Sharon Sheeley's name has always been linked to Eddie Cochran's - and so it will remain. Sharon passed away in L. A. on May 17, 2002, following a cerebral haemorrhage.
I remember the first time I noticed her name : t'was on the back of one of Eddie's most remarkable posthumous releases, the 'Cherished Memories' LP from England (Liberty LBY 1109 - 1962). The first and last tracks - namely 'Cherished Memories' and 'Think Of Me' - were credited to 'Sheeley'. I later learned that the mysterious songwriter was a lady born in Los Angeles on April 4, 1940, of Irish ancestry - just like Eddie.
She penned 'Poor Little Fool' which was a n° 1 hit for Ricky Nelson in 1958 and led to her being signed to a contract with Jerry Capehart, Eddie's manager. Eddie recorded some of her songs, notably 'Somethin' Else' which she co-wrote with Bob Cochran, Eddie's older brother. I don't know why so many Cochran fans tend to disdain Eddie's ballads because he was quite good at singing them with his warm, half-broken voice ; among those, we find 'Lonely', 'Love Again' and 'Think Of Me', all written by Sharon (and all overdubbed for '60s issues/reissues).
Sharon (sometimes called Shari) was neither a singer, nor a musician - only a composer. She wrote a couple of good rockers in 'Hurry Up' (for Ritchie Valens) and 'Love Kept-A Rollin' (for Johnny Burnette). Then, after Eddie's death,she teamed up with another talented lady, singer-songwriter Jackie De Shannon, and the two of them would co-write a big bunch of excellent material like 'Dum Dum' (Brenda Lee, 1961), '(He's) The Great Imposter' (The Fleetwoods, 1961), 'Right Or Wrong' (The Crickets, 1963), 'You Won't Forget Me' & 'Hellos & Goodbyes' (Jackie De Shannon, 1962 and 1963), 'Breakaway' (Irma Thomas, 1964) and 'Blue Ribbons' (The Paramounts, 1965). The pair also wrote one of the best songs The Searchers ever did (and they did so many) : the 12-string guitar-laden 'Can't Help Forgiving You', which can be found on their third UK LP, 'It's The Searchers' (Pye NPL 18092), from April '64.
Eddie Cochran and Sharon Sheeley were engaged at the time of Eddie's tragic death in 1960. Since then, a lot of things have been said and written, and the bitter feelings became apparent. Gene Vincent often insisted that Eddie would never have married Sharon ; relations between Sheeley, Capehart, Snuff Garrett and Cochran's family soured, to say the least. Royalties had much to do with this situation as we could have suspected ; for this purpose, you can read Shari's side of the story in Michael Kelly's book, 'Liberty Records' (Mc Farland & Company, Inc. ; 1993). Sadly that reminds us of what happened after Buddy Holly's demise.
In 1980, during a trip to England, I told Tony Barrett (head of RockStar Records) that I was going to contact some of Cochran's associates and I clearly recall how he warned me of the hostile climate between the different parties ! However that might be, I did get in touch with a few of hem - including Sharon Sheeley. I wrote her a letter, full of enthusiasm and crammed with collector-oriented questions ; on April 20, 1980, she kindly mailed me a reply which can be seen at left.
Of course, I did not get all the answers I was waiting for but she assured me of the fact that some of the demos Eddie did for Baker Knight, Ricky Nelson and Johnny Burnette were in her hands ; however, she thought that it wouldn't be fair to release them since they were only intended to be demos !! She also wrote that Eddie would never do more than 2 or 3 takes for each song in the studio - well, we can't blame her for not recalling the dozens of takes needed for 'Jeannie, Jeannie, Jeannie' or... 'Somethin' Else' ! But she did mention one important thing (for the first time, I think) : the only Cochran recording she appeared on was 'Summertime Blues' and she did the handclapping on it. She would always maintain that in later interviews. Now, for all its inaccuracies and forgeries, Sheeley's letter was very much appreciated.
In 1987, my wife and I went honeymooning to the States. While in North Hollywood, we stopped at 4360, Troost Avenue : that was where Shari had been living for quite some time. Unfortunately, she was not at home and we had to be content with a few photos taken beside her house and her mailbox ! Still, it was fun to be there. The following year, Sharon would be back in the swing of things thanks to a UK TV commercial for Levi 501 jeans using 'C'mon Everybody' as background music.
There was a time, immediately after Eddie's passing, when she would almost live the life of a recluse but as the '90s arrived, it was not uncommon to see her at Rock'n'Roll Tribute Shows in the States but also in England.
In today's world where only big names and big conglomerates count, one should not forget Sharon Sheeley's contribution to our Rock'n'Roll Music - not merely as Eddie Cochran's girlfriend but as a very capable songwriter in her own right.
PAUL VIDAL * Privas, France * August 2002