DUANE EDDY HAS something only the greatest guitarists can claim: an instantly identifiable sound. The word twangy was coined to brand his sonic signature way back in the 1950s, and the tag has stuck ever since, thanks to its repetition in album titles like Have ‘Twangy’ Guitar Will Travel and The ‘Twang’s’ the ‘Thang.’ Remarkably, a record company executive rejected his first single for “sounding like somebody trying to string telephone wire across the Grand Canyon” — which is a pretty cool description of Eddy’s magic. Awarded Guitar Player’s Legend award in 2004, Eddy was just the second recipient of the prize, beaten only by Les Paul the previous year. In the years before and since he’s enjoyed no shortage of justly deserved accolades. With one of the longest careers in rock and roll, Duane Eddy is a living legend.
Since scoring his first hit back in 1958 with “Movin’ ’n’ Groovin’,” Eddy has chalked up numerous successes in the intervening 62 years, with no sign of slowing down. Bringing things right up to date, he got considerable airplay in 2020 with “Mendocino,” Jeremy Feltzer’s evocative spaghetti-western flavored instrumental, which spotlights the inimitable sounds of his Gretsch 6120. Eddy has a solid global fan base and regularly tours the world; his U.K.-based fan club, the Duane Eddy Circle, has been running since the ’70s and still holds an annual convention. Eddy has had periods when chart success eluded him as trends changed, but the mark of a true artist is the ability to maintain the thing that makes them special, regardless of favor and fashion.
For Eddy, continuing to do what he does best has brought collaborations with a vast array of artists and self-confessed fans, including Paul McCartney, John Fogerty, and Jeff Lynne. He has his own theory about how he’s maintained such a long-running career. “I think it’s important to be prepared to take a chance and do something oddball or off the wall,” he says. “My hit with Art of Noise in the ’80s [a remake of his signature tune “Peter Gunn”] was a good example of that. I’ve played on some unlikely things over the years, such as ‘Rock and Roll Lullaby with B.J. Thomas. I even played music behind a cowboy poet once while he recited his poetry at rodeos. You have to be unafraid. Fear not and forward blunder!”
Anyone who’s seen Eddy onstage in recent years will know that he is still delivering the goods and never tires of playing those timeless classics. “There was a period, Duane Eddy with his Gretsch G6120DE signature guitar a long time ago when I got bored and couldn't think of any fresh ideas,” he admits, “but I worked my way through that and got myself on track again. I’ve been very lucky,I think. I didn’t have anything else that I could do anyway, except maybe mow a lawn.” He laughs. “I tried producing and publishing and neither one was satisfying, so I went back to being an artist.”
“MOVIN’ ’N’ GROOVIN’”
DUANE EDDY, HAVE TWANGY GUITAR WILL TRAVEL (1958)
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