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DISCOVERIES : Finding Underground Rock Legends

June 25, 1993|STEVE APPLEFORD

They had only come for a visit, this playwright, this actor and this director, here at this Newhall cemetery to visit the grave of rock 'n' roll pioneer Gene Vincent.

They had come early last year as a kind of preparation for the production of Rex Weiner's play "Be Bop a Lula" at the Theatre/Theater in Hollywood, which recounted one troubled night on the road with Vincent and Eddie Cochran. So there they were--Weiner, actor Paul Hipp, director Jeff Murray--at Eternal Valley Memorial Park, where Vincent's headstone is etched with a full-color portrait of the singer and a few notes from his best-known song.

"We sat around the grave and sang 'Be Bop a Lula,' " Weiner remembers. "It was a sunny day, and just at that point, a cloud appeared in the sky and crossed the sun. We all looked at each other. It was just one of those weird things. It seemed like a sign."

Gene Vincent is just one of a handful of rock figures buried in or near the San Fernando Valley. Others are Ritchie Valens at San Fernando Mission Cemetery in Mission Hills, "I Fought the Law" singer Bobby Fuller at Forest Lawn Memorial-Park in Burbank and Sam Cooke and Dorsey and Johnny Burnett at Forest Lawn in Glendale.

Also at the Burbank cemetery is Ricky Nelson, "but they won't tell you where," complains rock historian Art Fein. Most of the others are easy enough to find for those feeling a need to commune with the history of rock, insists Fein, who lists some of these and others in his book, "The L.A. Musical History Tour" (Faber & Faber; $13.95).

"There's a proportionally low number of people buried here," says Fein. "People from other parts of the country migrate here to become stars, and when they die they go back."

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