Duane Eddy – The Man Behind The Riff
This eternally resonant low-note guitar riff has launched many hits. The world can also thank Duane Eddy for making it happen! Because of him, many timeless hits with this riff have paved the path for rock n roll music. He’s known for his pioneering attitude towards instrumental rock guitar music in the late 1950s and early 1960s. And he’s also responsible for one of rock music’s elemental sounds known as “twang”. Likewise, you can look up “twang” on the internet, you’ll see Duane Eddy’s name and picture next to it. Just Kidding! But that’s how important he is in rock music. Even more, he’s has 15 Top 40 hits between 1958 and 1963 under his belt.
A Career Playing Instrumental Music
While some ponder if you can make a career just performing instrumental music, Yes, is the answer you should hear. There are plenty of musicians that make a lucrative amount of money performing instrumentals. Look how many years Lawrence Welk was on television with his orchestra, Henry Mancini, Herb Alpert, Booker T & The MG’s, Percy Faith and many more!
You can also add Duane Eddy to this list. By 1963, he had sold 12 million records. Going forward, it has to be over more than a 100 million since. Plus, he’s still considered one of the most successful instrumentalists in rock history.
The Early Beginnings
Taking up guitar at the age of five, Eddy quits high school to pursue a career in music. At sixteen, he forms the duo “Jimmy and Duane” with school friend Jimmy Delbridge. During a performance at a local radio station, they meet disc jockey Lee Hazlewood, who produces a single for them in 1955 called “Soda Fountain Girl”. During this time, the duo is also performing all kinds of local gigs and radio performances. Shortly after, they join “Buddy Long’s Western Melody Boys”, playing country music in and around the city.
Eddy who is a devotee of Hazelwood’s eccentric radio show begins dropping by the show to rid the station of its excess country records. Lee befriends Duane, and they begin fleshing out songs that Lee had written and records them at a local studio. In 1957, Lee gives up dj-ing for writing and producing full-time when he accepts a job as staff producer with Dot Records. After a while, he returns to Phoenix as an independent producer. Under Hazelwood’s tutelage, Eddy develops the simple but evocative twang sound from his own Chet Atkins-influenced guitar style.
How You Get Things Done!
Together they record a long string of hit instrumentals, beginning with “Rebel-Rouser” (1958), which, features the raunchy, tenor saxophone of Steve Douglas. Among Eddy’s other hits are “Ramrod,” “The Lonely One,” “Peter Gunn,” and the theme for the film “Because They’re Young” and others.
In November 1957, Eddy records an instrumental, “Movin’ n’ Groovin’”, co-written by Eddy and Hazlewood. As the Phoenix studio had no echo chamber, Hazlewood buys a 2,000-gallon (7570-litre) water storage tank that he uses as an echo chamber to accentuate the “twangy” guitar sound. And yes, that’s how things got done back then!
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