Remembering Duane Eddy: The twangy guitar pioneer who shaped rock 'n' roll

Gone but not forgotten, Duane Eddy had a twangy guitar sound that was undeniably cool, and some might say impossible to truly duplicate. There's a reason he had multiple hit instrumentals while others didn't!
2009 Country Music Hall Of Fame Medallion Ceremony
2009 Country Music Hall Of Fame Medallion Ceremony / Ed Rode/GettyImages

In case you missed it: Guitarist Duane Eddy, famed for his distinctive twangy riffs on hits such as "Rebel Rouser" and "Cannonball," passed away on Apr 30, 2024. It was four days after his birthday. He was 86 years old.

A spokesperson for Eddy had confirmed his death to Variety, stating that he was surrounded by his family at the time. "Duane inspired a generation of guitarists worldwide with his unmistakable signature ‘Twang’ sound. He was the first rock and roll guitar god, a truly humble and incredible human being. He will be sorely missed," the representative told Variety.

Eddy, born on April 26, 1938, in Corning, New York, started playing the guitar when he was just five years old. He rose to fame in the 1950s and 60s with a string of chart-topping instrumental hits, which is almost unthinkable in today's music climate. It's tempting to think his legacy has been neglected in recent years.

It's tempting to think his legacy has been neglected in recent years. However, interestingly enough, he received his first number 1 spot on the charts in March of 2023, which means it wasn't even due to renewed interest in his music due to his death. Billboard also notes that Eddy "Eddy notched 27 hits on the Hot 100, including three top 10s," which is not bad at all for a guitar instrumentalist.

Duane Eddy's appeal, and where you may have heard him

Of course, plenty of serious music fans have heard of Duane Eddy and recognize his impact on popular music (personally, I can brag that I owned a Duane Eddy album at one point). In addition to music created in the 1950s, his creative output included a 1987 collaboration with Paul McCartney, from an album which is not even mentioned on the Duane Eddy Wikipedia page (perhaps because of its more modern sound?).

Duane Eddy also had hist with his versions of the themes for "Peter Gunn” and "Because They’re Young," which highlighted his unique sound. His twangy music has also been featured in numerous films such as Natural Born Killers"(1994), Forrest Gump (1994), and Broken Arrow (1996).

In honor of Duane Eddy

In recognition of his contributions to music, Eddy was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994 and the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in 2008. Kyle Young, CEO of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum had this to say of Eddy: "The Duane Eddy sound will forever be stitched into the fabric of country and rock & roll. Instrumentalists don’t usually become famous. But Duane Eddy’s electric guitar was a voice all its own."

"His sound was muscular and masculine, twangy and tough. Duane scored more than thirty hits on the pop charts...But more importantly, his style inspired thousands of hillbilly cats and downtown rockers — the Ventures, George Harrison, Steve Earle, Bruce Springsteen, Marty Stuart, to name a few—to learn how to rumble and move people to their core."

Dave Davies, founding member of legendary UK band The Kinks, expressed his shock and sorrow on X (formerly Twitter): "I’m in shock. Duane Eddy was one of my most important influences. He was so important in so many ways."

Eddy was renowned for playing guitars made by the American brand Gretsch, which also paid tribute on X: "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."

In a 2012 interview with Music Radar, Eddy advised aspiring musicians to immerse themselves in music and practice diligently. "You gotta love the music, you gotta want to play so much it hurts, it’s gotta be your passion," he said.

Here is an interview in which Duane Eddy discusses how music helped reduce racism in the 1950s.

Next. 5 iconic moments from the Grammy Awards in the 1980s. 5 iconic moments from the Grammy Awards in the 1980s. dark