My earliest musical influences, if you discount the Deep River Boys on the radio on Sunday evenings, were Buddy Holly, and Duane Eddy. Guitarists Chet Atkins, the Ventures and the Shadows came later.
One of my neighbourhood friends Peter Fenton (later our roadie and electrician in the Avalons) had a record player and we would meet in his house after school to listen to the latest records by Buddy Holly and Duane Eddy. Every wannabe guitar hero learned to play Oh Boy and Shazam. (A local guitar teacher who worked “on the bins” saw me messing with my guitar at my front gate one day and showed me how to play Shazam).
Buddy played a sunburst Fender Stratocaster and Chet Atkins and Duane Eddy played Gretsch guitars (although Duane Eddy used Guild for a while before going back to Gretsch). These guitars were so far beyond my reach – and most other aspiring guitarists – that they had an iconic status. For one thing you couldn’t buy Fenders in the UK because of a government ban on American imports.
Buddy Holly bought his first Fender Stratocaster in 1955, the year after they came out, for $305. Cliff Richard bought Hank Marvin a Stratocaster from America for 140 guineas in May 1959 and it was the first one in the UK. In 1965 a Gretsch cost over 300 guineas (equivalent to about £2,500 at today’s prices).
I was too young to see Buddy Holly live (although I did see the Crickets on tour when they came to Burnley with Bobby Vee in 1962) but imagine my delight to be playing with my group The Expression on the same bill as Duane Eddy on his UK tour when he played the Princess Ballroom in Workington (18 August 1966).
The Devils Disciples also supported Duane Eddy on that tour at Morecambe Pier. So both of us have separately supported him.
The other pleasant surprise was that we had met his band, a group of British musicians led by saxophonist Red Price, when they backed the Walker Brothers at the Astoria Ballroom in Rawtenstall when The Avalons were the support group. These musicians were so friendly and supportive even though musically they were streets ahead of us.
And Duane Eddy was a gentleman. He didn’t say a lot but he was happy to sign photographs.
He’s still going strong having forged a working relationship, cut a new CD “Road Trip“, and toured, with Richard Hawley, another Gretsch player.
- First top ten hit was Rebel Rouser in 1958 (Movin’ and a-groovin’ was his first record the previous year but only reached 74))
- Apart from his rock hits he also played film themes such as Because They’re Young and Peter Gunn
- First rock guitarist to have his own signature guitars the DE400 and DE500 made by Guild
- Gretsch brought out the first Duane Eddy signature 6120DE in 1997 but reissued it as the G6120 in 2011 (see picture on right). It was based on the original Chet Atkins 6120 he used for his early hits, with some modifications.
- Has sold over 100 million records making him most popular rock guitarist
- Admitted into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame in 1994
On those guitars
I’d had a pink 1964 Fender Stratocaster when I played in The Expression and the Uptown Go-Go Band but I could never keep it in tune and (foolishly) got rid of it, and my Vox AC30 TB amplifier, when I left the band.
Years later I saved up and went down to London to buy a Buddy Holly-type Squier Stratocaster in sunburst with the original 3-way pick-up switch (which I upgraded to a 5-way). It was assembled in Japan but from genuine US parts. And it served me well (I used it a lot when I played with a 60s cover bands Oh Boy and Shades of Rock as shown in archive photos). I had it cleaned up and checked over recently and it’s in good condition for a 25 year old guitar.
The Gretsch had to wait a bit longer. At over £$3,000 dollars there’s no way I could afford the Duane Eddy signature guitar but a couple of years ago my ex-Avalon colleague David Parkinson and I decided we’d both buy an Electromatic vintage re-issue. He wanted an orange one in memory of Eddie Cochran and I got a black one. We get together occasionally for a Gretsch-fest!