John Sieger
Sieger on Songs

The Heated Legacy of Wayne Cochran

The late bluester was a white version of James Brown, with towering hair to match.

By - Dec 8th, 2017 02:48 pm
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Wayne Cochran. Photo is in the Public Domain.

Wayne Cochran. Photo is in the Public Domain.

The only reason not to write about Wayne Cochran is that this column has of late become a series of obits. In an effort to balance the morbid I will attempt a living artist next week, but Cochran, who passed away last week, is one of the most memorable characters ever writ large, make that extra-large, across the story of Rock’n’Roll.

It’s impossible to look at Cochran and not suspect David Lynch somehow managed to bring one of his feverish visions to life. Take (and you’ll need plenty of storage room) his pompadour. Like his fellow Georgians and master architects of hair, James Brown and Little Richard, it towers over his head. Unlike their creations, it went up a couple more stories and in the course of his lifetime, made the subtle transition from platinum blonde to white. The maintenance of that magnificent tower of hair and lacquer must have used up all his off-stage time.

His fashion excesses may have reached their zenith in the film C.C. Rider, starring Joe Namath and Ann Margaret. In it, Wayne and his band the C.C. Riders (who else would you hire for a film with that title?) perform a very credible version of Otis Redding’s  “I Can’t Turn You Loose”. As Joe and Ann boogaloo, you can’t help but feel sorry for them; the star of this scene is Wayne. He sports a red jump suit and a matching headband — is it there to keep his pompadour out of his eyes? Closer inspection reveals a proto-mullet scooting down his back like a waterfall. Welcome to Bizarro America.

How this man has avoided a bio-pic is beyond me. Now that he is among the non-living there’s no excuse Hollywood, let’s get going. It’s a long story to tell, and an incredibly American one, where races meet in their uncomfortable dance and the occasional white artist delivers an undeniably sincere performance that stacks up nicely. Laughable as he is to look at, Wayne Cochran and his band scare the daylights out of me with their well-honed chops.

His biography in condensed form: Poor Georgia white boy drops out in 9th grade, falls in love with R&B music (he plays bass on Otis Redding’s first single), followed by endless one-nighters fueled by booze, pills and cocaine before pulling out of a death spiral and finding Jesus and ending up with his own congregation in a North Miami church.

It was in that town where he first came to fame and it’s in the title of one of his rare self-penned songs, “Going Back To Miami.” Though it’s useless to analyze or heap any expectations on lyrics like these, here they are:

Going back to Miami (Going back to Miami)
Going back to my girl (Going back to my girl)
I said I’m going back to Miami (Going back to Miami)
Going back to my girl (Going back to my girl)

I’ve got to get back to my baby
And take her in my arms again
I’ve got to get back to my baby
I ain’t seen her since I don’t know when
Got to get back now to Florida
Lay out in the morning Sun
Got to get back to Miami
Have a whole lotta fun

Going back to Miami (Going back to Miami)
Going back to my girl, com on (Going back to my girl)
I said I’m going back to my Miami (Going back to Miami)
Going back to my girl (Going back to my girl)

Look out
I’m going back to Miami (Going back to Miami)
Going back to my girl (Going back to my girl)
I said I’m going back to Miami (Going back to Miami)
Going back to my girl (Going back to my girl)

Gotta gotta gotta get back (Gotta gotta gotta get back)
I gotta gotta gotta get back (Gotta gotta gotta get back)
Gotta gotta gotta get back (Gotta gotta gotta get back)
Gotta gotta gotta get back (Gotta gotta gotta get back)

Look out!
Chicago, Illinois
Los Angeles, California
Philadelphia P. A.
San Francisco
New York, New York
Atlanta, Georgia

Going back to Miami (Going back to Miami)
Going back to my girl (Going back to my girl)
I said I’m going back to Miami (Going back to Miami)
Going back to my girl (Going back to my girl)

© Wayne Cochran

Like I said, not the deepest, really just something to intone zealously as your hijacked feet drag you all over the stage. We’ll leave insight to other, non-dancing branches of pop music.

Wayne Cochran travelled with his own weather — always hot and muggy. If he’s not sweating in a video you’re watching (and you will — the pull from this particular rabbit hole is stronger than a black hole), he’s lip syncing. But you can’t lip sync dance moves. What he lacked in originality, having obviously studied at The James Brown School Of Dance, he made up for in energy and technique. This guy could slide on one foot from here back to Miami. He also sang while doing these moves — try that sometime. Like Dolly Parton or The B-52s, Wayne Cochran was a hyperactive cartoon beehive with a real person attached. He may not have been as self-conscious as them, but you might view that as commendable in this age of irony. He was smitten with something religious in nature long before he was born again. A true believer in the power of music, he preached it on stages first. Anyone who caught one of those sermons, and I know a few who did, had their own born-again experience. Seriously, let’s make that movie and make it soon. And next week, barring any terrible news, we’ll talk about someone who actually draws breath.

2 thoughts on “Sieger on Songs: The Heated Legacy of Wayne Cochran”

  1. Christina Zawadiwsky says:

    You’re right, Wayne Cochran really needs a bio-pic (and what better time than now)?

  2. Observer says:

    I saw both JB and Wayne on a number of occasions and both were fantastic crowd pleasers with James getting the nod in original songs and back-up vocals of course. Both were electrifying and i understand both enjoyed each others act. Wayne had Jaco Pastorius as his bass player and he went on to his own HOF career. There is a YouTube video of the Right Reverend Wayne Cochran serving his lord as well as he did playing for drinkers back when he had his pomp. One of a kind and thanks for this article; it brought back some great memories.

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