Duane Eddy was born in 1938 in Corning, New York. He began playing guitar at age five and wanted to be the next Gene Autry. His family moved to Arizona when Duane was 13 and he grew up there listening to Chet Atkins. Duane hung around the local radio station and became friendly with a disc jockey, called Lee Hazelwood. Together they started to create a distinctive sound based on Eddy's twangy guitar play and Lee's talented recording ability. Duane combined strong, dramatic, single-note melodies with a blend of the low strings, using echo, vibrato bar (Bigsby), and tremolo,. Together they manufactured an instant signature sound never heard before. Lee perfected the techniques for AM radio which meant the music was ideal for the medium. The music of Duane Eddy contain elements of country, blues, jazz and gospel all infused into rock’n’roll music with saxophone breaks and the occasional rebel yell. His first recording Movin’ and Groovin’ (1958) established instrumental rock’n’roll and his next single, "Rebel Rouser," established him as an international star.
The Rebels, were Duane’s backing band and made up of saxophonists, Steve Douglas and Jim Horn, pianist Steve Douglas, and guitarist Al Casey (pop guitarist). These musicians would later become members of the famous "Wrecking Crew" who worked with Phil Spector. Duane’s raunchy music was very much stylised by Steve Douglas’s sax solos. In the early sixties the hits kept coming and Duane went onto have a memorable list of successes with arguably his best effort, the movie theme tune for the movie "Because They're Young." .
His last top ten hit was Dance with the Guitar Man which came in 1962.
Duane doggedly refused to change his musical style and the popularity of the British Invasion meant by the mid 60s Duane’s commercial appeal was over. He continued to record and produce intermittently over the next two of decades. In 1975, Duane collaborated with Tony Macaulay and Keith Potger (The Seekers) which gave them a top ten hit with "Play Me Like You Play Your Guitar".
In 1986, Art of Noise built their "Peter Gunn" hit around Duanes’ contributions.
A year later Duane made a self titled album called Duane Eddy with several of the tracks were produced by: Paul McCartney, Jeff Lynn, and Ry Cooder. The album featured contributions from: John Fogerty, George Harrison, Paul McCartney, Ry Cooder, James Burton, David Lindley, Steve Cropper, and original Rebels, Larry Knechtel and Jim Horn.
Duane Eddy influenced many other musicians including the Hank Marvin (Shadows), George Harrison, Dave Davis (Kinks), The Ventures, John Entwistle (The Who), Bruce Springsteen, Adrian Belew, Bill Nelson (Bebop Delux), Mark Knopfler and Brian Johnson. Wilson even used the opening riff from "Movin' and Groovin'," to start "Surfin' U.S.A."
Duane Eddy appeared in several movies including: Because they’re young (1960), A Thunder of Drums (1961), The Wild Westerners (1962), Kona Coast (1968), The Savage Seven (1968), and two appearances on the television series Have Gun — Will Travel, as well as performing the theme tune.
In 2004 Gibson introduced a Duane Eddy Signature Model guitar, built to Eddy’s specifications by the Gibson Custom Art and Historic Division.
His first signature guitar was made by Guild Guitars when they introduced in 1960, the Duane Eddy Models DE-400 and the deluxe DE-500. A limited edition of the DE-500 model was reissued briefly in 1983 to mark Duane's 25th anniversary in the recording industry. The Gretsch "Chet Atkins 6120" model had long been associated with Eddy. In 1997, Gretsch Guitars started production of the Duane Eddy Signature Model, DE-6120.
Worth a listen:
Movin' N' Groovin (1958)
Rebel Rouser (1958)
Because they’re young (1960)
Peter Gunn (1960)
Theme of Dixie (1961)
Ring of Fire (1961)
Deep in the heart of Texas (1962)
The ballad of Paladin (1962)
Dance with the guitar man (1962)
Boss guitar (1963)