A Real Guitar Hero
Duane Eddy has twangy guitar, will travel to Anaheim
You know Duane Eddy. Even if your parents weren’t old enough to buy records during the “King of Twang” guitarist’s heyday of the early 1960s, you’ve surely heard his distinctive plucking—or at least the countless artists who have borrowed from his pioneering sound. Eddy’s bold, single-note melodies and the bending of the low strings produced a run of 34 chart singles, 15 of which made the Top 40, racking up sales of more than $100 million worldwide.
Eddy’s groundbreaking debut album, Have “Twangy” Guitar—Will Travel, remained on the charts for 82 weeks after being released in 1958. His singular sound—infused with elements of country, blues, jazz and gospel—influenced George Harrison, Dave Davies, Mark Knopfler, Foreigner’s Mick Jones and Who bassist John Entwistle, to name just a few.
Now 71, the Grammy winner and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer returns to Orange County Saturday for a rare live performance, backed by a band he will have met fresh off the plane from Nashville.
Another hot guitarist whose sound harkens back to Eddy’s halcyon days, Deke Dickerson, snagged the icon for the seventh-annual Guitar Geek Festival that runs during—and near—the NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) Show at the Anaheim Convention Center.
“Each year, I say to myself, ‘How much I would kill to get Duane Eddy?’” Dickerson says. “Duane has the reputation of being very private, somewhat reclusive, and in this day and age of everyone posting everything about themselves every 30 seconds on Twitter, Duane doesn’t have a website, he doesn’t have a management company, and just tracking him down proved nearly impossible.”
Dan Forte, a Nashville-based music critic who performed under the nom de plume “Teisco Del Rey” at a previous Guitar Geek Festival, let it drop that Duane and his wife, Deed, were his friends. Dickerson promptly fired off an e-mail to Mrs. Eddy in October, asking if her husband would be interested in appearing at the festival and heard . . . nothing.
“I figured it was a dead end,” Dickerson recalls. “Imagine my surprise nearly a month later when my phone rang at 7 in the morning, and on the other end, a voice [said], ‘Hello, Deke, this is Duane Eddy. . . . Now about this festival of yours . . .’”
Forte had been doing the hard-sell in Nashville.
“Dan suggested to me it would be fun to do,” Eddy tells the Weekly nonchalantly and non-recluse-like by phone. “Deke was apparently saying he’d like to have me on his show. Between the three of us, we arranged it, so I guess it’s going to happen.”
The guitar great concedes he’ll be as surprised as the audience over what comes out of his Duane Eddy Signature Gibson and Gretsch guitars.
“I’m expecting to have a good time,” says Eddy, who does not get to play live as much as he’d like.
“There is not a lot of demand,” he says. “As a friend of mine says, ‘There’s a pent-up demand for you out there, Duane.’ That’s Kenny O’Dell. That’s one of our jokes.”
O’Dell, who has been friends with Eddy for around 50 years, wrote “Behind Closed Doors,” which Charlie Rich made into a big country hit. Everyone apparently knows everyone in Nashville. And Eddy knows Orange County. He and Dick Dale, playing separate shows, were among the first rock & rollers to appear at the old Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa in 1960 and ’61.
Reminded of this, and of how Eddy influenced the surf guitar sound that came out of OC and southern Los Angeles County in the early 1960s, he remarked, “I just met Dick Dale recently, when he was inducted in the Musicians Hall of Fame in Nashville. We had fun talking. His passion for guitars is very refreshing and fun to listen to.”
Eddy did not know much about NAMM, but his ears perked up after he was informed that music-industry types will likely be about. He’s currently looking for a distributor for a new album he’s made; Artifacts of Twang features 10 new originals and one cover. Guest vocalists include Phil Everly, Brian Setzer and Griffin House.
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Dickerson couldn’t be happier Eddy’s coming here.
“To say that it is a huge thrill to have Duane on the festival is a major understatement,” he says. “If there was a Mount Rushmore of rock & roll electric-guitar players, Duane would be George Washington.”
Duane Eddy performs with Deke Dickerson, Honeyboy Edwards, George Tomsco and others at the Guitar Geek Festival, Anaheim Plaza Hotel Ballroom, 1700 S. Harbor Blvd., Anaheim, (714) 772-5900; dekedickerson.com. Sat., 4 p.m. $35-$40.