On Saturday, April 16, 1960, at about 11.50 p.m., while on tour in the United Kingdom, 21-year-old Cochran died as a result of a traffic accident in a taxi (a Ford Consul, not, as widely reported, a London hackney carriage) traveling through Chippenham, Wiltshire, on the A4. The speeding taxi blew a tire, lost control, and crashed into a lamp post on Rowden Hill, where a plaque now marks the spot. No other car was involved. Cochran, who was seated in the center of the back seat, threw himself over his fiancée Sharon Sheeley, to shield her, and was thrown out of the car when the door flew open. He was taken to St. Martin’s Hospital, Bath, where he died at 4:10 p.m. the following day of severe head injuries. Cochran’s body was flown home and his remains were buried on April 25, 1960, at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Cypress, California.
Songwriter Sharon Sheeley and singer Gene Vincent survived the crash, Vincent sustaining lasting injuries to an already permanently damaged leg that would shorten his career and affect him for the rest of his life. The taxi driver, George Martin, was convicted of dangerous driving, fined £50, disqualified from driving for 15 years, and sentenced to prison for six months (although by some accounts he served no prison sentence). His driving licence was reinstated in 1969. The car and other items from the crash were impounded at the local police station until a coroner’s inquest could be held. David Harman, a police cadet at the station who would later become known as Dave Dee of the band Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich, taught himself to play guitar on Cochran’s impounded Gretsch. Earlier in the tour, the same guitar had been carried to the car for Cochran by the 12-year old Mark Feld, later known as Marc Bolan of T. Rex, who would himself die in a car crash in 1977.
It also all happened just around the corner from the bottom of Peter Gabriel’s driveway.