NNF12: Duane Eddy still king of the twang
PUBLISHED: 08:59 18 May 2012
He’s the original rock‘n’roll guitar hero whose instrumentals such as Rebel Rouser and Ramrod inspired generations of guitarists. STACIA BRIGGS spoke to Duane Eddy about his festival visit to Great Yarmouth.
The Titan of Twang is at home in Tennessee and our phoneline isn’t of the best quality.
“Can you repeat your name?” he says, “this line is terrible. Stacia? What a beautiful and exotic name – it’s lovely to be talking to you, Stacia.” I’m smitten.
Duane Eddy is indisputably one of the most iconic guitar players in history.
Since his first album in 1958, Have Twangy Guitar Will Travel, Eddy’s rich, bass-heavy melodies with their throbbing tremolo, Bigsby vibrato and cavernous reverb have entranced and intrigued fans for generations.
Now approaching his 74th birthday, he is showing no signs whatsoever of slowing down and will be appearing at Yarmouth Hippodrome as part of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival.
“I take things a bit slower, make sure I’ve got a bit of time to have a rest, but I just love playing live and as long as there are people that want to see me, that’s what I’ll be doing,” he says.
“I’m so excited to be coming back to Norfolk and playing at what sounds like an absolutely beautiful building. Here in America, we think something that’s 200 years old is historical but when I was last in England I went to a pub that was built in 1130 – 1130! For us, that’s the time, not a date.”
He believes that his continued success can be attributed to his desire to create a tone of his own in a time when popular music was overwhelmed with upbeat, higher registers.
After chart success in the 1950s there followed acting roles in films and on TV, more huge hits such as Peter Gunn, Cannonball and Ring of Fire, The Ballad of Palladin, Caravan and Because They’re Young.
A collaboration with The Art of Noise in 1986 saw a new version of Peter Gunn smash into top tens across the world and made Eddy the only instrumentalist to have had top ten hit singles in four different decades in Britain.
“JJ [Jonathan Jeczalik] from The Art of Noise said to me: ‘They call us avant garde. The truth is that we avant garde a clue what we’re doing!’ It was a whole lot of fun,” he said.
A year later, he was joined on a record by Paul McCartney, George Harrison and John Fogerty and, more recently, his album Road Trip, produced by Richard Hawley at his Sheffield studios, has won him a new generation of fans.
“It’s a good job I made it in this industry, because there was no plan B – it had to work,” he says. “When the records started selling, it was suddenly a strange world.
“People were waiting to take photographs of me, girls were screaming through entire shows, it was a lot to deal with for a young man – but I can’t say I minded too much!,” he recalls.
“I am making a living doing the best thing in the world and I have the best fans you could wish for. I’ve become friends with lots of them. I discovered a long time ago that people aren’t so different – like me, they probably have to do a lot of things they hate to get to what they love.
“I love meeting people and finding out about them. People always have passion inside them, whether they’re a builder, a chef or a musician, like me. I like hearing about their passion.
“For me, I love playing live but I hate the travelling and the living in hotels. But as soon as I’m on stage, it makes it all worth it, and that’s thanks to the fans. I am so grateful to them.”
His appearance in Yarmouth is part of a nationwide tour in the UK and he is looking forward to being back in the UK and among old friends.
“I love England – it’s like a second home to me. I’ve been coming since 1960 and the people are so darn nice and the place is so darn beautiful that it’s impossible not to love it,” he says.
“I thought at one point that I wouldn’t get the chance to come back to England and play gigs and it made me quite sad, so when I was given the opportunity, I said yes so fast you wouldn’t believe it.
“The fun part of what I do is playing live with my band, who are the best band I’ve ever worked with and I’ve worked with some great musicians, believe me.”
He believes his last trip to Norfolk was to the famous West Runton Pavilion which he visited decades ago. He’s pleased to be returning.
“Sometimes it feels like yesterday since I played a gig and then I find out it was decades ago. I just keep playing, keep enjoying, keep letting it all hang out,” he says.
“Be sure to introduce yourself if you come along. Remind me that you’re the one with the lovely name.”
See you on May 19, Duane.
■ Duane Eddy plays Yarmouth Hippodrome on May 19, £20, under-25s £5, 01493 844172, www.hippodromecircus.co.uk