Duane Eddy, Whose Twang Changed Rock ’n’ Roll, Dies at 86

Duane Eddy, who broke new ground in pop music in the 1950s with a reverberating, staccato guitar style that became known as twang, died Tuesday in Franklin, Tennessee. He was 86 years old.

The cause of his death at a hospital was complications from cancer, said his wife, Deed (Abbate) Eddy.

Mr. Eddy enjoyed enormous success as a strictly instrumental artist in the late 1950s and 1960s, selling millions of records worldwide with rumbling, echo-laden hits like “Rebel Rouser.” and “Forty Miles of Bad Road.” In doing so, he played a major role in establishing the electric guitar as the predominant musical instrument in rock ‘n’ roll.

Mr. Eddy influenced a host of rock guitarists, including George Harrison, Jimi Hendrix and Bruce Springsteen, whose swooping guitar lines on “Born to Run” pay homage to Mr. Eddy’s muscular vocals.

“Duane Eddy was the leader, the first rock and roll guitar god,” John Fogerty, founding singer and guitarist of Creedence Clearwater Revival, said on the Rhino Records website.

Mr. Eddy, self-taught, crafted his rhythmic melodicism by playing the lead lines of his recordings on the bass strings of his guitar and making liberal use of the vibrato bar. He never learned to read or compose music, but he had a strong ear for pop expressions, including country, jazz, and rhythm and blues.

He also had a gift for studio experimentation; at one point, he brought a 2,000-gallon tank of water to a session and placed a speaker inside to simulate the effects of an echo chamber.

“I like to explore different textures on tracks in the studio and different arrangement ideas,” Mr. Eddy said in a 2013 interview with Guitar Player magazine, which awarded him its Legend Award in 2004.

“For me,” Mr. Eddy continued, “it’s not just about playing the instrument, it’s also about making a record. I guess a better way to explain it is to say that I don’t write or arrange songs as such. Instead, I think it’s writing or arranging recordings. My sound is the common denominator that pulls all the threads and ties them together.

Easily recognizable, Mr. Eddy’s signature guitar approach accounted for 15 Top 40 pop hits from 1958 to 1963. “Because They’re Young,” a string-sweetened record, appeared on the soundtrack of the 1960 film of the same name that starred Dick Clark and Tuesday Weld.

“Cannonball,” a jaunty instrumental that reached the Top 20 pop chart in the United States and the Top 10 in Britain in 1958, and “(Dance With the) Guitar Man,” a 1962 hit that featured a band female vocal on the chorus. “The Ballad of Paladin,” a loping instrumental, was used as the theme for the CBS television series “Have Gun – Will Travel.”

Most of Mr. Eddy’s early recordings were made with producer and songwriter Lee Hazlewood and released on the Philadelphia-based Jamie Records label. The Rebels, his backing band, included several members of the famous West Coast studio collective known as the Wrecking Crew, which included guitarist Al Casey, saxophonists Jim Horn and Plas Johnson, and keyboardist and bassist Larry Knechtel.

Most of Mr. Eddy’s albums from the late 1950s and early 1960s incorporated some version of the word “twang” in their titles.

Mr. Eddy was born on April 26, 1938, in Corning, New York, a small town in the south-central part of the state, and began playing guitar at age 5. His father, Lloyd, drove a bread truck and later managed a Safeway grocery store. His mother, Alberta Evelyn (Granger) Eddy, managed the household. The family moved to Tucson, Arizona, when Duane was 13, then to Phoenix, where he met Mr. Hazlewood and where they began their musical partnership.

Duane acquired his first custom Gretsch guitar, a Chet Atkins model, at the age of 16. He made his first recordings – as one half of the duo Jimmy and Duane, with pianist Jimmy Delbridge (who later recorded under the name Jimmy Dell) – the next year.

In 1957, Mr. Eddy began touring as a guitarist with Dick Clark’s Caravan of Stars, and he began releasing recordings under his own name soon after.

Mr Eddy and Mr Hazlewood separated following a contract dispute in the late 1960s, but they later reunited to work on projects. Mr. Eddy quickly signed with RCA.

Hit singles had stopped being released by the mid-1960s, but Mr. Eddy continued to release instrumental albums, including “Duane Does Dylan,” a collection of covers of songs written by Bob Dylan.

The rockabilly revival over the next decade led to renewed interest in Mr. Eddy’s work. The 1970s also saw Mr. Eddy produce albums by Phil Everly and Waylon Jennings, whose widow, Jessi Colter, was married to Mr. Eddy from 1962 to 1968.

Mr. Eddy’s music was introduced to another generation of fans in the 1980s, when British synth-pop group Art of Noise released an avant-disco version of their hit 1960 version of “Peter Gunn” by ‘Henry Mancini, with Mr. Eddy on lead guitar. He won a Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance in 1987.

Mr. Eddy was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1994, the same year his hit original recording of “Rebel Rouser” appeared in the movie “Forrest Gump.” “The Trembler,” a track he wrote with Ravi Shankar, was featured in the 1994 Oliver Stone film, “Natural Born Killers.” He was also inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame in Nashville in 2008.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Eddy is survived by three children, Linda Jones and Chris Eddy, from his first marriage to Carol Puckett, and Jennifer Eddy Davis, from his marriage to Ms. Colter; a sister, Elaine Scarborough; five grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren.

Unlike many instrumentalists, Mr. Eddy said, he never seriously considered expanding his musical resume to include singing.

Elaborating on the subject in Guitar Player in 2013, he recalled an interview with Conan O’Brien in which he was asked: “Duane, you’ve been in this business for many years now; What do you consider to be your greatest contribution to music? » He replied: “I don’t sing. »

“I never felt like I had a good singing voice,” he continued. “When I was young, it frustrated me a lot, so I used it on the guitar.”

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News Source : www.nytimes.com


With a penchant for words, Eleon Smith began writing at an early age. As editor-in-chief of his high school newspaper, he honed his skills telling impactful stories. Smith went on to study journalism at Columbia University, where he graduated top of his class.After interning at the New York Times, Smith landed a role as a news writer. Over the past decade, he has covered major events like presidential elections and natural disasters. His ability to craft compelling narratives that capture the human experience has earned him acclaim.Though writing is his passion, Eleon also enjoys hiking, cooking and reading historical fiction in his free time. With an eye for detail and knack for storytelling, he continues making his mark at the forefront of journalism.
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