Gene Autry made an indelible impression on young Duane Eddy.
Gene Autry made an indelible impression on young Duane Eddy.

An Anaheim All-Star Influenced Guitar Legend Duane Eddy

My story on Duane Eddy coming to play at the annual Guitar Geek Festival within walking distance of NAMM in Anaheim Saturday mentions some of the legendary rock pickers and strummers the 71-year-old guitar legend has influenced--as well as at least one bass player, the Who's John Entwistle.  

Guitar legend Duane Eddy will twang up Anaheim Saturday.
Guitar legend Duane Eddy will twang up Anaheim Saturday.

"I met him and he said he'd been influenced by me," Eddy told me on the phone from his home in Nashville a couple weeks back. "In fact, he said he thought I was playing bass, that's why he went out and bought himself a bass."

Eddy and producer Lee Hazlewood concocted the guitarist's signature twangy, bass-heavy, reverberating sound in an Arizona studio in the 1950s to represent the noise of revved-up hot rods, with an echo of the Wild West frontier. You might expect a similar sound coming from the guitar of the musician who first influenced Eddy when he was growing up in Corning, New York. That expectation is wrong.

In fact, it's fitting Eddy is coming to Anaheim to play because his biggest influence is strongly associated with the town. No, it's not Mickey Mouse. It's Gene Autry.

"The Singing Cowboy" from radio and movies in the 1930s first prompted Eddy to pick up a guitar as a tot. Autry--whose death in 1998 came three weeks after the passing of fellow singing cowpoke of the Silver Screen, Roy Rogers--also found success on television, with buying radio and TV stations (including KTLA in Los Angeles) and as the longtime owner of what is now your Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

"He was one of my heroes," Eddy said of Autry. "His was one of the first records I ever heard when I was 3 years old. I just remember having a little record player and playing his 78 over and over, dropping the needle on it and hearing marvelous music. I went to all his movies . . . Gene Autry, Roy Rogers and Hoppy (Hopalong Cassidy). I loved the musical parts. The other kids would go get popcorn during those parts, but I'd be there glued to the screen."

It's not the guitar playing Eddy took from Autry, but the way The Singing Cowboy carried himself.

"He and Hank Williams made indelible impressions on me," said Eddy, who wanted to make it clear to the Weekly's younger readers he was talking about Hank Williams Sr. "I learned from him. I learned the thing was to be honest about your music and just put it all out there and do it with authority. And get your own style. Above all, I attempted to get my own style and sound and do it with authority."

Eddy was looking for a U.S. distributor of his new record Artifacts of Twang when we spoke. It was produced by Nashville producer-songwriter Monroe Jones, who Eddy branded "a young genius."

"Monroe was influenced by Paul McCartney and the Beatles," Eddy says. "So it's like one big cycle. They were influenced by me, he was influenced by them and here I came."


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