THE HISTORY OF WAYNE COCHRAN AND THE C.C. RIDERS
I started my first band in 1955, and between then, and l963, I had put together three local successful bands, and had moved to Macon. In 1963, I hired a four-piece rhythm section. I called them the "C.C. Riders", which stood for "Cochran's Circuit Riders". I bought an Old Flexible Flyer tour bus. It was the same color as James Brown's bus..... so cool! A battery for that bus cost $365.00. We had to push it to get it started, but once it got started, it would run fine. We did one month at the Jolly Roger in Nashville, Tennessee, on Printer's Alley. It was there I learned my first James Brown song, "Out of Sight". Then, I called the owner of Sak's Boom Boom Room in Bossier City. I told him I would look for more horn players if he would pay them, and he agreed to that. There was a group of young guys called the Dixie Crystals in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I drove to Baton Rouge in a white Lincoln, with four-inch heel boots, a royal blue suit and "the hair". I talked to T. Don Capron and Mike Verbois, and we hired four of the Dixie Crystals. We stayed in Bossier City for six to eight months. Then, we got a booking in Muncie, Indiana, at Woodbury's Supper Club. The "C.C. Riders" were on the road, and on their way!We went on to play several clubs in the north-central part of the country. One club was called, "The Castaways", in a bowling alley in Calumet City, Illinois. There I met a man called Walt Daisey. He and two other gentlemen were partners, and they were opening a club in Miami. After seeing us, they thought we were the perfect group to open that club. So, they built a place on 79th Street Causeway in Miami called "The Barn". We played soul music, rhythm and blues music with horns. They called it the "Home of Soul". That became our home base. About that time, I recorded our first record with the "C.C. Riders". It was called "Harlem Shuffle" on Mercury Records. It got a lot of play time and broke the top 100. From that, we got bookings in the major black theaters, such as The Royal Theater in Baltimore, The Apollo Theater in New York, and The Regal Theater in Chicago. Although we were an all white band, all of our music was rhythm and blues. So, all of our venues were the rhythm and blues theaters, and clubs. They booked us, and we did well. As the record began to climb, and we became known, we did The Merv Griffin Show, The Mike Douglas Show, and finally Jackie Gleason invited us on The Jackie Gleason Show. We continued to grow in popularity. In spending a lot of time in Miami at The Barn, we became the number one club in South Florida. All the stars that came to town began to hang out there. Since people from all over the United States came to Miami, they would come and see us, and then go back to their towns talking about us. We were gaining popularity in all the major cities in America without having been there. Everybody came to The Barn, from well-known actors, actresses, recording artists, and singers ranging from Connie Francis to Tom Jones, and Lloyd Bridges to Bob Conrad. Word was growing about us in Las Vegas, and we still didn't have a hit record, but we did have two chart records, because our second record, which made the charts, was called, "Get Down With It". We went to Las Vegas and signed a contract there, and instantly people loved the show! We had waiting lines, and we became the biggest drawing lounge act in Las Vegas at that time. Since we couldn't spend much time at The Barn, and no one came if we weren't there, The Barn finally closed down. We made our home base in Las Vegas, but Miami was always in our hearts. On the Jackie Gleason Show, I had even written a song for his show called, "Going Back To Miami". It became another good record for us. We became known for that particular song. At that time, we worked three to six months a year at the Flamingo and The Las Vegas Hilton that had just been built. The C.C. Riders and I, Ike and Tina Turner and their band opened with Elvis Presley in his first month back in Las Vegas at the International Hilton. We played the Casino Theater or the lounge in the hotel the same month he was in the main room. We went on to do almost every major television show such as The Johnny Carson Show, The Merv Griffin Show, five times in two weeks, The Mike Douglas Show, the Frank Sinatra Jr. T.V. Specials, and The Dinah Shore Show. We continued to grow in popularity. It went on that way for seven to eight years.
I designed all my clothes. I had them made by the most famous tailor for the Hollywood actors and country and western stars, Nudie of Nudie's Rodeo Tailors in Los Angeles. He made all the costumes for the Cisco Kid, Hank Williams, Porter Wagner's and people like that. His clothes were very, very famous. They had a lot of beautiful embroidery and rhinestones on very exquisite material. There was nothing cheap about it. So, from the time we started going to Vegas, he made all of my clothes.Elvis Presley would come over and see our show. He really liked my clothes. When I was going to play opposite him his first month back in Las Vegas, I had two suits made for him and gave them to him. They featured the collar that I was wearing, which was like a Napoleonic Collar, the cuffs on the jacket, the cuffs on the pants and even the hip belt like I was wearing. From those two suits basically came the pattern for the clothes he would wear. Then I went to jump suits. It was the same sort of design, but in a jump suit rather than a two or three piece suit. The original suits were like Southern Plantation style. They were 3/4 length coats, cutaway in the front, with vests and lace shirts. Later, Elvis went to jump suits too. I loved designing. I designed all of our staging in Las Vegas. I laid out all of our choreography. Every one of our songs were choreographed. In fact, when we were at The Barn in Miami, Jackie Gleason brought all of his people over on Friday nights. They began to hang out at The Barn. June Taylor and The June Taylor Dancers, who were famous on his show, came by every week. June Taylor said once, in a magazine article, I believe it was in TV Guide, that "She got a lot of ideas for the dance steps that the dancers used for the June Taylor Dancers from Wayne Cochran and the Riders when they came to see Wayne at the Barn."
The first album we ever did was called, "Wayne Cochran". Jackie Gleason wrote the liner notes for the album. We started our own little newspaper out at The Barn called, "The Soul Sheet". It came out once a month. It was mailed to all of our friends across the country. There was a reporter for the Miami Herald that worked for us on the side. She wrote all of the articles. It had pictures of guests that were there that month and things that we did. Then, I put out a cookbook, "Wayne Cochran's Soul Recipes." It was basically southern cooking. Our whole thing was based around "soul" and "south". We started getting write-ups in major magazines like "Esquire" and others, and because of my hair, even magazines like "Glamour" and "Hair Do". We had write-ups in major black magazines, like "Jet" and "Ebony". Things just continued to grow from there.I did a guest shot on Bob Conrad's show, "Wild, Wild West", and we became good friends. When he got a new series, he would bring me in to do a guest shot. I also had a cameo role in a movie with Faye Dunaway and Anthony Quinn. It was called "The Happening". Ann Margaret and her husband, Roger Smith, Monica and myself were sitting in our hotel suite at the Newport Hotel on Miami Beach, one afternoon. They had also became good friends of ours. Ann would come see me in Las Vegas. She loved the show, and I would go see hers. They were in television, and of course, movies. Roger said, "Why don't we write a movie about a motorcycle gang and call it the "C.C. Riders". Of course, The Riders and I were going to play parts in it. He immediately went and wrote it. They got Joe Namath to star as "C.C. Rider". That was the name of the main character. We did a guest shot in the movie performing in a dance scene with Ann and Joe. Things just kept opening up.
Then, because of lack of rest and all the hours of touring, I started getting voice problems, hoarseness. I started doing drugs and drinking, and I had always been, to one level or another, a womanizer. My health began to fall apart. My wife left me. She was emotionally very damaged because of it. She couldn't even take care of the kids. They went back to stay with their grandparents. My health deteriorated along with my emotional stability. I wound up wanting to take my own life.I had never been to church but once or twice in my whole life. I didn't really care for Christians. I thought they were all hypocrites. They always pretended to be goody-goody, but I knew better. This is from some of them that I had known. I knew I needed help, and I decided to look for it. I thought if I could find help and improve my life, and get back on track, then I would. If not, I could always end it. I started reading books on Eastern faiths, mostly because I had never seen anything in Christianity that could help me with all the problems I had. All I had ever heard was "if you accept Jesus, you'll go to Heaven and spend eternity with God." I wasn't worried about Heaven. I had serious problems right here! I needed help.
I studied all the Eastern faiths diligently. "Rolling Stone Magazine" wrote me up once as rock-n-roll's first Egyptologist because I had studied the pyramids, from the book "The power of the Pyramids". I had studied "The Book of the Dead", "The Koran", "The Aquarian", and "The Gospel of Jesus the Christ". I studied Edgar Casey, "The Sleeping Prophet", Erich Von Danneken, Kahlil Gabran, T. Lobsang Rampa,("The Third Eye"). I studied almost everything searching for answers, and found a lot of exciting information, intellectually. I found enough that it encouraged me. Most of it was about positive thinking. I read a couple of books called " Power of The Sub-Conscious Mind" and "Cosmic Mind Power" by Dr. Joseph Murphy, and of course, Norman Vincent Peale, and "The Power of Positive Thinking". I noticed that all of the Eastern faiths and all of these books of philosophy, sooner or later would mention "The Bible" or "Holy Scriptures". They would say, "Moses said......" or "Jesus said this......." or "The Holy Scriptures say this......" or "the Apostle Paul said this......" I was really amazed. At that time, I was still stoned, still drunk and still messed up, and on the road. I remember thinking, if all of these books are using the Bible to validate their points of view, maybe I should read the Bible. I stole a Bible, or I thought I stole it. It was a Gideon, so I was suppose to take it. I began to read it. I read some amazing scriptures that I never would have thought were in there. I found that God in Deuteronomy 8:18 would give me power to get wealth to establish His Covenant. I read in Philippians 4,that I could do all things through Christ Jesus. So, I looked at the Bible as a book of formulas or plans. It would say, do this and this, and this will happen, and I did them. It would take faith to do them, because what the Bible requested you to do, in certain situations, seemed absurd on the surface. But they always worked. They worked every time. They worked in miraculous, unexplainable ways. I found the scripture Acts 16:31, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved and your house." I took God up on that. I began to believe for my marriage and my children. It was a long battle but we won. My wife and I got back together, and we got married again. Our children came to live with us. We've been together and happy ever since the three and one-half years after I began my search. And in following the Bible, everything that had driven me to want to take my own life had been corrected. I had been delivered from alcohol and drugs, and my career was flourishing again. I had a lot of free time on the bus going from city to city, so I just studied. I probably studied between 30-60 hours a week. I also began to read other books about the Bible. I actually would lead people to the Lord in nightclubs, after concerts, or in restaurants, and I would pray for people, and they would get healed. I prayed for marriages that would come back together. I would get out my Bible and show them what I had found. They were amazed it was in the Bible. They had never heard of such things. Because most people, at that time, didn't know that not only did God provide a way for you to spend eternity with Him through Jesus Christ, but he was interested in your life here. He had provided ways for you to succeed and prosper in every area of your life, right now, right here. I didn't know what kind of church to tell them to go to, because at that point, I still had not been to church. So, I would write or call publishing companies, and then buy cases of the books I had read. I would number them in the sequence in which I had read them, and put them in bundles. When I led someone to the Lord, I would give them that stack of books and say, "Read these books, and then find a church that believes that." That was the only thing that I knew to do. I did that from city to city.Then, my wife and I decided that it was time to stop traveling. After so many years, I could never be home like a normal person. I was going to quit and come off the road at a certain time. I did. Just to have something to do here in town, and to supply some finances, I put a little four-piece band together with my youngest daughter singing with me. We started working a little club here in Miami. I finally found a small church I really liked. It is up in Margate, Fl, Abundant Life Christian Center, with Pastors W.W. Thomas and Rick Thomas. I started going there, and after a year's time, I was called out into the ministry from the pulpit. Although not many Christians knew that I was born again, I believed that I was a full-time minister. I believed that was what God wanted me to do. I gave my notice at the club, and that was it. However, I did have some television shows that I had contracted for. It was a couple of Tom Snyder Shows and a couple David Letterman Shows. This was in the summer of 1981. I kept the band together to do those shows. Then I started in the ministry September 9, 1981