Duane Eddy, twangy guitar icon of early rock, dead at 86

Duane Eddy, a pioneering guitarist who made his debut in the 1950s, has died. The twangy guitarist was 86.

Eddy died of cancer on Tuesday at the Williamson Health Hospital in Franklin, Tennessee, his wife, Deed Abbate, said.

Eddy paved the way for a new generation of guitarists by focusing on the bass strands on the guitar versus the high ones. During his career, Duane sold more than 100 million copies and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.

“I had a distinctive sound that people could recognize and I stuck pretty much with that. I’m not one of the best technical players by any means; I just sell the best,” Eddy told The Associated Press in a 1986 interview. “A lot of guys are more skillful than I am with the guitar. A lot of it is over my head. But some of it is not what I want to hear out of the guitar.”


Eddy’s debut album, “Have Twangy Guitar Will Travel,” was released in 1958. This was when he coined his distinctive “twang” that was heard throughout his entire career and went on to influence George Harrison and Bruce Springsteen.

Eddy’s style of music was also highlighted in his 1993 box set, “Twang Thang: The Duane Eddy Anthology.”

At the time of the release, Eddy told The Associated Press, “It’s a silly name for a nonsilly thing, but it has haunted me for 35 years now, so it’s almost like sentimental value — if nothing else.”

During that interview with the outlet in 1993, he explained that after releasing his 1970 hit, “Freight Train,” he took that as a sign to slow down.

“It was an easy listening hit,” he told the outlet. “Six or seven years before, I was on the cutting edge.”

After the 1980s, Eddy did not work as much. He told The Associated Press in 1986 that he was “living off my royalties.”

In 1985, Eddy moved to Nashville, Tennessee after living semiretired in Lake Tahoe, California.

Eddy was born in Corning, New York, and grew up in Phoenix, where he began playing guitar at age 5. He spent his teen years in Arizona dreaming of singing on the Grand Ole Opry, and eventually signed with Jamie Records of Philadelphia in 1958 — “Rebel Rouser” soon followed.

Speaking of his hit song, Eddy told The Associated Press, “It was a good title and it was the rockest rock ‘n’ roll sound. It was different for the time.”

Eddy never considered himself much of a singer. He told the outlet in 1986, “One of my biggest contributions to the music business is not singing.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.