Vincent Eugene Craddock was born in Norfolk, Virginia, on February 11, 1935. His musical influences included country, rhythm and blues and gospel music. He showed his first real interest in music while his family lived in Munden Point, Princess Anne County (now Virginia Beach), Virginia, near the North Carolina line, where they ran a country store. He received his first guitar as a gift from a friend at the age of 12.
His father, Ezekiah Jackson Craddock, volunteered to serve in the U.S. Coast Guard and patrolled American coastal waters to protect Allied shipping against German U-boats during World War II. His mother, Mary Louise Craddock, maintained a general store at Munden Point. Craddock's parents moved the family and opened a general store and sailors' tailoring shop in Norfolk.
Having spent his youth in the Norfolk area, Craddock dropped out of school at 17 and enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1952. Craddock's parents signed the forms allowing him to join the Navy. He completed boot camp and joined the fleet as a crewman aboard the fleet oiler USS Chukawan although he spent two weeks training period in the repair ship USS Amphion before returning to the Chukawan. Craddock never saw combat but completed a Korean War deployment. He sailed home from Korean waters aboard battleship USS Wisconsin, but was not part of the ship's company.
Craddock planned a career in the Navy and, in 1955, used his $612 dollar reenlistment bonus to buy a new Triumph motorbike. In July 1955, while in Norfolk, a motorcycle shattered his left leg. He refused to have it amputated. The leg was saved, but left him with a limp and pain. He wore a steel sheath around the remains for the rest of his life. Most accounts relate the accident as the fault of a drunk driver who struck him, although some claim as Craddock had been riding drunk. Years later in some of his professional music bios, there is no mention of an accident, but it was claimed that he was wounded in combat in Korea. He spent time in the Portsmouth Naval Hospital and was medically discharged from the Navy shortly thereafter.
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