Today is the birthday of Carol Burnett, 81, and Bobby Rydell, 72.
Duane Eddy was born on this date in 1938, which would make him 76 today. Eddy was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.
One of the earliest guitar heroes, Duane Eddy put the twang in rock and roll. “Twang” is a reverberating, bass-heavy guitar sound boasted by primitive studio wizardry. Concocted by Eddy and producer Lee Hazlewood in 1957, twang came to represent the sound of revved-up hot rods and an echo of the Wild West on the frontier of rock and roll. Eddy obtained his trademark sound by picking on the low strings of a Chet Atkins-model Gretsch 6120 hollowbody guitar, turning up the tremolo and running the signal through an echo chamber. Behind the mighty sound of twang, Eddy became the most successful instrumentalist in rock history, charting fifteen Top Forty singles in the late Fifties and early Sixties. He has sold more than 100 million records worldwide. No less an authority than John Fogerty has declared, “Duane Eddy was the front guy, the first rock and roll guitar god.” Eddy’s influence is widespread in rock and roll. A twangy guitar drove Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run,” and twang echoes in the work of the Beatles, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Dave Edmunds, Chris Isaak and many more.
“Cannonball,” “Rebel Rouser,” “Forty Miles of Bad Road” and I’m cruising Speedway Boulevard in Tucson all over again. Someone else is driving — I’m not THAT old — but nevertheless, little rock and roll is as evocative as Duane Eddy, dated as it seems now.
Bernard Malamud was born on this date in 1914. Malamud twice won the National Book Award (The Magic Barrel, The Fixer) and the 1967 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (The Fixer). He’s also the author of The Natural.
Gertrude Pridgett was born on this date in 1886. She began performing in 1900, singing and dancing in minstrel shows. In 1902, she married performer William “Pa” Rainey and became known as Ma Rainey.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum has this to say about inductee Ma Rainey:
If Bessie Smith is the acknowledged “Queen of the Blues,” then Gertrude “Ma” Rainey is the undisputed “Mother of the Blues.” As music historian Chris Albertson has written, “If there was another woman who sang the blues before Rainey, nobody remembered hearing her.” Rainey fostered the blues idiom, and she did so by linking the earthy spirit of country blues with the classic style and delivery of Bessie Smith. She often played with such outstanding jazz accompanists as Louis Armstrong and Fletcher Henderson, but she was more at home fronting a jugband or washboard band.
Frederick Law Olmsted was born on this date in 1822. He was America’s foremost landscape architect of the 19th century and the designer of New York’s Central Park.
John James Audubon was born on this date in 1785.