Wayne Cochran

The White Knight of Soul 1964-72: Get Down With It!

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Georgia-born Wayne Cochran is one of the true unsung heroes of rock & roll. Blessed with a scorching, soulful voice and a flair for the theatrical on-stage, he burned through everything he sang with an intensity that should have made him an international superstar. It didn't happen. Even his most famous song, the perfectly maudlin "Last Kiss," which contains the sublime chorus "She's gone to Heaven/So I got to be good/So I can see my baby/When I leave this world," was hijacked to the charts by J. Frank Wilson & the Cavaliers, and later Elvis Presley took Cochran's ultra-flashy high-collared Nudie suits to the Vegas bank. This marvelous career overview gathers Cochran's classic King and Mercury sides from the mid-'60s, a couple of his Chess cuts from 1967, and his last-gasp Epic material into a virtual blue-eyed soul party on wheels. Cochran understood a fundamental truth about show business -- you have to get people to look before you can get them to listen -- and his mile-high white pompadour (which would have made a cockatoo blush), his suits made of flash and sparkle, and his churning, driving stage show were Vegas before Vegas figured it out. With all the subtlety of a runaway freight train, gritty horn-driven songs like "No Rest for the Wicked," "Goin' Back to Miami," "You Can't Judge a Book By the Cover," and "Somebody's Been Cuttin' In on My Groove" all sound like they should have been cut for Stax, and they kick like a mule thanks to Cochran's riveting, hoarse laser of a voice. Unfortunately, that amazing voice began to wear down after years of belting out it out on the Southern chitlin circuit, and by the time of his stay at Epic in 1972, Cochran was sustaining his career more on flash and glitz than anything else. He eventually hung up the mile-high hair and became a preacher in the early '80s, leaving behind a truly amazing legacy of blue-eyed Southern soul, a body of work as deep and wide as any river in Heaven.

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