Guitar Virtuoso Duane Eddy Passes at 86, Leaving a Twangy Legacy


Strumming the last chord in life’s concert, Duane Eddy, the virtuoso guitarist behind the tremulous twangs of “Rebel Rouser” and “Peter Gunn,” bid adieu to the mortal realm at 86, succumbing to the vile clasp of cancer. The Williamson Health Hospital in Franklin, Tennessee, witnessed the extinguishing of this bright light on a gloomy Tuesday, as confirmed by his wife, Deed Abbate.

Demonstrating unmatched mastery over raucous rhythms, Eddy defied traditional norms, making the bass strings of his guitar the star of his records – a quirky trait that saw more than a 100 million records flying off the shelves worldwide. His auditory signature, unique and identifiable, was intentionally crafted to deviate from a technical norm and was centered around evoking exceptional vibrations that touched countless hearts.

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Speaking to The Associated Press in 1986, the humble artist downplayed his technical expertise, stating, “I just sell the best. A lot of guys are more skillful than I am with the guitar. A lot of it is over my head. But some of it is not what I want to hear out of the guitar.”

The word “Twang” became synonymous with Eddy’s style, making itself at home in his first album “Have Twangy Guitar Will Travel”, and echoing through to his 1993 box set, “Twang Thang: The Duane Eddy Anthology”. Despite the initial amusement, Eddy grew fond of the moniker, confessing to the AP in 1993 that it held a sentimental value for him.

Eddy watermarked his influential presence in the music world by gaining entry into the esteemed Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994. The 1950s were an exploratory field for Eddy and producer Lee Hazlewood, giving birth to the “Twang” sound that later became an iconic feature of Nancy Sinatra’s 1960s hit “These Boots Are Made for Walkin.’”

Eddy left an enduring legacy of more than 50 albums, some of them reissues. The allure of work faded in the 1980s, with Eddy choosing a quieter life of reaping the benefits of his royalties. Discussing “Rebel Rouser”, Eddy reminisced, “It was different for the time.”

His artistic knack extended to scoring theme music for films such as “Because They’re Young,” “Pepe”, and “Gidget Goes Hawaiian.” Notably, he declined the opportunity to score the James Bond theme song for its lack of guitar music.

Eddy’s journey into the world of twang began in Corning, New York. Growing up in Phoenix, he became acquainted with the guitar at age five, sparking a lifelong passion. His career soared as he signed with Jamie Records of Philadelphia in 1958, followed by the release of “Rebel Rouser”. Eddy enjoyed his twilight years in semi-retirement in Lake Tahoe, California, before moving to Nashville in 1985.

Renowned for his instrumental abilities, he jokingly credited his contribution to music as not singing. His remarkable talent captivated even the likes of Paul McCartney and George Harrison, post-Beatles era. Both artists had the privilege of recording with the legend, marking another impressive milestone in his career.