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Rock icon in the form of the Arizona sound

Rock icon in the form of the Arizona sound

Duane Eddy was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994 thanks to a career he began in 1958 with the multi-million-selling single “Rebel Rouser.”

The Grammy Award-winning guitarist, the most commercially successful artist in rock 'n' roll history, died peacefully on April 30, surrounded by family members in Franklin, Tennessee.

He was 86 years old.

Born in Corning, New York, and raised in New York State, Eddie moved to Tucson and then to Coolidge, Arizona, with his family when he was a teenager. While living in Coolidge, he met a DJ named Lee Hazelwood, who cut the young guitarist's track “Rebel Rouser” at a studio in Phoenix called Audio Recorders.

“Rebel Rouser” was the third song he and Hazlewood recorded.

How Duane Eddy and Lee Hazlewood made 'Rebel Rouser'

The first was “Soda Fountain Girl,” which was recorded with a friend named Jimmy Delbridge and released in 1955 as a duet of Jimmy and Duane.

In an interview with blogger Simon Knott in 2013, Eddie said of “Soda Fountain Girl,” “The first record Lee Hazlewood produced with Jimmie Dale and me, we sang together when we were 16/17.

By 1957, Eddie was renting a room from Hazlewood in Phoenix and had purchased a distinctive Gretsch “Chet Atkins” hollow-body model at Ziggie's Music when a composition called “Raunchy” reached the top five on two versions at the same time – one by Bill Justis, the other By Ernie Freeman.

As Eddie told The Republic in 2020, “When ‘Raunchy’ became a hit, he said to me, ‘You should go home and write something. “We need to cut a piece of music.”

Eddie recalls that Hazlewood recorded “everyone who could sing a tune by then”.

“He would take them into the studio and send the recording to different independent labels in Los Angeles to try to get a deal,” Eddie said. “I just wanted to play. He said, 'Write a piece of music,' so I did.”

Hazlewood's next session resulted in “Movin' N' Groovin',” a less subtle instrumental rewrite of Chuck Berry's “Brown Eyed Handsome Man.” It failed to set the charts on fire, stalling at No. 72 in early 1958.

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“That was enough to encourage the company to come back east and say, ‘Go do more,’” Eddy told The Republic. “So we went in in March of 1958, and cut ‘Rebel-Rouser.’” “The rest is history, so to speak.”

“Rebel Rouser” was a different matter entirely. Featuring one of rock 'n' roll's seminal riffs, a low, haunting melody swimming in echo, it peaked at No. 6 in 1958, and Eddie followed it up with two Top 10 singles, “Forty Miles of Bad Road” (No. 1). 9) and “Because They're Young” (No. 4) by 1960.

Yes's John Anderson told The Republic that “Rebel-Rouser” was the first song that inspired him to buy a record.

“They're amazing records,” Anderson said. “A lot like Ricky Nelson. Very good. Very clean.”

Eddie went to the top 40 15 times advertisements board Hot 100 and has sold over 100 million records worldwide.

“The first guitar god of rock and roll”

His 1958 debut album, Have 'Twangy' Guitar Will Travel, peaked at No. 5 and spent 82 weeks in the charts. Among his most popular recordings is the theme to “Peter Gunn”, which peaked at No. 27 on the US charts in 1960 but fared better in the UK, where it peaked at No. 6.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame website quotes John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival who described Eddie as “rock and roll's first guitar god.” The Hall of Famer continues to note the influence of Eddy's trademark tone in everything from the Beatles' “Born to Run” (dig the low, sinuous note in “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”).

Eddie moved to California in the late 1960s, but he talked to Republic in 2012 about the role the valley played in shaping the sound of his music.

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How the Arizona desert shaped Duane Eddy's tone

“The vastness and openness of the desert, the feel and smells, have shaped my music,” he said. “I play that way, with big notes and open spaces. I’ve discovered over the years that I’ve been unconsciously influenced by that.”

Few guitarists in the history of rock 'n' roll had a more distinctive trademark than the low tone he captured on those classic instruments he and Hazlewood recorded on Floyd Ramsey's tape recorders in Phoenix.

Much of this is due to Eddie's fondness for low strings on his Gretsch hollowbody, a preference he developed as a teenager in Ramsay's studio when the Caseys couldn't make it.

“Sometimes I would do a little change on the lead guitar if Al wasn't there,” Eddie told The Republic in a 2020 interview.

“That's when I learned that the low strings were much stronger than the high strings. So I noted that in my mind and then revisited that idea when I started making my own recordings.”

What other characteristic made those early musical classics so recognizable by Duane Eddy?

This included a road trip to a junkyard on the banks of the Salt River, where Hazlewood found the echo he was looking for in an empty water tank that they had restored and set up as a makeshift echo chamber in the parking lot behind the studio.

“They dropped it right there on the shelf,” Eddie told The Republic. “They put a speaker at one end and a microphone at the other, and the speaker would come out, spin through the tank and the microphone would pick it up at the other end, and we'd have an echo. It was great.”

Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys is a huge fan of Duane Eddy.

“You take this instrument that everyone has,” he told The Republic in 2022. “You can go into a store and buy it. But no one can pick it up and make a sound like that except Duane Eddy. That's the rarest of abilities as a player.” A musician, to take this inanimate object and give it a unique, recognizable sound.”

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Although Eddie's hits dried up after “Boss Guitar” reached No. 28 in 1963, he played guitar on Art of Noise's version of the theme to “Peter Gunn”, a UK Top 10 hit in 1986 A year later, The Legend's debut album appeared in nearly a decade with guest appearances by Fogerty, George Harrison, James Burton, Ry Cooder, and Steve Cropper (of Booker T. & MG), speaking to the lasting influence of those early recordings.

Published in 2004, The Rolling Stone Album Guide summarizes the guitarist's pioneering role in the early development of rock and roll.

“Twang is the word most associated with guitar legend Duane Eddy,” the entry began.

“And that sound certainly sums up his recording personality best. But Eddie wasn't all low-register tunes, liberal vibrato and the ubiquitous whammy bar. His instrumentation was authentic musical exercises – and there was only the vocalist. He performed this The emphasis on song construction separated Eddie from inspired 1950s proto-primalists like Link Wray and set the standard for rock instrumentals that flourished in the 1960s when the Ventures came on the scene, and later with the advent of surf music.

Eddie always looked back fondly on his days in Phoenix, where he worked with Hazlewood on sound recorders.

“This is where it all happened for me,” he told The Republic in 2020. “And for me.”

Eddie is survived by his wife, Dade, four children, five grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren.

Rebel voice: How an Arizona legend paved his way into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with a junkyard discovery

Reach the reporter at [email protected] Or 602-444-4495. Follow him on X (formerly Twitter) @Ed Masley.

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