DUANE EDDY - In early 1954, in Coolidge, Arizona, Eddy met local disc
jockey, Lee Hazlewood, who would become his longtime partner, co-writer and
producer. They moved to Phoenix and together created a successful formula based
upon Eddy's unique style and approach to the guitar, and Lee's experimental
vision with sound in the recording studio, and have been referred to as “one of
the greatest hit-making machines of the Rock and Roll era.” His first album,
Have Twangy Guitar Will Travel, contained six hit singles, and remained on the
charts for an astounding 82 weeks. Later in his career, Eddy was interviewed by
John Fogerty for Musician magazine about his style. Fogerty called it '"big"
both in a sense of it being new and the actual sound quality itself. Eddy told
Fogerty, "I knew we had to have something big, we did go for a big sound. I have
to give a lot of credit to Lee Hazlewood. He mixed things for AM radio in those
days so that they would come rockin out of the radio."
Eddy introduced a unique, twangy sound to rock and roll guitar. As John Fogerty
wrote in Rolling Stone about his style, "His sound is one of those untouchable,
unique things...Duane Eddy was the front guy...the first real guitar god in rock
& roll." Combining strong, dramatic, single-note melodies, the bending of the
low strings, and a combination of echo, vibrato bar (Bigsby), and tremolo, he
produced a signature sound that was unlike anything that has been heard - the
sound that would be featured on an unprecedented string of thirty four chart
singles, fifteen of which made the top forty and sales of over 100 million
Elements of country, blues, jazz and Gospel infused his instrumentals. They had
evocative titles like, "Rebel Rouser", "Forty Miles of Bad Road", "Cannonball",
"The Lonely One", "Shazam", and "Some Kind-a Earthquake" (which has the
distinction of being the shortest song to ever break into the Top 40, clocking
in at 1:17). They were filled with rebel yells and saxophone breaks. The
worldwide popularity of these records, beginning with Moovin' and Groovin’ in
1958, broke open the doors for Rock and Roll instrumental music. His band, The
Rebels, featured musicians who were to become some of the world's best-known
session players. Sax players Steve Douglas and Jim Horn, pianist Larry Knechtel,
and guitarist Al Casey, have been heard on hundreds of hit records, becoming
members of the famous "Wrecking Crew" of Phil Spector in the 1960s, and touring
with a very elite group of artists through the years.
On January 9, 1959, Eddy’s debut album, Have Twangy Guitar Will Travel, was
released, reaching #5, and remaining on the album charts for an unprecedented 82
weeks. In 1960, the UK's "New Musical Express" voted him World's Number One
Musical Personality, ousting Elvis Presley from his long held position. That
same year, he appeared in and recorded the theme for the movie Because They're
Young. The song became Eddy's biggest success, peaking at #4. "Rebel 'Rouser"
peaked at #6, and "Forty Miles Of Bad Road" peaked at #9 in 1958 and 1959,
Eddy constantly broke new ground, producing over 25 albums spanning a broad
range of themes. At the height of the Rock and Roll era, he recorded an album of
completely acoustic music, Songs Of Our Heritage, the first "unplugged" project,
so to speak. There were orchestral albums, Big Band sounds of the 1940s, and an
album of songs written by Bob Dylan, who, years later, would write in his
biography, Chronicle, “For sure my lyrics had struck nerves that had never been
struck before, but if my songs were just about the words, then what was Duane
Eddy, the great rock and roll guitarist, doing recording an album full of
instrumental melodies of my songs?”
During the 1960s Eddy launched an acting career, appearing in the films A
Thunder of Drums, The Wild Westerners, Kona Coast, The Savage Seven, and two
appearances on the television series Have Gun — Will Travel.
The 1970s were equally busy for Eddy. He produced album projects for Phil Everly
and Waylon Jennings. In 1975, a collaboration with hit songwriter Tony Macaulay
and former founding member of The Seekers, Keith Potger, led to a worldwide top
ten record, "Play Me Like You Play Your Guitar". The single, "You Are My
Sunshine", featuring Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, hit the country charts
In 1983, Duane toured with a group of legendary musicians, playing small,
intimate clubs. Friends of Eddy's had put this band together wanting to give the
fans a chance to hear him in a unique setting - Don Randi on keyboards, Hal
Blaine on drums, Steve Douglas on sax, and Ry Cooder on guitar.
In 1986, Eddy recorded with Art of Noise, a collaboration that brought a
contemporary edge to his 1960 best selling version of Henry Mancini's Peter
Gunn. The song was a Top Ten hit around the world, ranking #1 on Rolling Stone
Magazine's dance chart for six weeks that summer. "Peter Gunn" won The Grammy
for Best Rock Instrumental of 1986. It also gave Eddy the distinction of being
the only instrumentalist to have had Top 10 hit singles in four different
decades in Great Britain.
The following year, a new album, the self-titled, Duane Eddy, was released on
Capitol. As a tribute to his influence and inspiration to so many young players,
some of the world's best known artists and producers wanted to be a part of this
project. Several of the tracks were produced by Paul McCartney, Jeff Lynne, Ry
Cooder, and Art of Noise. Guest artists and musicians included John Fogerty,
George Harrison, Paul McCartney, Ry Cooder, James Burton, David Lindley, Steve
Cropper, and original Rebels, Larry Knechtel and Jim Horn.
In the spring of 1994, Eddy was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,
alongside fellow artists Elton John, Rod Stewart, John Lennon, Bob Marley and
The Grateful Dead. Later that year, film soundtracks introduced Eddy's music to
millions as they watched Forrest Gump being chased by a pickup truck full of
rednecks as he runs across a football field to the sound of "Rebel Rouser".
Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers used "The Trembler", a track written by Eddy
and Ravi Shankar, to help create a spine-chilling scene set against a violent
thunderstorm in the desert.
In 1996, Eddy joined Academy Award winning composer Hans Zimmer on the
soundtrack of Broken Arrow, starring John Travolta. Eddy’s unique guitar sound
was first choice to be the “voice” for the villain’s theme. To quote Mr. Zimmer,
"I always thought that Duane's style was being ripped off by the spaghetti
westerns. This time I got the real thing." This piece was also used as a
recurring theme in Wes Craven's hit film, Scream 2.
In spring, 1997, Eddy was inducted into the Rockwalk, placing his handprints and
signature into cement, along with his friends Chet Atkins, Scotty Moore, and
In 2004 the new Gibson Duane Eddy Signature Model guitar was introduced. It was
built to Eddy’s specifications by the Gibson Custom Art and Historic Division.
Later that year, he was presented with the Guitar Player Magazine "Legend
Award". Eddy was the second recipient of the award, the first having been
presented to Eddy's own guitar hero, Les Paul.
Asked by Musician magazine how he felt about influencing generations of
musicians, Eddy commented that it "is an unexpected bonus. It makes me feel more
important than I otherwise would. It's a confirmation, many years later, that it
was the right thing. And we had no way of knowing at the time. We got
confirmation in the fact that the records were hits. That's the first big joy.
But after it dies down, then suddenly somebody comes along and says, 'You
started me in the business.'" Among those who openly acknowledge his influence
are George Harrison, Dave Davies (The Kinks), Hank Marvin (The Shadows), The
Ventures, John Entwistle (The Who), Bruce Springsteen, Adrian Belew, Bill
Nelson (Bebop Deluxe), and Mark Knopfler.
Muriel Anderson's All Star Guitar Night benefits the
Music For Life Alliance