Duane Eddy and Richard Hawley bring back the twang
- 29 June 2011
- From the section Entertainment & Arts
US rock pioneer Duane Eddy, whose sound influenced artists from The Beatles to Blondie, has returned with his first album in 25 years, recorded in Sheffield with local hero Richard Hawley.
"I'm 73 years old, I should be home by the fireplace burning old records or something. Or burning old record companies' papers."
Duane Eddy is ruminating on how he came to be sitting in the back room of a pub in Sheffield before a gig to promote his new album, rather than in a rocking chair back home in Nashville.
"I don't know. I should be doing something other than this. But this is great and I'm loving it."
The guitarist, whose trademark twangy instrumentals made him one of the biggest stars of the late 1950s and early '60s, is enjoying an unexpected career revival.
A year ago, he was taking things easy with his wife, Deed, and looking back on a career that he thought had "gone past the due date", as he puts it.
When his last album was released in 1987, it featured famous fans like Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne and Ry Cooder.
Despite the big-name guests, it flopped - which Eddy blames on upheaval at the record company - and he says labels were "surely not going to touch me again after that".
But after popping up at occasional gigs and on film soundtracks, he was invited to Mojo magazine's award ceremony in London a year ago, where he was presented with an Icon Award. "Whatever that is," he mutters.
Hawley, a singer-songwriter with a fondness for the style and sounds of early rock 'n' roll, was there too, picking up the album of the year award. A "real" award, as Eddy describes it.
"I'd already known about him before that," Eddy says of the Sheffield-born star. "I'd listened to his albums and loved the sound of them.
"I told him I would wish that I'd been there [in the studio] so I could jump in and play a solo on some of them."
Hawley's reply was: "Well, we might arrange something like that."
Eddy's status as a rock 'n' roll legend has been assured for decades.
His record company first used the word "legend" on the back of a record sleeve when he was 23 years old, he says, after such hits as Rebel Rouser, Peter Gunn and Cannonball.
Eddy recalls: "At the time I was pretty excited and thought, wow, am I a legend already? Wowee! I wonder how I'm supposed to act now."
He went on to sell more than 100 million records and echoes of his distinctive slow twang come through loud and clear on The Beatles' Day Tripper, Bruce Springsteen's Born To Run and Blondie's Atomic.
Hawley first discovered him when he was given an Eddy EP at the age of six.
'He's got grace'
"Duane's one of the best guitar players that ever walked the earth. The end," Hawley declares.
"It's as much about the spaces between the notes as well as the notes themselves. He's very graceful, and a lot of guitar players ain't got that grace that Duane's got."
Hawley offered to produce a new album with Eddy, and invited him to record with his band at Sheffield's Yellow Arch Studios.
The Sheffield sound made by Hawley and his cohorts was something that Eddy, who grew up in Arizona, could immediately identify with, he says.
"It could be the south west desert, it could be the Yorkshire moors. Either way, it's still a wide open sound."
The album Road Trip was recorded the old-fashioned way - laid down live in just 11 days.
And during time off, Hawley showed Eddy the Peak District countryside, which the American describes as "some of the most beautiful scenery I've ever seen", and gave him a taste of the local nightlife.
"I took him to a Fagan's pub a couple of times," Hawley says. "We had fish and chips and Guinness."
The pair have returned to the city for an intimate concert at the Greystones pub, one of Hawley's favourite haunts, as well as appearing together at the Glastonbury Festival and the 100 Club in London.
And Eddy seems to be taking genuine delight in being wanted again.
He says: "When people come right out, like Bruce Springsteen or John Fogerty, and say: 'Duane was a big influence,' that's just one of the perks and rewards of what I did.
"That's worth more to me than money and the fame. That goes right to the heart.
Turning to Hawley, Eddy adds: "When he says he's influenced by my sound, that's the biggest compliment I can have."