Last month, we examined the high-energy style of Cliff Gallup, whose innovative solos with rockabilly icons Gene Vincent & the Blue Caps set a new standard for sound, technique and imagination. This month, we’ll look at how Gallup explored the opposite end of the musical universe—romantic ballads—with an equally successful balance of skill and attitude.
Guitarist Johnny Meeks, a former member of Gene Vincent & His Blue Caps, died Thursday, July 30, in Arkansas. He was 78. Meeks, a longtime member of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Blue Caps in 2012.
Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps epitomized rockabilly’s iconic image, with their leather jackets, ducktail hairstyles and kick-ass-and-take-names personae. The band also introduced one of the most adept, versatile and influential electric guitarists of his generation: Cliff Gallup.
Besides functional gear, sensible footwear and a guaranteed ride to gigs, members of good backing bands must have the following qualities: Humility, talent and personality. The best backing bands, of course, have all these qualities — and lots of success. Some of them of have played on countless hits. Some have played a role in music history. Others just have so much talent that they automatically move to the next level.
In the past, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has nominated and admitted various frontmen -- Buddy Holly, Smokey Robinson and Gene Vincent, for instance -- without so much as a thought about their backing bands.