Duane Eddy remembers finding fame
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