Duane Eddy: Rolling Stone's #64 of 100 Greatest Guitarists

Duane Eddy

Duane Eddy
Born: April 26, 1938
Corning, New York, U.S.
Occupation: Musician, actor, composer
Genres: Instrumental, rockabilly, rock and roll, rock-country
Instruments: Guitar
Years active: 1954–present

Rolling Stone ranks Duane Eddy number 64 of the 100 Greatest Guitarists. His hit, "Rebel Rouser," is among the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museums  500 Songs that Shaped Rock & Roll. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994 and the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in 2008 with the second group so honored.

In 1938, Duane Eddy was born in Corning, New York. He started playing guitar at five years old. In 1951, his family moved to Arizona. At sixteen years-old, he obtained a Chet Atkins model Gretsch guitar and formed a duo, Jimmy and Duane, with his friend Jimmy Delbridge. While performing at local radio station KCKY, they met disc jockey Lee Hazlewood. 

Godfather of Surf Music

Duane Eddy co-wrote his first single, "Moovin' n' Groovin'," with Lee Hazlewood. The song is often cited as the first true example of Surf music because The Beach Boys borrowed the opening riff for their tune "Surfin' Safari." Eddy told Spinner magazine,

Duane Eddy kneeling in checkered suit jacket black and white publicity photo
Duane Eddy

"Yeah, they used it and I never cared. That's just music, sharing little bits of melody and all, no big deal. You know, Bobby Darin asked me about using the title, Moovin' 'N' Groovin', in his song 'Splish Splash.' No problem, I told him."


Godfather of Twang

In March of 1958,  at a studio in Phoenix,  Duane Eddy recorded "Rebel Rouser." A large water tank was repurposed as his 'echo chamber.' With a speaker at one end of the tank and a microphone at the other, Eddy piped in the guitar "twang."  The guitarist recalled to Mojo magazine November 2010, 

"We were recording in Phoenix, starting my first album, and one of the guys said, 'Man, that guitar sounds twangy.' And Lester Sill fell down laughing. He'd never heard that word and it became a running joke. 'Is that twangy enough?' 


Lee Hazlewood and his partner Lester Sill took Eddy's "twangy" track and overdubbed a sax break. They added hand claps and "rebel yells" by the Sharps, a black vocal group who later became the Rivingtons and had hits with "Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow" and "The Bird's the Word." Eddy's first album was titled Have Twangy Guitar Will Travel and, in the summer of 1958, "Rebel-Rouser" reached number six on Billboard's Hot 100. 

 

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