Browse by Title
A B C D E F G
H I J K L M N
O P Q R S T U
V W X Y Z #  




Be-Bop-a-Lula

by

Gene Vincent & His Blue Caps



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

This is one of those songs that has a great story behind it that is probably not true. Vincent and his record company circulated the story that he wrote the song during a 6-month stay in Portsmouth Naval Hospital, where he was recovering from a motorcycle accident. He played his guitar and came up with the tune inspired by the newspaper cartoon strip Little Lulu.

This story was disputed by Dickie Harrell, who was the drummer with The Blue Caps. Harrell told Mojo in 2000, "Actually the song was written by a guy from Portsmouth named Donald Graves."
According to Harrell, Vincent and his first manager Bill "Sheriff Tex" Davis, bought the song from Graves for $25 bucks. Said Harrell, "It happened a lot in those days. Guys would take the sure money."

Another story has Vincent and Graves writing the song together, with Graves' writing interest being bought out for that $25.
Recorded in Nashville on May 4, 1956, this was released as the B-side of Vincent's first single, a provocative number called "Woman Love." Radio stations in the United States wanted nothing to do with "Woman Love," and the BBC banned it, so Capitol flipped the sides and put out "Be-Bop-a-Lula" as the A-side; for some reason the scandalous "Woman Love" was deemed inoffensive when relegated to a B-side.
Vincent was signed by Capitol Records, who were desperately searching for someone like Elvis Presley. Vincent, who was born 34 days after Elvis, had the rebel image and swagger they were looking for, and their investment paid off when "Be-Bop-a-Lula," which was his debut single, sold 200,000 copies in the first month it was released. The song helped Vincent gain a large cult following, but his rebel image was justified, and he became dependent on painkillers, speed and alcohol. Vincent, who had just three more Top-40 hits, was injured in the car crash that killed his good friend and fellow rocker Eddie Cochran in 1960 (songwriter Sharon Sheeley, who wrote "Poor Little Fool" for Ricky Nelson, was also injured in the crash but survived). He died of an ulcer in 1971 at age 36.
The Blue Caps were named after the hat President Eisenhower wore to play golf.
A lot of people, thought it was Elvis Presley singing this the first time they heard it - including Presley's mother.
Drummer Dickie Harrell impulsively screamed during an early performance of the song; Vincent approved of the addition to the tune, so he screamed every time the group performed the song -- including in the studio.
Along with "What'd I Say" by Ray Charles, this is mentioned in the first line of the Dire Straits song, "Walk Of Life." The line is: "Here comes Johnny singing oldies goldies, Be-Bop-a-Lula baby What'd I Say."
"Be-Bop-a-Lula" was the first record Paul McCartney ever bought. He performed the song on his 1991 MTV Unplugged appearance.
Gene Vincent & His Blue Caps
More Gene Vincent & His Blue Caps songs
More songs that were an artist's first hit
More songs with some lyrics that are gibberish

Comments (9):

On July 3rd 1956, Gene Vincent met Elvis at Penn Station in NYC; Elvis was on his way back to Memphis, the day before he had recorded "Hound Dog" and "Don't Be Cruel" at the RCA Studios, and the day before that he appeared on 'The Steve Allen Show"...
At the time "Be-Bop-A-Lula" was at position #12 on Billboard's Top 100 chart; eventually it would peaked at #7 and spent 20 weeks on the Top 100...
R.I.P. Mr. Vincent, born Vincent Eugene Craddock, (1935 - 1971) and to The King (1935 - 1977).
- Barry, Sauquoit, NY
I was 9 yrs. old when this song climbed the charts in 1956. Back then, I wasn't allowed to listen to rock-n-roll on the radio, but my dear Grandma loved it & let me listen when I visited her. But it was Little Richard, from a year earlier, who turned me on to rock-n-roll! And I haven't been the same ever since. This song confirmed my love for the music. It influenced so many of our rock icons too. Such a shame that Gene Vincent died at an early age in a faltering career. But this hit captures the exuberance & youth of early early rock-n-roll. I saw the foolish lyric recitation on TV done by Steve Allen as his attempt to ridicule rock-n-roll. Back then, after watching several of Allen's shows on TV, it was evident he hated the music and it's young stars. So I developed a strong dislike of Steve Allen throughout his self-indulgent career. In contrast, hits like Be Bop A Lula went on to prove influential and significant to the evolution of our music. Rock on!
- Elmer H, westville, OK
Paul McCartney liked this song so much he opened his 1999 album run devil run with it. This album was a collection of McCartneys fave rock n roll songs
- Mark, MAESTEG, United Kingdom
The Everly Brothers covered this song in 1970 and had a minor hit with it, peaking at No. 74...
- Barry, Sauquoit, NY
Be-Bop-A-Lula was the first song Paul McCartney ever heard John Lennon sing.
- Julia, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Kenny Loggins did a single around the time of "Danger Zone" of this song in the late 80s
- Sara, Silver Spring, MD
I believe the lyrics of this song were once read by Steve Allen on his TV show over tinkling piano in faux sophistication to make light of their simplicity and supposed banality, perhaps as a commentary on those supposed attributes' presence in the whole of the new phenomenon of rock 'n' roll. Of course, Steve Allen once also hosted a very young Frank Zappa "playing" a bicycle.
- fyodor, Denver, CO
John Lennon kept a '45 of this song on his personal, mobile juke box. There is an excellent 1 hour show concerning the selections in this box on PBS. The show illustrates just how much of the early Beatles' music and ideas were actually 'lifted' from earlier artists.
- Hugh, Kansas City, MO
This song was a favorite of John Lennon, and one of the songs he performed regularly in his formative years. Eventually he included this on his 1975 release Rock N Roll. Although he did perform this tune with the Beatles, the only released version appears on the LP THE BEATLES LIVE AT THE STAR CLUB IN HAMBURG GERMANY 1962, and that was sung by their German friend Horst Fascher.
- Barry, New York, NC
You have to to post comments.
John Lee HookerJohn Lee Hooker
Into the vaults for Bruce Pollock's 1984 conversation with the esteemed Bluesman. Hooker talks about transforming a Tony Bennett classic and why you don't have to be sad and lonely to write The Blues.
Stan RidgwayStan Ridgway
Go beyond the Wall of Voodoo with this cinematic songwriter.
Dean PitchfordDean Pitchford
Dean wrote the screenplay and lyrics to all the songs in Footloose. His other hits include "Fame" and "All The Man That I Need."
Chris Wilson of The Flamin' GrooviesChris Wilson of The Flamin' Groovies
Chris talks about writing the Groovies' song "Shake Some Action," and recording it with producer Dave Edmunds.