It’s one thing to achieve success in music, but quite another to be inducted into the Hall of Fame of a genre (at least it was until they put Madonna in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but that’s another story).
Today we’ll pay a visit to the three Hall of Fame musicians who are housed at Eternal Valley Cemetery in Newhall.
After entering the gates, we climb the hill, passing by the final resting place of giant Tor Johnson from Plan Nine From Outer Space along the way.
Near the top, at the upper end of the Garden of Prayer rests musical legend Cliffie Stone. Stone, born Clifford Snyder, was a country singer, musician, disk jockey, record producer, author, and music publisher.
As the host of the Hometown Jamboree radio program from 1946-1960, he helped launch the careers of dozens of country musicians. The multi-tasking Stone was signed by Capitol Records in Hollywood as both an artist and as head of their Country & Western division. At the end of his life, he kept busy directing Gene Autry’s vast publishing empire.
Stone was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at the corner of Sunset and Vine, and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1989.
On the far south side of the cemetery in the Garden of Meditation rests singer Roy Brown.
Roy James Brown was born in New Orleans in 1925 and began his career as a gospel singer. He later switched to the blues, and is now considered to be a pioneer voice in rock and roll history.
Brown recorded his most famous song, Good Rocking Tonight, in 1947. The song was later covered by Elvis Presley, Paul McCartney, and a host of other performers. A dazzling showman, Brown helped pave the way for later performers like Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis.
His fortunes declined during the 1960s to the point that he was forced to sell encyclopedias to make ends meet. He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1981, which was the same year that he died.
Down the hill in plot 91 of the Garden of Repose rests rocker Gene Vincent, Eternal Valley’s most famous resident.
Eugene Vincent Craddock was born in Virginia in 1935. He got his first guitar at the age of 12 and dropped out of school to join the navy a few years later.
While in the navy, he was involved in a serious motorcycle accident and while recuperating, wrote the classic rock and roll song Be-Bop-A-Lula.
This song, which was later covered by everyone from Queen to John Lennon, quickly went gold and led to Vincent and his band, The Blue Caps, earning a spot in the landmark rock and roll film The Girl Can’t Help It, starring Jayne Mansfield.
Vincent continued to perform until his death, but never equaled the success of Be-Bop. He died from the effects of alcoholism in 1971, and was inducted posthumously into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988.
Along a line of shrubs in the Zane Grey Gardens is the grave of Tex Williams. While not a Hall of Famer (yet), Williams had a long and successful career as a country singer/songwriter. During the 1940s and ’50s he also starred in a series of low-budget western musicals for Universal, known as “oaters.”
Williams first struck musical gold in 1945 as the lead singer of the Spade Cooley Orchestra when their single Shame On You became a smash hit and stayed on the country charts for 31 weeks. Eternal Valley neighbor Cliffie Stone later offered Williams his own recording contract and Tex left Cooley to form “Tex Williams and His Western Caravan.”
In 1947, their single Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette) topped both the country and the pop charts, becoming Capitol Records’ first million-selling record.
Not surprisingly, the singer died of lung cancer in his Newhall home in 1985.