The ‘King Of Twang’, Duane Eddy, dies aged 86

The iconic rocker’s death occurred on 30 April at the Williamson Health hospital in Franklin, Tennessee, according to his wife, Deed Abbate. The cause was cancer.

“Duane inspired a generation of guitarists the world over with his unmistakable signature ‘Twang’ sound,” a representative said in a statement to Variety. “He was the first rock’n’roll guitar god, a truly humble and incredible human being. He will be sorely missed.”

The guitar hero, who inspired everyone from George Harrison and Hank Marvin, to Bruce Springsteen and Mark Knopfler, shaped the rock’n’roll landscape with memorable tracks like Rebel-’Rouser, Peter Gunn, Shazam!, Pepe, and Because They’re Young.


“Duane Eddy’s electric guitar was a voice all its own,” said Kyle Young, CEO of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, on social media. “His sound was muscular and masculine, twangy and tough. He inspired thousands of hillbilly cats and downtown rockers to rumble. His sound will forever be stitched into the fabric of country and rock’n’roll.”

With his raucous rhythms, wailing sax, and that unmistakable ripping guitar twang, Eddy sold more than 100 million records worldwide.

When he was inducted into  the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in 1994, it was long-overdue recognition of one of the great guitarists. “The 1994 Inductee Duane Eddy was a rock’n’roll guitar god who invented twang,” a Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame statement said. “He created a distinctive sound and recorded a string of instrumental hits in the late 1950s that proved hugely influential on countless musicians. Eddy’s reverberating, bass-heavy guitar sound came to represent a walk on the wild side – a soundtrack for revved-up hotrods and rebels with or without a cause, and an echo of the Wild West on the frontier of rock’n’roll…

“Eddy was one of the musicians most responsible for popularising the electric guitar in America, and his impact on artists like the Beatles, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Bruce Springsteen is incalculable.”

Distinctive Sound

Eddy put out his first LP, Have ‘Twangy’ Guitar Will Travel, in January 1958. Lead single Rebel-’Rouser, originally titled Rabble Rouser, made the world sit up and take notice. The New York-born, Arizona-raised, fireball reached No.6 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and broke the Top 20 in the UK. With its overdubbed saxophone by session musician Gil Bernal, Rebel-’Rouser still sounds as subversive as it did back then.

“I had a distinctive sound that people could recognise and I stuck pretty much with that. I’m not one of the best technical players by any means; I just sell the best,” he told The Associated Press in a 1986 interview. “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 Guitar Man

In the UK, his unique sound resonated. Peter Gunn, a song written by Henry Mancini as the theme for a TV programme of the same name, was given a rocking makeover by Eddy and landed the guitarist his first UK Top 10 hit in 1959 when it peaked at No.6.

A string of successful singles followed between 1959 and 1962: Forty Miles Of Bad Road (No.11), Some Kind-a Earthquake (No.12), Bonnie Came Back (No.12), Shazam! (No.4), Because They’re Young (No.2), Kommotion (No.13), Pepe (No.2), Theme From Dixie (No.7), Ballad Of Paladin (No.10) and Dance With The Guitar Man (No.4).

Following a dip in chart action in the mid- to late 60s, Eddy returned to the upper echelon of the British hit parade in 1975 with Play Me Like You Play Your Guitar (No.9), before staging a huge resurgence with  80s synth-pop collective The Art Of Noise and their retake of Peter Gunn. A UK No.8, the song was a Top 10 hit around the world, and won the Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental in 1986.

Live Forever

Brit rocker, Darrel Higham, paid tribute on Facebook saying: “Meeting Duane Eddy in Nashville a good few years ago was one of the highlights of my career. His was an early inspiration and influence for me and I loved playing along to his recordings, especially Shazam!, Forty Miles of Bad Road, Trambone, and so many others… He created a style that was incredibly influential and will be remembered for as long as there are young people wanting to learn how to play the guitar.”

Mick Fleetwood, drummer and co-founder of Fleetwood Mac, posted: “For Duane Eddy 🎸yesterday in my studio I said this riff needs to sound like Duane Eddy! As I picked up my Gretsch white falcon guitar! Saddened of the passing of this understated man who had talents more than most knew. Grateful for learning to play drums listening to his music.”

While Dave Davies, founding member of  The Kinks, said: “I’m in shock. Duane Eddy was one of my most important influences. He was so important in so many ways… I thought he’d live forever.”

An Original Guitar Hero

Gretsch Guitars, whose instruments Eddy will forever be associated, said: “We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Duane Eddy. As a legendary guitarist, he inspired generations with his pioneering twangy sound and musical innovations. His sound will forever echo in the halls of rock’n’roll history. Rest in peace, Mr. Eddy, you will be missed.

Further tributes have been paid by Nancy Sinatra, Joe Bonamassa, Bob Harris, Mike Read and Slim Jim Phantom, who simply wrote: “RIP to my long time true pal & rockabilly buddy ⁦The King Of Twang ⁦Duane Eddy. I loved the guy.” 

Vintage Rock would also like to pass on its condolences to Eddy’s family, friends and fans. He will be missed but his music remains. He will be forever revered as an original guitar hero.

Read more: Duane Eddy: ‘The King Of Twang’