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Duane Eddy

Duane Eddy (born April 26, 1938), a successful and influential instrumentalist in Rock and Roll history.


In the early days of Rock and Roll, the notion of the lead guitarist as the charismatic figure in the spotlight was completely novel. Duane Eddy moved the guitar player front and center. Quiet and unassuming offstage, he cut an indelible figure with an electric guitar in his hands. Some say Duane was the first American Rock and Roll hero. His was a classic pose that defined the cool iconography of what it means to be a Rock and Roller.

Early life and education

Born in Corning, New York, in 1938, he began playing at age five, emulating his cowboy hero, Gene Autry. The family moved west to Phoenix, Arizona, in the early 1950s. At 16 Duane quit school, got his first Gretsh guitar and started playing in local clubs. In 1957 Duane met his longtime partner, co-writer and producer, Lee Hazlewood, a local disk jockey. Lee helped Duane get his first recording contract. With Duane on guitar and Lee producing Rebel Rouser reached the Top Ten and went gold in 1958 launching Eddy as a "national star". Together, they created a successful formula based upon Duane's unique approach to his instrument, and Lee's experimental vision in the recording studio, and have been referred to as "one of the greatest hit-making machines of the Rock and Roll era."


As one of the most famous guitarists in the years from 1958 to 1963 Eddy was the man who added a new term to the American music dictionary - TWANG. The sound he created was easily identifiable and uniquely his own. John Fogerty wrote in Rolling Stone that the TWANG floored him. "It was one of those untouchable unique things." Tuning his Chet Atkins-model Gretsch 6120 hollowbody six string down an octave, combining strong, dramatic, single-note melodies on the top strings, while bending the low strings through a combination of echoes, and turning up the tremelo he produced a signature sound that was unlike anything yet heard - the sound that would be featured on an unprecedented string of thirty-four chart singles, fifteen of which made the top fourty and sales of over 100 million worldwide. Early in his career Eddy was interviewed by John Fogerty of Musician magazine about the TWANG. Fogerty called it '"big" both in a sense of it being new and the actual sound qulity itself. Eddy told Fogerty, "I knew we had to have something big... We did go for a big sound. I have to give alot of credit to Lee Hazelwood. He mixed things for AM radio in those days so that they would come rockin out of the radio."

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 Kinda Earthquake. They were filled with rebel yells and brilliant sax breaks. The worldwide popularity of these records, beginning with Moovin' and Groovin' in 1958, broke open the doors for Rock and Roll instrumental music. Dick Clark invited Eddy to appear on American Bandstand, where Duane introduced his next hit Ramrod. By the following Tuesday there were orders for 250,000 and the legend was on his way. 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, and pianist Larry Knechtel, 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.


The early 60's were a blur of touring and recording, with an astonishing amount of work being released. In 1960 Musical Express voted him Number One Pop Personality. In 1962 he split with Lee Hazelwood and started producing on his own. Duane and Lee did team up again in 1962 to produce Dance With The Guitar Man which reached number 12 on the US charts. In the US Duane's popularity waned after 1963 but he remained very popular in England, continued his touring there and lived there for three years. 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 projects, Big Band sounds of the 1940s, and an album of songs written by Bob Dylan, who, years later, would write, "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 60s Eddy launched an acting career, starring in the movie Savage Seven and the television series Have Gun Will Travel.

Album production

The 1970s were equally busy for Duane. He produced album projects for Phil Everly and Waylon Jennings. In 1975 a collaboration with hit songwriter Tony Macaulay led to a worldwide top ten record, Play Me Like You Play Your Guitar. The single record, You Are My Sunshine, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, hit the country charts in 1977.

An amazing group of legendary players hit the road in early 1983, showing up at small, intimate clubs. Friends of Duane's, some old, some new, 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 to Duane's pleasant surprise, Ry Cooder on guitar. Needless to say, this group rocked, and the lines around the blocks and the superb reviews said it all. Duane Eddy was back, and a whole new generation of fans was listening.

In 1986, Duane recorded with Art of Noise, a collaboration that brought a new twist to his 1960 best seller, Peter Gunn. The song was an instant Top Ten hit around the world, ranking #1 on Rolling Stone Magazine's dance chart for six weeks that summer. As further confirmation of it's success, Peter Gunn won The Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental of 1986.

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, a crowd of unbelievable talent came along to be a part of this project. Tracks were produced by Paul McCartney, Jeff Lynne, Ry Cooder, Art of Noise, and Duane. The "band" 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, Duane Eddy's place in our musical history was etched in stone at his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, alongside fellow artists Elton John, Rod Stewart, John Lennon, Bob MarleyThe Grateful Dead. Later that year, film soundtracks introduced Duane Eddy's music to millions as they watched Forrest Gump being chased by a pickup truck full of rednecks, running into his football career to the sound of Rebel Rouser. Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers used The Trembler, a track written by Duane and Ravi Shankar, to help create a spine-chilling scene set against a violent thunderstorm in the desert.

In more recent film work, Duane joined Academy Award winning Hans Zimmer on the soundtrack of Broken Arrow, starring John Travolta. Duane'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". The appeal of this theme, a dark moody piece, caused it to be used, once again, in an altogether different kind of film - director Wes Craven's incredibly successful Scream 2.

2004 began on a high note with the introduction of the new Gibson Duane Eddy Signature Model guitar, built to Duane's specifications by the Gibson Custom Art and Historic Division. Later that year, he was presented with the Guitar Player Magazine "Legend Award, having the distinction of being only the second recipient, the first having been presented to Duane's own guitar hero, the brilliant Les Paul.

Asked by Musician '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.'"


Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Member

Number One Rock and Roll Instrumentalist of All Time Billboard Magazine

Grammy Winner 1986 Best Rock Instrumental Peter Gunn

Grammy Nomination Best Country Instrumental

Guitar Player Magazine Legend Award 2004

Guild DE-500 Signature Guitar 1962

Gretsch Signature Model DE 6120 1997

Gibson Duane Eddy Signature Model Guitar 2004

Further Readings


  • Hardy, Phil and Dave Laing, Encyclopedia of Rock, Schrimner Books, 1987.
  • Rees, Dafydd,and Luke Crampton, Rock Movers & Shakers, ABC-CLIO, 1991.
  • The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll edited by Jon Pareles and Patr Romanowski, Rolling StonePress/Summit Books, 1993.
  • Stambler, Irwin, The Encyclopedia of Pop, Rock and Soul, St.
  • Martin's, 1989.


  • Detroit Free Press, August28. 1970.
  • Detroit News, June 4,1961.
  • Musician, November 1991.

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It uses material from the Wikipedia article - Duane Eddy