Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Wayne Cochran- Miami's own White Knight of Soul!

Anyone that remembers the lounge scene of the mid to late 80's will remember Wayne Cochran and the C.C. Riders. Wayne was the standing act at the famous Peppermint Lounge on the 79th Street Causeway where many of us hung out to pick up girls and listen to the blues. In the sixties, every town had at least one large R&B band (in the tradition of the fictional Otis Day & the Knights from the movie "Animal House") to bring some excitement at frat parties. Wayne was our own "Otis Day" and a true oddity in Miami at that time. He was a tall white Georgia boy with a platinum bouffant hairdo who tended to get so involved in his music that he threw bottles tables and chairs around. Yet he was a fine blues vocalist that had a steady following and did manage to claim some national success in the late 60s and early 70's with a b-rated biker movie and ascendancy to the Vegas Lounge scene. He also surrounded himself with fine musicians like bassist Jaco Pastorius that later backed Joni Mitchell for many years and taught for a short period at UM. His musical legacy is a bit checkered since he oscillated between true blues music and commercially oriented papa pushed on him by his sponsors. Still, he was deeply respected by some of the top singers of his day like Otis Redding, James Brown and Elvis Presley. In fact, many called him the white James Brown. His first single was "Last Kiss," a song he wrote, but was beaten to the music charts when Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers who rushed to record and release it before he could. Nonetheless, his version is still the greatest. Interestingly, Wayne's big break came from Jackie Gleason, who saw Wayne's act and promptly arranged for him to appear on Gleason's national broadcast show from Miami Beach. Wayne is immortalized in the "Blues Brothers" movie in a reference to him by Jake and Elwood's manager, telling them to ditch the black suits and wear jumpsuits like Wayne Cochran and the C.C. Riders. Wayne abandoned the lounge singer scene in 1981 when he became a born again christian. Today, Wayne and his wife Monica have a christian ministry in North Miami, but as you can see from the pictures above, Wayne still loves Miami and his Harleys!

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