Wayne Cochran (1939 – November 21, 2017) was an American soul singer, known for his outlandish outfits and white pompadour hairstyle. He was sometimes referred to as The White Knight of Soul. Cochran is best known today for writing the song “Last Kiss“, which he performed with the C.C. Riders.
Influenced by the country and rhythm and blues music he heard on the radio, Cochran fronted his first band – a group called the Rockin’ Capris – as a teenager, and eventually left high school to pursue music as a full-time career. He relocated to Macon, Georgia, where he befriended the soul singer Otis Redding (playing bass guitar on Redding’s early recording of “Shout Bamalama” and its B-side, “Fat Girl”) and recorded his first single, “The Coo”, which attracted the attention of King Records, who signed him to a record deal. Cochran became close friends with King labelmate James Brown, whose stage show and road band influenced his own performing style and inspired him to assemble his own soul revue, the C. C. Riders, which occasionally featured as many as 14 musicians plus two female backing vocalists, the Sheer Delights.
Although his single recordings for King (including “Goin’ Back To Miami”, a song which became a signature tune for the singer) were not commercially successful beyond local markets in the south, Cochran’s energetic performances, rigorous touring schedule and appearances on television talk shows such as The Jackie Gleason Show helped to make the C. C. Riders a popular attraction. In the mid-1960s, Cochran made Las Vegas his base of operations and played residencies at several hotels, casinos and theatres. During this time, he met and befriended Elvis Presley, who borrowed elements of Cochran’s revue for his own Las Vegas period, adopting jump suits similar to Cochran’s wardrobe and adding the song “C. C. Rider” to his set list.
Cochran recorded an album for Chess Records entitled Wayne Cochran! in 1967, which featured the blue-eyed soul and rhythm and blues style he had perfected on the road with his revue, but backed by session musicians for most of the cuts instead of his touring band. This was followed by a return to King and two further LPs, Alive & Well & Living… In A Bitch of A World and the instrumental High & Ridin’, both in 1970. These albums saw the C. C. Riders’ guitarist and musical director, Charles Brent, take an important creative role, and featured a jazz-influenced sound comparable to the Chicago Transit Authority or Blood, Sweat & Tears. Cochran also recorded a “live” album (actually a “live in the studio” record) for King sometime between 1967 and 1969, although this was only released in 2014, included in an Ace Records compilation, Goin’ Back To Miami: The Soul Sides 1965-1970.
Cochran died on November 21, 2017, in Miami, Florida.
Cochran is best known today for writing the song “Last Kiss“, which he performed with the C.C. Riders. Although it was not a success for him, a contemporary cover by J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers and a much later take by Pearl Jam became hits. Cochran and his revue also influenced Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi‘s Blues Brothers musical venture; Cochran is referenced in the 1980 film featuring the Blues Brothers characters and a cover of his song “Going Back To Miami” is featured on the live album Made In America.
- Wayne Cochran! 1967; Chess Records
- Alive & Well & Living….In A Bitch Of A World 1970; King Records
- High & Ridin’ 1970; King Records
- Cochran 1972; Epic Records
- The White Knight of Soul 1959-72: Get Down With It! 2005; Raven Records
- Love Strikes Again 2010; Jukebox Entertainment
- Goin’ Back To Miami: The Soul Sides 1965-1970 2014; Ace Records
- Hamilton, Andrew. “Wayne Cochran – Wayne Cochran!”. AllMusic. Retrieved January 29, 2017.
- “The White Knight of Soul 1964-72: Get Down With It! – Wayne Cochran – Songs, Reviews, Credits”. AllMusic. Retrieved 22 November 2017.
- “Wayne Cochran – Roctober #10”. Roctober.com. Retrieved 22 November 2017.
- “Goin’ Back To Miami: The Soul Sides 1965-1970”. Ace Records. Retrieved 22 November 2017.
- “Wayne Cochran, who went from soul rocker to soul-saving minister, dies at 78”. Miamiherald.com. Retrieved 22 November 2017.