Eddie age 8
Ray Edward Cochran was born in Albert Lea, Minnesota on October 3rd 1938 from Frank and Alice, both originary from Oklahoma City that Eddie always regarded as his home town though he was not born there. He had 4 older brothers and sisters: Gloria, Bill, Bob and Patty. The Great depression forced the Cochrans to move up north. Eddie was the only one in the family really interested in music. At the age of 12 he wanted to join the school orchestra as a drummer but then he opted for the trombone when he discovered that he would have to take piano lessons in order to play drums there.
Then his musical career had another twist when the director of the school orchestra informed the family that Eddie didn't have the "lip" for that particular instrument and he suggested clarinet instead. When Eddie saw what a clarinet looked like he totally refused to even consider it and stated that he would quit the orchestra if he could not play what he wanted. So, as his mother recalls, he asked his brother Bob to show him some chords on Bill's old Kay guitar, that was not played very often at the time. "Then he got a chord book and he seemed to just naturally take it from there".

In 1951 the Cochrans decided to follow the golden trail to California, to join Bill that already moved there when he got married after leaving the Military Service. Two cars totally packed up, and Eddie would not want to part from his guitar. "For pity's sake, Eddie, with all the other odds and ends we have to carry! That guitar isn't the prize possession in this hosehould, you know!" - "Possession, Mom? This guitar's my friend. It's my best friend."

Bell Gardens (LA). New kid on the block, Eddie focused totally on his guitar also to compensate lack of companionship. In September 1951 he met Conrad Smith, colloquially known as Connie Smith, in junior high. Connie shared the same interest in music as Eddie, he played upright bass in the school orchestra and was also competent on steel guitar and mandolin. In late 1953 they formed a trio together with another student on lead guitar, Connie on steel guitar and Eddie playing rythm.
Connie "Guybo" Smith
They often practised in a reharsal room in the back of the local music store (The Bell Garden Music Center) which owner, Bert Keither, was very interested in Eddie's music and later will sell him the legendary sunburst Gretsch seen in almost every photo of the musician. The trio started playing at parties, amateur gigs, supermaket openings and other local affairs that would help them gaining experience and some little spare bucks.

After graduating in june 1954 Eddie actually enrolled in High school but he spent all his spare time hanging out with local musicians and jammin' wherever he could, trying to realize his dream to quit school and make a living as a musician. The closeby Southgate and Downey were bastions of R&B and country, and Bell Gardens itself offered Eddie a broad cross-cultural environment where he could benefit of a wide range of musical influences.

The great country picker Chet Atkins was one of his favorite guitarists, and mastering his complex bass-melody harmony picking style with lightning speed helped build his incredible dexterity and versatility. Mike Deasy of the Kelly Four, that will be his road and recording group later, recalls: "Most guys will play Honky Tonk in E, but Eddie would play it in F, the tougher way - only it wasn't though for him." And Dave Shrieber, The Kelly Fours'bassman: "That's true, he was one of the few guys I've ever seen who actually played the guitar with all his fingers. Instead of playing an open chord, he'd play the same notes up the neck, giving you the same chord sound, and not a barre chord either. A lot of those licks on things like "Eddie's Blues" or "Milk Cow Blues" he did with a flat pick and two fingers, with that kind of rolling Atkins left-hand style, you know, with everything working. He could play anything - jazz, country, blues, rock and roll. Slow, fast, anything you want. I've seen him playing fast licks with a thumbpick, and right in the middle he'd put the thumbpick in his mouth and switch to a flatpick without missing a note. I was just completely amazed. I used to watch his hands; they were very delicate-looking and flexible, as if they didn't have any bones. He could stretch his finger all over that fingerboard."

Eddie Cochran was also very bright and his natural curiousity drove him to research and experiment new sounds and new techniques.

Eddie age 14
Alice claims that everything came easily to him, that he was a honor student and that there was nothing he could not play with his guitar after listening to it once or twice. All his associates confirm this last point; Chuck Foreman jammed with him in the early days: "When I met Eddie he couldn't be more that 15-16 y.o. and we were listening to a lot of jazz in those days. I remeber we had those old Johnny Smith Royal Roost 78 records; Smith was playing a lot of triads and this really fascinated Eddie. He'd say 'I wonder how the hell he's doing that' and in no time at all he was playing it. Ed was very aware, very astute, he retained things. He was playing a lot of Chet Atkins, Joe Maphis - he could duplicate all those Maphis high-speed licks note-for-note very easily."

... more later ...