Duane Eddy
(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )

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Duan Eddy wasn't just a great guitar player and a maker of instrumental music: Eddy invented an "atmospheric" rock music that was hardly rock and roll or anything else. That sound, driven by the twang and set in austere arrangements, would be as influential as Morricone's soundtracks.
(Translated by Ornella C. Grannis)

During the years of the schism that divided rock music between savage rebels and television stars, Duane Eddy found an original third way that opened new horizons for rock and roll: the instrumental one. Both pop and country music had an instrumental sub genre, and Eddy, not without reason, created something analogous for rock music by combining pop and country. The result was far superior than the mere sum of the two parts, since the rock and roll atmosphere took over both rhythm and melody.

Duane Eddy was a native of Phoenix, Arizona, where he had learned to play the guitar like Les Paul and Chet Atkins. Producer Lee Hazelwood discovered his staccato riffs, renamed them "twang" and dressed them with arrangements, which, though slightly kitsch, were simple but effectual: modest bass phrases taken from jazz, an exuberant sax in the tradition of rhythm and blues, background vocals reminiscent of a barbaric version of doo-wop, and the tottering rhythm of country music. But most of all, Hazelwood gave an aura of elegance and refinement to Eddy's solos, treating them as if they were chamber music pieces.

The songs, simple melodies supported by Eddy's romantic vibrato, gained immediate fame: first Movin' And Groovin' (the first single) and Rebel Rouser (an adaptation of When The Saints Go Marching In, with war cries and hand clapping), then, in 1958, Cannonball (with snapping fingers), and Ramrod (a rowdy rhythm and blues). In 1959 the sentimental epic Forty Miles Of Bad Road, set the more or less monotonous standard by which the guitarist was to abide for the remainder of his career.

The material was borrowed from fifty years of blues (Moovin' N' Groovin'), country (Loads Kinda Earthquake and Cripple Creek), spiritual (Battle), ragtime (Bonnie Came Back) and marching bands (Dixie) , and then processed through Hazlewood's eccentric arrangements, that anticipated those of Morricone. His band, the Rebels, was one of the best of the time: Al Casey at the guitar, Larry Knechtel at the piano and Steve Douglas at the saxophone. Have Twangy Guitar Will Travel (Jamie, 1958) also includes Detour, Three Thirty Blues and The Stalker.

Because They Are Young (1960), a small rock symphony with more prominent riffs and a string section sealed the golden era, although in 1962 Dance With The Guitar Man brought him back on the charts with a party beat. Peter Gunn (1960), written by Henry Mancini, was the theme of a television program, and Ring Of Fire (1961), written by Eddy himself, was the topic of a film.

His twang by now antiquated, Eddy tried his luck in Europe.

As it had happened with the jazz trumpet and the saxophone, the guitar had become an independent voice.

Eddy remained forgotten for a while. Rediscovered in the 80s by the New Wave, Eddy recorded Duane Eddy (Capitol, 1987).

Negli anni in cui uno scisma aveva diviso la musica rock in selvaggi ribelli e in divi televisivi, Duane Eddy trovo` un'originale terza via, quella strumentale, che apri` nuovi orizzonti alla musica rock. Tanto la musica leggera quanto la musica country avevano un sottogenere solo strumentale, e Eddy conio` l'analogo per la musica rock, non a caso fondendo musica leggera e musica country. Ne venne fuori un tutto superiore alla somma delle parti, in quanto l'atmosfera prese il sopravvento sul ritmo e sulla melodia.

Duane Eddy veniva da Phoenix, Arizona, dove aveva imparato a suonare la chitarra come Les Paul e Chet Atkins. Il produttore Lee Hazelwood scopri` i suoi riff "in staccato", li ribattezzo` "twang" e li agghindo` con arrangiamenti un po' kitsch, semplici ma efficaci: dimesse figure di basso ereditate dal jazz, un sassofono esuberante che derivava dalla tradizione del rhythm and blues, coretti in sottofondo che erano la versione barbara del doo-wop, e il ritmo caracollante del country. Hazelwood ebbe soprattutto il merito di dare agli assoli di Eddy una veste austera e composta, come se si trattasse di musica da camera.

Le canzoni, semplici melodie sostenute dal vibrato romantico di Eddy, procurarono subito fama ai due: Movin' And Groovin' (il primo singolo), Rebel Rouser (un adattamento di When The Saints... per urla di guerra e battito di mani), Cannonball (per schiocchi di dita), e Ramrod (un rhtyhm and blues scalmanato) nel 1958, e l'epopea sentimentale di Forty Miles Of Bad Road nel 1959, stabilirono lo standard, a cui il chitarrista si attenne in seguito con maggiore o minore monotonia. Il materiale veniva preso a prestito da decenni di blues (Moovin'N'Groovin'), country (Some Kinda Earthquake e Cripple Creek), spiritual (Battle), ragtime (Bonnie Came Back) e bande marcianti (Dixie), e poi elaborato con gli arrangiamenti stralunatii Hazlewood, che anticipavano quelli di Ennio Morricone. Il complesso, i Rebels, era uno dei migliori dell'epoca: Al Casey alla chitarra, Larry Knechtel al piano e Steve Douglas al sassofono. Have Twangy Guitar Will Travel (Jamie, 1958) comprende anche Detour, Three Thirty Blues, The Stalker.

Because They Are Young (1960), una piccola sinfonia rock con riff piu` prominenti e una sezione d'archi, chiuse l'epoca d'oro, anche se nel 1962 Dance With The Guitar Man lo porto` di nuovo in classifica con una cadenza da party. Peter Gunn (1960), scritta da Henry Mancini, divenne celebre nella sua interpretazione perche' era il tema di una trasmissione televisiva, e Ring Of Fire (1961), scritta da Eddy in persona, fu il tema di un film.

Ma il suo twang era ormai antiquato e Eddy penso` bene di andarsene a cercare fortuna in Europa.

Con lui la chitarra era diventata una voce autonoma, imitando cio` che era successo nel jazz alla tromba e al sassofono.

Eddy sarebbe rimasto dimenticato a lungo. Soltanto negli anni '80 la new wave lo riscopri` e Eddy pote` registrare Duan Eddy (Capitol, 1987).

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