Duane Eddy - Guitar Heroes A-Z

Before there was Clapton, Page, and Hendrix, the reigning instrumental guitar god was a mild-mannered low-string picker from Coolidge, Arizona, named Duane Eddy. Between 1958 and 1996, Eddy released a staggering 30-plus albums that produced 28 singles—15 of which cracked the Top 40. Many of the titles had a revolutionary or road-based slant to them, including “Rebel Rouser,” “Forty Miles of Bad Road,” “Detour,” “Cannonball,” and “Because They’re Young.” One of his best-known hits was “Peter Gunn” (written by Henry Mancini), which was used as the theme song for the TV show of the same name. The song has found continued life everywhere, from the original Blues Brothers soundtrack to wedding and cover band set lists across the globe.

From a musical and technical standpoint, Eddy’s melodies were basic and sparse, but he infused them with soulful mojo and a healthy dose of effects—primarily amp tremolo set to medium or low speed, vibrato (courtesy of a Bigsby), and echo. Employing mostly medium tempos and big subdivisions (typically quarter- and eighth-notes) allowed Eddy to use the Bigsby on his two-pickup Gretsch 6120 hollowbody to great effect. He could add everything from subtle and controlled vibrato to more exaggerated bend-like maneuvers on notes and chords, and he pioneered the technique of using the bar to bring a “pre-depressed” string up to pitch from a half- or whole-step below. This was the vibrato-bar equivalent of the reverse-bend, except that the pitch resolved upward. (Sometimes, when applying this process to a picked open string, Eddy would score major cool points by operating the Bigsby with his fretting hand.) For his monumental influence on electric guitar music, Eddy received the Guitar Player Legend Award in 2004.

The confidence in Eddy’s delivery, phrasing, and tone—which remains to this day—allowed him to play straightforward lines (like the one shown here) with such authority he became an icon to the new crop of future legends just coming over the horizon—a generation that would include Clapton, Page, Harrison, and more. To achieve an even yet commanding attack, pick this lick using all downstrokes. Keep the tone rounded, not percussive, and let the notes sing.