Rock Guitar Pioneer Duane Eddy, Known for 'Rebel Rouser,' Passes Away at 86

Legendary Guitarist Duane Eddy Dies at 86.

by Nouman Rasool
Rock Guitar Pioneer Duane Eddy, Known for 'Rebel Rouser,' Passes Away at 86
© Mike Coppola/Getty Images

Legendary rock guitarist Duane Eddy, whose electrifying instrumentals "Rebel Rouser" and "Peter Gunn" lent early rock 'n' roll a definitive twang, has died at 86. Eddy's wife, Deed Abbate, confirmed that he passed away on Tuesday at Williamson Health hospital in Franklin, Tennessee.

Although Eddy is probably one of the biggest names ever to be associated with playing an instrument, his guitar playing was more than technical skill; it was the sound he developed that was truly all his own and became a template for musicians for decades to come, from George Harrison to Bruce Springsteen.

In a career spanning well over 100 million records sold, it never made Eddy anything less than the most down-to-earth, uncomplicated, and perhaps even innovative musician in the business: he always said the key to playing guitar was the bass strings since they sound best on tape.

Even though he was established with the debut album in 1958, "Have Twangy Guitar Will Travel," his influence spanned decades, finally being recognized in the 1993 box set, "Twang Thang: The Duane Eddy Anthology." In a 1986 interview with The Associated Press, Eddy humbly acknowledged his technical limitations, saying, "I'm not one of the best technical players by any means; I just sell the best.

A lot of guys are more skillful than I am with the guitar."

Twang Sound Pioneers

With producer Lee Hazlewood, he helped invent the twang in the 1950s, a technique Hazlewood would adapt while producing hits like Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" Eddy's commercial peak ran from 1958 to 1963, after which he pretty much stopped being at the front line of the music scene, living off his royalties and working quietly as a record producer behind the scenes, mainly in Los Angeles during the 1970s.

The "Rebel Rouser" is also one of Eddy's most famous tracks, a powerful classic of rock 'n' roll at the time when it was really bouncing. Eddy's influence did not stop at music; the film industry sought his talent in working on the theme music for "Because They're Young," "Pepe," and "Gidget Goes Hawaiian." He notably declined an opportunity to work on the James Bond theme song, citing a lack of guitar prominence in the proposed pieces.

Born in Corning, New York, and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, Eddy began playing guitar at the tender age of five. His early dreams of performing on the Grand Ole Opry propelled him into a successful signing with Jamie Records of Philadelphia in 1958, which soon led to the release of "Rebel Rouser." Eddy also toured with Dick Clark's "Caravan of Stars" and appeared in several films.

In 1985, after years of semi-retirement in Lake Tahoe, California, Eddy moved to Nashville, cementing his legacy in the music city without ever lending his voice to a track, famously asserting, "One of my biggest contributions to the music business is not singing."