Duane Eddy Biography

26 April 1938, Corning, New York, USA. The legendary simple ‘twangy’ guitar sound of Duane Eddy has made him one of rock ‘n’ roll’s most famous instrumental artists. The sound was created after hearing Bill Justis’ famous ‘Raunchy’ (the song that George Harrison first learned to play). Together with producer Lee Hazlewood, Eddy co-wrote a deluge of hits mixed with versions of standards, using the bass strings of his Gretsch guitar recorded through an echo chamber. The debut ‘Movin’ ‘N’ Groovin’’ made the lower end of the US chart, and for the next six years Eddy repeated this formula with greater success. His backing group, the Rebel Rousers was a tight, experienced band with a prominent saxophone sound played by Jim Horn and Steve Douglas, completed by pianist Larry Knechtel. Among their greatest hits were ‘Rebel-Rouser’, ‘Shazam’, ‘Peter Gunn’, ‘The Ballad Of Paladin’ and ‘Theme From Dixie’. The latter was a variation on the Civil War standard written in 1860. One of Eddy’s most memorable hits was the superlative theme music for the film Because They’re Young, brilliantly combining his bass notes with evocative strings. The song has been used by UK disc jockey Johnny Walker as his theme music for over 25 years and this classic still sounds fresh. Eddy’s ‘(Dance With The) Guitar Man’ was another major hit, which was unusual for the fact that the song had lyrics, sung by a female group. Eddy’s albums played heavily on the use of ‘twang’ in the title, but that was exactly what the fans wanted.

The hits dried up in 1964 at the dawn of the Beatles’ invasion, and for many years his sound was out of fashion. An attempt in the contemporary market was lambasted with Duane Goes Dylan. Apart from producing Phil Everly’s excellent Star Spangled Springer in 1973, Eddy travelled the revival circuit, always finding a small but loyal audience in the UK. Tony Macaulay wrote ‘Play Me Like You Play Your Guitar’ for him in 1975, and after more than a decade he was back in the UK Top 10. He slipped back into relative obscurity but returned to the charts in 1986 when he was flattered to be asked to play with the electro-synthesizer band Art Of Noise, all the more complimentary was that it was his song, ‘Peter Gunn’. The following year Jeff Lynne produced his first album for many years, being joined by Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ry Cooder, all paying tribute to the man who should have legal copyright on the word ‘twang’.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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