Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Duane Eddy Goes Acoustic

Duane Eddy was the first rock'n'roll guitar god. His distinctive guitar sound earned him the moniker: 'the King of Twang'. His debut LP Have Twangy Guitar Will Travel (1958) remained in the American album chart for 82 weeks. In Britain the New Musical Express voted him the 'World's Number One Musical Personality' ahead of Elvis Presley.

In 1963 Eddy made his Welsh debut at the Sophia Gardens Pavillion, Cardiff. He was part of a musical package which included The Shirelles and Little Richard who topped the bill. However, when the New Yorker walked on stage he stunned fans by announcing that he wouldn't be able to perform his usual 40 minute set. He said: "I am very sorry but my group The Rebels have been told by the British Musicians Union that they cannot play."

It transpired that work permits issued to his backing band by the Ministry of Labour had expired just before the Cardiff gig. The BMU stepped in and insisted The Rebels could not play. If they did, warned the union, then the whole show (including The Shirelles and Little Richard) would be blacklisted.

It was the first time anything like this had happened in Duane Eddy's career. Without The Rebels to back him up he was forced to go acoustic. He ended up playing three folk numbers on a six stringed acoustic guitar before asking the Welsh audience if there was anything they wanted to know about him or his career. After a five minute question and answer session he shuffled off the stage to muted applause.

Duane Eddy may have lost his twang in Cardiff but it wasn't all doom and gloom. The atmosphere improved dramatically when Little Richard arrived in the arena. Fans danced in the aisles and fought over a sweat-drenched shirt that the black rock'n'roll legend had discarded at the front of the stage. Now that's more like it.