Dickie Harrell death: Drummer of ‘The Blue Caps’ dies aged 82

Dickie Harrell
Drummer Dickie Harrell of the Blue Caps died


Dickie Harrell of Portsmouth passed away last week at the age of 82. Let’s see how did the drummer die and his cause of death in detail.

How did Dickie Harrell die?

Dickie “Be-Bop” Harrell, the original drummer for Gene Vincent’s Blue Caps passed away suddenly.

His early rock ‘n’ roll songs with fellow Tidewater residents Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps influenced everyone from the Beatles to Led Zeppelin. 

Jeff Maisey, a former music critic for the Virginian-Pilot shared his heartfelt tribute to him, saying, “We’ve lost a real humble treasure that most people never, unless you were in the local Norfolk music scene, or if you were just a music fan, you probably wouldn’t know Dickie Harrell was from Portsmouth, lived in Portsmouth his whole life”.

“[Music legends like Dylan and Plant] remembered him well. When they’d come to Virginia Beach or Portsmouth and perform live they’d give him a shout-out. They would always welcome him in style backstage. He was revered by the greatest musicians in rock ‘n’ roll, but he was very humble and would downplay that sort of thing,” Maisey said.

Who was Dickie Harrell?

Dickie was born on August 27, 1940, in Portsmouth, Virginia. When he started working with Gene, he was only 15 years old. Before that, he played for four to five years having fun performing in the school band and hanging out with some local country bands. 

He later became a drummer of Gene Vincent’s Blue Caps. In 1956, Dickie Harrell joined the Blue Caps as Gene Vincent’s sidekick. He contributed to Capitol Records’ early 1960s catalog with a number of instrumental tracks. It was founded in 1982 with Blue Caps, who had reformed for an album.

His restrained brush playing and background screaming on Vincent’s first and most renowned smash, “Be-Bop-A-Lula,” provided that record, one of the defining records of early rock ‘n’ roll, much of its tension and atmosphere.

Harrell, who is from Norfolk, Virginia, like Vincent, started playing with Vincent when he was just 15 years old. Vincent, who was serving in the Navy at the time, was recovering in a Navy hospital after suffering a serious leg injury in a motorbike accident.

Harrell remained with the Blue Caps for a little over a year before leaving because he was tired of traveling. After a disagreement with the Blue Caps about money towards the end of the 1950s, Vincent, who was already disabled from a prior injury, suffered another injury in an accident that killed Eddie Cochran.

While his popularity in America waned, Vincent remained a beloved live performer in England, where he was a hero to many, including the Beatles, whose early black leather outfit was inspired by Vincent.

Vincent passed away in 1971, a drunkard who was largely forgotten. In 1998, he received a posthumous induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Before retiring two years ago, Dickie Harrell spent 37 years working for the government in the hazardous materials field. He currently offers Blue Caps-related goods for sale.

Four of the remaining Blue Caps—Harrell, Johnny Meeks on guitar, Tommy Facenda and Paul Peek on vocals—have sometimes reformed over the years to perform Vincent’s tunes at rockabilly gatherings and other events.

Dickie Harrell cause of death:

Dickie, the talented drummer died at the age of 82. Friends, followers, and family members of Harell have paid their heartfelt condolences on social media over his passing.

In a tribute on Wednesday, Jeff published an interview from 2022 with Harrell in which Johnny Cash says more than just, “How’d you all get on this tour? You all aren’t country” to the Blue Caps, but “that boy needs help” in reference to Harrell.

He was certainly one of the most humble guys I’ve ever met, yet he was passionate about music and eager to discuss it., 

Jeff said. Despite having a who’s who of friends and admirers, including Bob Dylan, Jeff Beck, and Robert Plant, all of whom were influenced by the Blue Caps’ 1950s rockabilly sound.

In addition to drumming, while standing up, Harrell contributed a wild and distinctive approach to his performances. On “Be-Bop-A-Lula,” the group’s biggest success from 1956, peaked at No. 7 on the U.S. Billboard pop music chart. It’s he who makes the recognizable (and unplanned) howl at the 37-second mark of the song.

The fact that he was so young at the time is arguably the most amazing aspect. At the age of 15, he gave up school and joined the band, but he would only go on tour with them for about a year. But the influence was irreplaceable.

Tributes to Dickie Harrell:

Lois Hall posted,

Prayers for Donna and Family . RIP Dickie. You are going to be missed by a great Mutitude! He is with Gene now and the rest the bluecaps ..Will miss your friendship here on FB.

Tonya N Williams posted,

Dickie Harrell has passed this morning. Socked and saddened. He was a sweet, genuine and talented person. God bless you Dickie you will be missed.

Tommy Brill posted,

Just found out the great Dickie Harrell has passed away. The rockiest drummer ever and a sweet guy. The last of Gene Vincent’s Blue Caps. I’m gonna miss our online interactions and I wish I could have made some racket with him at some point. . Sympathies to his wife and family.

Katherine B tweeted,

Dickie “Be Bop” Harrell, the drummer with Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps passed away this morning. He was honored at the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame and remained a humble and happy man that I was privileged to know. RIP Dickie

Petteri Salmi posted,

R.I.P Dickie Harrell (1940-2023)
Original Gene Vincent & The Blue Caps drummer, BIG, REMARKABLE LEGEND!!!
Dickie’s drumming can be heard on the first 58 Gene Vincent & The Blue Caps released songs (Capitol Records 1956-1957)!


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