RALPH Coffee Jazz and Poetry, #52, 1999.
It is a work of fiction but the sentiment is not.
We Will Never Forget You, Gene Vincent
by Ralph Alfonso
In 1971, I was working the night shift at a Los Angeles FM station.
This was pretty well the end of the line for my career. I was 34 years old.
FM radio was sort of a new thing then and nobody listened to it except for hippies and people that would probably hate me if they ever met me.
Back in the late 50s, I was one of the first DJs to play rock’n’roll.
It was like a new way of living had fallen out of the sky. It was a fantastic time.
And then, one day, it was all gone and I was reading traffic reports for a living.
When The Beatles and all those British groups gave our own music back to us,
I had a real job again.
But, just like before, it was all over, and the world was a different place.
I was washed up and I wasn’t even 30 years old.
I guess I had started drinking a little bit by the time I got this job.
It was a new kind of music now, but I didn’t care anymore. I had rent to pay.
I liked working by myself at night. I didn’t have to talk to anyone else at the station.
I didn’t even answer the phone.
Except for that night.
My cousin at the hospital called me up and said Gene Vincent had died.
I couldn’t believe it.
I went looking everywhere in that goddamn building and I couldn’t find any of his music!
The long-hairs that ran the station had put all the old 50s music in the comedy section
of the library. Well, I’d give them a few laughs that night.
I pulled the needle off the record that was on the air. It made an ugly scraping sound.
“Hey man, I just wanted to interrupt this crap music and say that Gene Vincent died tonight. I know that a lot of you are too stoned or stupid to even care, but I got this one album here and I’m gonna play it all night...”
I spun that scratchy old LP over and over. I was fired the next day.
I drifted around after that, I guess, cities you never heard of. I finally stopped drinking, and now I’m the voice you hear on those stations where everything is pre-recorded.
But every October 12, I come down here to Gene’s grave and say a little prayer, you know.
Sometimes there’s other people here, usually not.
We’ll never forget.
And I hope, if you love rock’n’roll, you never will, too.
Gene Vincent died of a broken heart, Oct. 12, 1971, Newhall, California. He was 36.
Ralph - Gene Vincent Died In My Arms Last Night
This story (along with the poem "Goodbye Jack. Kerouac.") is also available in the book, Faces In The Crowd, published in Japan. It is an anthology of worldwide writings.
A book about Gene Vincent that I enjoyed reading many years ago was written by Britt Hagarty, a Vancouver author and rockabilly cat who, sadly, died a tragic death himself. It is The Day The World Turned Blue. I only met Britt once and very very briefly in the 80s during a press tour - I was going into a radio station with an artist to do an interview and he was coming out and we chatted in the corridor.