On this day in auto history – April 17th

Sat 17th Apr 2021

It was on this day in 1960 that a British road claimed one of its highest-profile victims when American rock ’n’ roller Eddie Cochrane was tragically killed in a car crash in the Wiltshire town of Chippenham, having just performed at Bristol’s Hippodrome Theatre.

The 21-year-old superstar - famous for rebellious teenage anthems such as 'Summertime Blues’, 'C’mon Everybody’ and ‘Somethin’ Else' - died from severe head injuries sustained the previous evening when he was flown from a speeding taxi which lost control after blowing a tyre on the A4, eventually crashing into a lamppost. 

Fellow 'Hall of Famer', Gene Vincent, survived the crash along with Cochrane’s girlfriend, Sharon Steeler, and tour manager Pat Thompkins, as did the taxi driver himself, George Martin, who was later convicted of dangerous driving.

It was later revealed by friends and family that Cochrane - who had seen his great friends Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens killed in a plane crash the previous year - had developed a morbid premonition that he too would die young on the road, and was keen to reduce his touring commitments as soon as his fateful British excursion was over.

Cochrane’s body was flown home to be buried in Cypress, California and his recently released single 'Three Steps To Heaven' instantly became the first posthumous number-one hit in UK chart history.

A memorial plaque was erected by fans on a grass verge to mark the spot where Eddie died and exists to this day.