Richard Oliff - Twangs for the memories

Richard Oliff
Richard Oliff

I WAS looking at the stage watching a man in his 70s perform a back catalogue of hits that had made him internationally famous throughout the 50s and 60s.

He stood bedecked in a cowboy hat, traditional ‘dress’ cowboy jacket and jeans that clearly betrayed the shape of a hidden pair of traditional calf-length cowboy boots.

The full house in the middle of England was made up of people, some of whom had travelled from the USA and from all compass points to be there that evening, to pay homage to a man that encompassed, even personified an entire era that remains the preserve of people of a certain age. Yet without the likes of this guitar ‘legend’ the shape of modern music may have sounded just a tad different and much the worse for his absence.

Duane Eddy banged out hit after hit in his unique ‘twangy’ guitar style. I had been most fortunate to interview the man via telephone from Nashville a month previously during which he spoke of his excitement at being on tour in the UK once again.

His band had been borrowed from British singer-songwriter, a producer of his latest album, Richard Hawley, with an exceptional saxophonist drafted in from Roy Wood’s band all topped off by a couple of more-than-capable female backing vocalists used for three of four numbers. All in all it was a magical experience as hits such as Rebel-Rouser, Peter Gunn, Shazam! Ramrod and, Because They’re Young were hammered out at a ferocious rate.

Several times during the performance Duane made references to his advancing years. After all, why would so many people want to spend an evening watching a man of 74 take a trip down memory lane with his Gretsch G6120DE ‘Duane Eddy’ signature model guitar made in his honour just a year earlier?

The mere fact that a guitar manufacturer of such stature as Gretsch would see fit to dedicate such a beast bears testament to the impact that Eddy has had on modern music. Concerts of this nature seem to me to be more of a ‘thank you’ from a generation of people whose formative years were moulded to the sounds of Eddy, Presley, Berry, Cochran, Richard, Holly and Lewis.

It’s the generation of the Dansette record player and green Columbia record labels. They were the real Happy Days or American Graffiti.

Duane Eddy is a genuine legend of the Rock n’Roll era doing what he’s doing simply because he can, and, for what it’s worth, still going strong!