Flash­back

Duane Eddy re­mem­bers find­ing fame

The Daily Telegraph - Telegraph Magazine - - News -

THIS WAS FROM my first photo ses­sion, in New York. The sin­gle Rebel Rouser was in the Top 10 and the record com­pany wanted a cover for my first al­bum, so they set me up with ‘Pop­sie’ Ran­dolph, who took ev­ery­body’s pho­tos in those days. I parked my ’56 Chevy con­vert­ible in front of his build­ing. I had my gui­tar, amp, suit­case and overnight bag – and I couldn’t leave them on the back­seat in the street, so I car­ried the whole lot up two storeys, put it all in a pile and sat down on my gui­tar case to rest while Pop­sie was get­ting set up. He shot a pic­ture of me sit­ting there, which ended up be­ing the al­bum cover of Have ‘Twangy’ Gui­tar Will Travel.

Then I got my gui­tar out and we did this pic­ture. I used to run around a lot on stage in those days. When you’re play­ing rock’n’roll, you’ve got to tighten up and just drive it. So you do that and your body con­torts. I used to bend my knees and dig in, and get up on my toes like that ev­ery once in a while.

The Gretsch gui­tar is the one you hear on all my records. I de­vel­oped that deep twangy sound be­cause I knew that the low strings recorded bet­ter than the high strings. Also, ev­ery­body else was play­ing on the high strings, so I thought I’d do some­thing dif­fer­ent.

The stu­dio where we recorded in Phoenix, Ari­zona, didn’t have an echo cham­ber, so one day the pro­ducer, Lee Ha­zle­wood, said, ‘Let’s go out and look at some big 2,000-gal­lon water tanks.’ We spent an hour yelling into the tanks un­til we found one with an echo we liked. We trucked it back to the stu­dio and set it up on a stand in the park­ing lot. We put a speaker in one end and a mi­cro­phone in the other. I played my gui­tar through that, and that was our echo cham­ber.

I wrote Rebel Rouser in the stu­dio one morn­ing, on March 16 or 17, 1958. Lee came up with the ti­tle. We didn’t have a rock’n’roll sax player in Phoenix at that time, so Lee took the track to Hol­ly­wood and over­dubbed [singer and ses­sion mu­si­cian] Gil Ber­nal, who’d played on the Coast­ers’ song Searchin’ just be­fore that. Gil was a big old honk­ing sax player who used to play in strip clubs, so he was funky.

When Rebel Rouser first came out, it was on the B-side of a slow blues called Stalkin’. I don’t know what they were think­ing, be­cause although a lot of peo­ple love Stalkin’, and I like it my­self, I didn’t like it nearly as much as Rebel Rouser. I kept beg­ging them to put it on the A-side, but ev­ery­body at the record com­pany pre­ferred Stalkin’.

It came out and it was just about dead in the water, un­til one day Dick Clark, the host of the TV show Amer­i­can Band­stand, turned the record over and played Rebel Rouser. It took off like a scalded dog, and I was in busi­ness. —In­ter­view by Dou­glas Mcpher­son

Duane Eddy is ap­pear­ing at the Lon­don Pal­la­dium, 23 Oc­to­ber, Glas­gow King’s The­atre, 28 Oc­to­ber, and Manch­ester Bridge­wa­ter Hall, 30 Oc­to­ber. Tick­ets avail­able from axs.com

I de­vel­oped that deep twangy sound be­cause I knew that the low strings recorded bet­ter than the high strings

Duane Eddy in a char­ac­ter­is­tic rock’n’roll pose, with his Gretsch gui­tar

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