60s Music

The Guitar Legend, Duane Eddy

Duane Eddy
Trading card photo of Duane Eddy. In 1960, Fleer gum cards issued a series of recording stars. He was part of their recording stars cards. (Source: Wikipedia)

Introduction

Duane Eddy (born in New York in 1938) is an American guitarist who invented the guitar’s for the low, reverberating “twangy” sound which is heard in most of his records. Eddy has been also known for his work with Lee Hazlewood, who produced most of the former’s work during the late 1950s. His most famous piece, written together with Hazlewood, is “Rebel Rouser,” which went to the US Top 20 in 1958. His first charting single was “Moovin’ N Groovin’” which entered the Hot 100 in 1958. He enjoyed a string of other Top 40 hit records such as “Ramrod,” “Cannonball,” “The Lonely One,” “Yep!,” “Forty Miles Of Bad Road,” “Peter Gunn,” “Some Kind-a Earthquake,” “Bonnie Came Back,” “Pepe,” “Theme From Dixie,” “The Ballad of Paladin,” “(Dance with the) Guitar Man” “Boss Guitar,” and his highest-charting hit “Because They’re Young” which became the second best-selling record. Most of his best-charting singles were released on Jamie label. As he is very much a guitar virtuoso, he is also one of the first guitarists to have signature guitars, and one of his most notable models is the “Chet Atkins 6120” manufactured by Gretsch. A Grammy award-winning musician, Eddy has won one for his remake of his old hit “Peter Gunn,”in 1986. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994. Although not from Nashville, Tennessee, he was nevertheless awarded “Title of Twang” by the town’s mayor. He has also a strong following in the UK, and his releases have also been hits. In fact, in 2010 he played to a sold-out audience at London’s Royal Albert Hall.

 

 

Early years

Known by his distinctively low, twangy riffs which earned him the title “King of Twang,” Duane Eddy is an American guitarist born on April 26, 1938 in Corning, New York. Eddy picked up the guitar when he was five years old. When he was sixteen, he already managed to play a Chet Atkins model Gretsch guitar. Along with friend Jimmy Delbridge, they formed the duo Jimmy and Duane. The two later met disc jockey Lee Hazlewood while they were having a performance in KCKY, a local radio station. Shortly thereafter, Hazlewood worked as a producer in their 1955 single “Soda Fountain Girl” which was initially recorded and released in Phoenix. While performing on several radio stations in Phoenix, Eddy and Delbridge joined the country group Buddy Long’s Western Melody Boys.

 

Music career

With his natural talent playing the guitar, Eddy apparently created a new guitar technique; by playing the bass guitar like a lead guitar which can deliver a low, hollow “twangy” effect. In the summer of 1957, Eddy recorded the instrumental “Moovin’ n’ Groovin.” which he co-wrote with Hazlewood. Since the Phoenix studio could not provide an echo chamber to emphasize the “twangy” guitar sound, they recorded the material in a DIY way; using a 2,000 gallon water storage tank. Infused by Chuck Berry’s “Brown Eyed Handsome Man,” “Movin n’ Groovin’ peaked at #72 on the US chart in 1958. Also in the same year, Eddy had his breakthrough hit with the follow-up “Rebel ‘Rouser.” It gained commercial success nationwide, selling over one million copies and earning a gold disc.

 

The following years, Eddy continued to release hit records which include “Cannonball (#15, 1958), “Peter Gun” (#27, 1959), “Forty Miles of Bad Road” (#9, 1959) and his biggest hit “Because They’re Young” which made to #4 on the US chart in 1960. The single became his second million selling disc. He also made it big in the UK where he was even voted by the NME readers and dethroned Elvis Presley as World’s Number One Musical Personality in 1960. At some point, he and his band members became a part of the Wrecking Crew, a group of studio musicians managed by Phil Spector. In 1960, Eddy started to produce his own material when he was signed to Jamie Records, which caused a brief rivalry between him and Hazlewood.

 

In 1962, Eddy moved to Paul Anka’s production company, Camy (RCA subsidiary) and signed a three-year contract. From there, he issued a single co-written with Hazlewood entitled “(Dance With The) Guitar Man.” It became a big hit, selling a million records and gaining his third gold disc.

During the 1970’s, Eddy was continuously making hits, among of them were “Play Me Like To Play Your Guitar” which entered the UK Top Ten in 1975 and “You Are My Sunshine” which made the country charts in 1977. He also did production work for Phil Everly and Waylon Jennings and also issued his own all-acoustic album, Songs of Our Heritage.

 

Eddy’s later career and legacy to the music industry

After the hiatus, Eddy did a comeback and worked with the English avant-garde synthpop group Art of Noise. Together, they re-recorded and re-released his 1960 hit “Peter Gunn” in 1986.  It became a worldwide hit and a chart-topper as well on Rolling Stone‘s dance chart. The single also earned a Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental. The next year, the album Duane Eddy was released and had been produced by several big names in the music business (Paul McCartney, Ry Cooder, Jeff Lynne and Art of Noise). John Fogerty, George Harrison, Ry Cooder, James Burton, and David Lindley, to name a few, contributed songs for the album. Eddy was finally inducted by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.
As he was the first rock n roll guitarist to have a signature model guitar in 1961, Eddy was given the “Legend Award” by the Guitar Player Magazine where the only recipients were him and Les Paul by that time. In the fall of 2010, Eddy performed at the Royal Festival Hall in London which became a sold-out event. After the success of the concert, he issued the album Road Trip on Mad Monkey/EMI label which was listed by MOJO as one of the Top 50 albums of 2011. Eddy’s most recent performance was in Glastonbury Festival on June 26, 2011.

 

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