Behind many of the great rock’n’roll instrumental acts of the late 1950s and early 60s was a great producer. The Fireballs had Norman Petty, the Champs had Dave Burgess, the Ventures had Bob Reisdorff, Sandy Nelson had Richie Podolor, Johnny & the Hurricanes had Harry Balk and, perhaps most significantly, Duane Eddy had Lee Hazlewood, who not only produced but also wrote many of his signature recordings. It took the emergence of Hazlewood and Eddy to turn what might have seemed a passing fad for rock’n’roll instrumentals into an identifiable genre. Previously, records without vocals tended to be regarded as novelties, but after ‘Moovin’ N’ Groovin’’ entered the charts early in 1958, followed by the Top 10 success of ‘Rebel-’Rouser’, such discs became a stand-alone category and soon every record company sought their own twangy guitar act.
Back in 2010 we issued a collection in our Songwriter series titled “Califia: The Songs Of Lee Hazlewood”. At the time we reported that a companion volume of Hazlewood-penned instrumentals was already in the Ace pipeline. True to our word, albeit five years down the line, here it is at last. Star of the show, naturally, is twangmaster Eddy with ‘Shazam!’, the menacing ‘Stalkin’’ and ‘This Town’, a lesser-known later 45 from Hazlewood’s time writing and producing gems for Nancy Sinatra at Reprise Records. Sinatra herself is represented by proxy via instrumental versions of ‘These Boots Are Made For Walking’ by Billy Strange and ‘Some Velvet Morning’ by the Afro-Blues Quintet.
The Rhythm Rockers, the Ventures and the Lively Ones also contribute versions of Eddy numbers, while key Hazlewood associates guitar wiz Al Casey, top Wrecking Crew drummer Hal Blaine, renowned arranger/orchestra leader Jack Nitzsche and ace surf combo the Astronauts are also featured. Other highlights include the Mexican-flavoured ‘Muchacho’ by Lee Hazlewood’s Woodchucks, ‘Bo-Dacious’ by the Whisk Kids, ‘Desi’s Drums’ by Dino, Desi & Billy and Dick Dale’s axe-shredding recording of ‘Angry Generation’.
We’ve already started work on our next Lee Hazlewood project, so watch this space (but not for another five years, all being well).
Dave Burke, Mick Patrick & Alan Taylor