34 seconds.
The story goes back to April 9, 1956, when a young Gene Vincent and his band of Virginians recorded a demo with the song on the WCMS station in Norfolk, Virginia, which was sent to producer Ken Nelson of Capitol Records.
This opened the doors to a recording session on May 4 at the legendary Owen Bradley studio in Nashville, Tennessee. The same place where Buddy Holly recorded « Blue Days, Black Nights » four months earlier, and where Johnny Burnette Trio recorded his most legendary Rockabillies shortly after.
Four themes emerged from the session: Race With The Devil, I Sure Miss You, Woman Love and Be Bop A Lula, of course.
During the recording, Ken Nelson asked the young drummer Dickie Harrell why he was continually shrieking at the end of each verse and he replied that his family would recognize him when he heard the record!
It was released on single with « Woman Love » on the A side just a month later, but « Lula » on the B side had more diffusion on the radio since many Disc Jockeys considered that Woman Love was too suggestive. It was even censored by the BBC in England to consider its lyrics too provocative!
Finally the album entered the TOP 100, selling 200,000 copies within a few weeks of its release, pushing Gene and his Blue Caps to stardom.
Be Bop A Lula will always be closely associated with Gene Vincent and accompanied him to the end of his days, re-recording it on several occasions during his career.
There are several theories about its origin: Ken Nelson says it was written by Vincent with his manager Sheriff Tex Davis. Others indicate that, convalescent at the Norfolk naval hospital, he bought it from Donald Graves for 25 to 50 dollars according to the sources … and Gene himself said on several occasions that he was inspired by the comic strip of the character « Little Lulu. »
Anyway, at a time when all the seals were busy hunting for someone to overshadow Elvis in the middle of 1956, that mixture of almost hypnotic rhythm and cockiness, along with the sharp Gretsch Duo Jet of Cliff Gallup, changed the history of Rock’n’Roll forever.