RIP Duane Eddy (1938-2024)

5th May 2024 · 1950s, 1958, Music, R.I.P., Rock'n'Roll

RIP Duane Eddy (1938-2024)

Everyone knows the guitar riff that kicks off Duane Eddy’s first hit single Movin’ N’ Groovin’ from back in 1958 – though not necessarily from this record. 

Duane borrowed it from Chuck Berry, who had created it two years earlier for his song Brown Eyed Handsome Man on the B-side of Too Much Monkey Business.

But more people probably know it from 1963 when The Beach Boys’ re-borrowed it for the intro to Surfin’ USA – before using Chuck Berry’s Sweet Little Sixteen for the rest of the song. Adding to the familiarity, Buddy Holly also released his own version of Brown Eyed Handsome Man the same year.

But back to Duane Eddy, who died this week, because Movin’ N’ Groovin’ – mischievously credited only to Duane Eddy and Lee Hazlewood – instantly established his signature style, which could be summed up very simply as “the twang”.

It’s there on every tune he ever played, and it’s there in all the other guitarists he influenced, from Link Wray – who did it dirtier – to Hank Marvin of The Shadows, who did it cleaner, while Joe Meek’s proteges The Tornados did it DIY-style in his Holloway flat. And a couple of hundred miles further north of there a scouser called George Harrison brought a touch of that twang to his band The Beatles, not least on a song called I Want To Hold Your Hand.

Twangers one and all.

It was Duane who pioneered that sound, playing those twangy riffs on the bottom two strings of his guitar to give it that low growling quality, and feeding them back through as much echo and reverb as possible. Which was a whole heap of echo after his producer Lee Hazelwood bought an enormous 2,000-litre water tank to act as a natural echo chamber for Duane’s Gretsch 6120.

Movin’ N’ Groovin’ only reached No.72 in the singles chart but Duane soon got his breakthrough when his next single, Rebel-Rouser, including that notable sax solo, reached No.6. It was followed by a stream of similar instrumental hits like Peter Gunn, Cannonball, Shazam, Forty Miles Of Bad Road and his biggest one, the string-drenched movie theme Because They’re Young.

Then there was his unlikely comeback with Art Of Noise using him on their cover of Peter Gunn, and a new album in 2011 produced by Richard Hawley, another guitarist who had been influenced by his style, featuring this track, Primeval.