Duane Eddy is best known for his twangy guitar and had a number of instrumental hits in the late 50's and early 60's. He is known as one of the top rock instrumental artists ever.He was born in Corning, New York in 1938 and was playing the guitar by the time he was five years old. As a teenager he moved with his family to Arizona, eventually arriving in Phoenix in 1955. Local Phoenix disc jockey/music promoter Lee Hazlewood liked his work and the two began a long professional association. The two men worked to induce a new concept into Duane's guitar playing that came to be known as his twangy guitar. Duane has used a red Gretsch guitar for so many years that it has become his trademark. The single-note melodies, strong and dramatic, would be combined with a blending of the bass strings with the sound amplified to produce the unique sound. A recording contract was arranged with Dick Clark's Jamie label and Duane's second single, Rebel-'Rouser, proved to be one of his biggest hits ever. All of the ingredients for a hit song came together on Rebel-'Rouser: rebel yells and handclaps in the background furnished by the Rivingtons, a new sound, and of course the twangy guitar. It reached number six on the charts and established Duane Eddy in the minds of the record-buying public in 1958. He was twenty years old. Duane Eddy followed his initial success with fourteen more top forty hits from 1958 to 1963, most of which were instrumentals. He had some excellent session musicians in his backup band, the Rebels, including Larry Knechtel on piano and Jim Horn and Steve Douglas on sax. Forty Miles Of Bad Road went top ten in 1959. The following year Duane appeared in a movie with Dick Clark titled Because They're Young, and the title song recorded by Duane on Jamie was his biggest hit ever at number four. He began working on songs from television shows, such as the theme from Peter Gunn, and movies such as the title track from Pepe. A group known as the Rebels began to tour with Dick Clark's rock-and-roll shows, and it included Al Casey, Steve Douglas, and Larry Knechtel [Knechtel would later be with the group Bread]. Duane Eddy also recorded the theme from another popular television show, The Ballad Of Paladin from Have Gun - Will Travel. More movies also followed: A Thunder Of Drums, The Wild Westerners, The Savage Seven and Kona Coast. In 1962 Duane switched from Jamie to the RCA label and he married teenaged Phoenix singer/songwriter Jessi Colter. The marriage lasted until 1968; the following year Jessi married Waylon Jennings and later had a top ten song of her own with I'm Not Lisa in the 70's. Duane switched again from RCA to the Colpix label. Duane Eddy is a quiet, unassuming, kind person who takes his music very seriously. He has charted with 34 singles and has worldwide record sales in excess of 100 million. His phenomenal guitar playing and hard work are a large part of the reason for his success. He also acknowledges the studio genius of Lee Hazlewood. Duane's instrumentals include rebel yells and some terrific sax breaks. His music incorporates country, blues, jazz and Gospel to produce his unique sound. Some of the titles are as much fun as the music -- Cannonball, Shazam, Some Kinda' Earthquake, and The Lonely One. Some of those who have played with him, including sax players Steve Douglas and Jim Horn and keyboard player Larry Knechtel, have been heard on hundreds of records and spent a lot of time as session musicians with Phil Spector in the 60's. Duane has always been very popular in the U.K. In 1973 he produced an album that was recorded by Phil Everley. In the 70's he had some top ten songs on the U.K. charts, and worked with artists such as Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, besides continuing his association with Lee Hazlewood. His number twenty-seven song from 1960, Peter Gunn, was re-done by Duane along with the British group The Art Of Noise in the 80's. It is a group that Eddy admires. Peter Gunn won the Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental of 1986.
In 1987 Duane Eddy was joined by some of the top names of the rock-and-roll era when he released his album Duane Eddy on Capitol. Among those who produced tracks were Paul McCartney, Jeff Lynne, Art of Noise, Ry Cooder, and of course Duane himself. Other contributors included John Fogerty, George Harrison, David Lindley, Steve Cropper, James Burton and original Rebels Larry Knechtel and Jim Horn.
And Duane Eddy continued his work in movies. A new generation of music fans heard Duane for the first time when his Rebel 'Rouser was played in the movie Forrest Gump as Forrest ran across a football field after being chased by a pick-up truck loaded with rednecks. In the film Natural Born Killers, Oliver Stone used Duane's The Trembler to help set the tone in a scene involving a raging thunderstorm in the desert. Duane worked with Academy Award winning composer Hans Zimmer on the soundtrack of Broken Arrow, which starred John Travolta; it is Duane's voice that is used for the villain's theme. It was used again in the horror movie Scream 2.
Gretsch Guitars in Georgia has reissued the exact guitar that Duane had made to his specifications, the Duane Eddy Signature Model 6120 on which the twang had first been heard when Duane was starting out. Duane is regarded by many as the top rock-and-roll instrumentalist of all time. He still tours with oldies shows and lives with his wife Deed near Nashville.
Duane Eddy took his place in the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame in 1994.
Return to Rock-and-Roll Page.
Return to Home Page.
Send email to the author, Tom Simon firstname.lastname@example.org.