DUANE Eddy has helped to shape rock’n’roll history. He made sounds with a guitar which had never been heard before and his unique style has influenced musicians from George Harrison to Led Zeppelin.
Now 72, the man who topped an NME poll ahead of Elvis in 1960 lives in Nashville, Tennessee.
So why exactly is he about to make an album in Sheffield? Come to that, why is he managed by a bloke who lives in Grindleford?
The unlikely story began when music manager Graham Wrench was putting together a line-up for the Jack Daniel’s birthday gig, this year titled Tennessee Comes To Town, at the Clapham Grand in London next week.
Wrench, a former Leadmill promoter who now manages Richard Hawley and others from his Peak District base, emailed Eddy and asked if there was any way he would like to play at Clapham because of the Tennessee link.
They continued to talk by email and phone and Eddy agreed to do the show. Wrench said: “We just hit it off together from the start; he’s such a sweet and humble man.
“We talked about all sorts and I suggested he ought to think about doing some dates over here, as well as the Jack Daniel’s show. He was a bit taken aback and wondered whether there’s be much interest and I had to keep reminding him… ‘You’re Duane Eddy!’
“Eventually he said ‘let’s make you the manager’. But that wasn’t something I thought you could decide over the phone, so I went out to Nashville so we could talk things over properly and make sure we could work together. And we can, although I have to keep pinching myself.
“It’s insane, really. One day you’re trying to get an indie band on 6Music and the next day you’re managing Duane Eddy.’’
In addition to the Clapham gig, Eddy will also play London’s Festival Hall on Saturday and York Grand Opera House on October 13, as well as a show in Sussex.
He will be backed on stage by Hawley and his band and Wrench explained: “When we were talking right at the start, Duane told me he was a big Hawley fan and that goes both ways.”
They all met up when Eddy visited the UK in June to collect the Icon Award from MOJO magazine and it was decided to record an album at Sheffield’s Yellow Arch Studio, produced by Hawley and Colin Elliot.
Eddy said: “Richard said to me ‘I want you to do something you love or that you’ve always wanted to do and we’ll do it’. The problem is I’m trying to figure out what it is I’ve always wanted to do!
“To be honest, I’ve done everything that I can with my guitar sound. I’ve put it against a string orchestra, which I loved. I’ve played in every way I can think of, including with Art of Noise, which got pretty far out but turned out to be a good blend. It worked.’’
Hawley said: “I’ve been a massive fan since childhood, I’ve got about 30 of his albums. Some of his music sounds pretty simple but that’s because he sticks to the melody. It’s only when you sit down and try to play it yourself that you realise how good he is. And to find he likes my stuff is pretty amazing.
“When Graham said he was going to be managing Duane, they had to pick me up off the floor. He asked if I minded and I said ‘Do I mind!’ I wanted to know if I’d get to meet him and Graham said I’d be producing his album!
“I met him at the MOJOs and we just got on. He’s one of the finest guitar players I’ve ever heard and he’s a really regular bloke.
“We were both on the Jonathan Ross radio show the day after the MOJOs and I’d lent him my Duane Eddy Signature guitar. We sat in the room waiting to go on and just played stuff by Sanford Clark and others. It’s something I’ll never forget.”
Having devised the technique of playing lead on his guitar’s bass strings to produce a low, reverberant ‘twangy’ sound, Eddy had his first major hit in 1958 with Rebel Rouser, following up with Peter Gunn, Cannonball, Shazam and Forty Miles of Bad Road. He is now said to be the most successful rock’n’roll instrumentalist ever, with more than 100 million records sold.
He received the Best Rock Instrumental Grammy for Peter Gunn in 1986 and was inducted into the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame in 1994, the same year as Rebel Rouser featured on the soundtrack of Forrest Gump.
It is 50 years since Eddy first toured the UK and 1991 since he last played here, along with Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis. And he will return early next year to promote the new album.
Duane Eddy… Made in Sheffield. You couldn’t make it up.