Duane Eddy, rock and roll pioneer and “first guitar God,” dies at 86

John Fogerty said of him that he had been “the first God of the guitar”, and he was right: with his sharp, minimalist sound and the subtle rattle of songs by like ‘Rebel Rouser’, ‘Ramrod’ and ‘Cannonball’, Duane Eddy laid the foundations for the vibrant, strident rock and roll that was allergic to gymnastic exhibitionism from which they would later drink George Harrison or Ry Cooder, among many others.

«Instrumentalists do not usually become famous. But Duane Eddy’s electric guitar had its own voice,” said the director of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Kyle Young, yesterday in statements to ‘Variety’ magazine. “Duane inspired a generation of guitarists around the world with his unmistakable ‘twang’ sound,” the musician’s representative added in a statement after announcing that Eddy, 86, died of cancer on April 30.

Unlike pyrotechnic guitar heroes and jugglers like Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck or Jimmy Page, Eddy created a school with minimalist and repetitive riffs born from the low strings of the guitar and the tremolo arm. With that and a gigantic Gretsch G6120 fire color He had more than enough to become the most successful instrumental musician of the late fifties and early sixties (it is estimated that by 1963 he had sold more than 12 million records) and one of the most influential guitarists of the dawn of rock. and roll.

Bruce Springsteen, for example, never hid the fact that Eddy had been a decisive presence when constructing his ‘Born To Run’. «At night, he would turn off the lights and walk me away while Roy Orbison, Phil Spector or Duane Eddy sang me lullabies to dreamland. “Those records spoke to me in a way that most of the rock music of the late ’60s and early ’70s did not,” the New Jersey native would recall when evoking the origins of his ’70s masterpiece. “From Duane Eddy came the guitar sound, the vibrant guitar lick,” Springsteen added.

Born in New York in 1938, Eddy grew up fascinated by the image of ‘singing cowboys’ like Roy Rogers and Gene Autry and the sound of guitarists Les Paul and Chet Atkins. That was his school, the place where some demos took shape that ended up in the hands of the DJ and producer. Lee Hazelwood, with whom he would record his first hits, ‘Moovin’ and Groovin’ and ‘Rebel Rouser’.

The latter is, with its crazy sax and that monolithic and adhesive guitar riff, the Rosetta Stone of almost all rock and rockabilly, also of the surf music, that would come from then on. Years later, Hazelwood would take advantage of that sound to promote ‘These Boots Are Made for Walkin’, by Nancy Sinatra.

With more than 50 albums published and a legion of English fans who in 1960 lifted him to the top of the weekly ‘NME’ lists above even Elvis Presley, the guitarist recorded a self-titled album in 1987 in which musicians like John Fogerty, George Harrison, Paul McCartney, Ry Cooder and James Burton, among others, came to pay homage to him.

«His sound was muscular and masculine, vibrant and hard. Duane scored more than 30 chart hits, but most importantly, his style inspired thousands of rockers (The Ventures, George Harrison, Steve Earle, Bruce Springsteen, Marty Stuart, to name a few) to learn how to make noise and move. to the people. Duane Eddy’s sound will always be integrated into the structure of country and rock and roll,” added Kyle Young in his farewell to him.

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