How Did Duane Eddy Die? Iconic 'Twangy' Guitarist Known for 'Peter Gunn' Theme and 'Rebel Rouser' Succumbs to Cancer Aged 86

Eddy rose to prominence with a series of instrumental hits in the late '50s and early '60s, notably including the theme to the TV series "Peter Gunn" and "Rebel Rouser."

Duane Eddy, the groundbreaking rock guitarist whose resonant electric style in instrumentals like "Rebel Rouser" and "Peter Gunn" played a crucial role in shaping the twangy essence of early rock 'n' roll, died at the age of 86. His influence extended to musicians like George Harrison, Bruce Springsteen, and many others.

According to his wife, Deed Abbate, the Grammy-winning musician succumbed to cancer in Franklin, Tennessee, surrounded by his family. With his energetic rhythms, accompanied by background hollers and hand claps, Eddy sold over 100 million records worldwide and mastered a unique sound rooted in the belief that a guitar's bass strings sounded better on tape than the higher strings.

Death of a Legend

Duane Eddy
Duane Eddy X

"Duane inspired a generation of guitarists the world over with his unmistakable signature 'Twang' sound," a rep told Variety. "He was the first rock and roll guitar god, a truly humble and incredible human being. He will be sorely missed."

Eddy rose to prominence with a series of instrumental hits in the late '50s and early '60s, notably including the theme to the TV series "Peter Gunn" and "Rebel Rouser."

He is widely acclaimed as the most commercially successful instrumental artist in rock 'n' roll history, boasting 16 top-40 singles and sales of over 100 million records worldwide.

"I had a distinctive sound that people could recognize and I stuck pretty much with that. I'm not one of the best technical players by any means; I just sell the best," he told The Associated Press in a 1986 interview.

"A lot of guys are more skillful than I am with the guitar. A lot of it is over my head. But some of it is not what I want to hear out of the guitar."

"Twang' defined Eddy's sound from his first album, Have Twangy Guitar Will Travel, to his 1993 box set, Twang Thang: The Duane Eddy Anthology.

"It's a silly name for a nonsilly thing,' Eddy told the AP in 1993.

"But it has haunted me for 35 years now, so it's almost like sentimental value — if nothing else."

Influencing Generations

Duane Eddy
Duane Eddy X

Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994, Eddy recorded over 50 albums, which included numerous reissues. Beginning in the 1980s, he gradually reduced his workload, stating in 1986 that he was "living off my royalties."

Born on April 26, 1938, in Corning, New York, Eddy began playing guitar at the age of five.

During his teenage years, his family moved to Arizona, where he eventually crossed paths with DJ Lee Hazlewood in Coolidge. Hazlewood produced Eddy's breakthrough single, "Rebel Rouser," in 1958.

A year later, Eddy achieved further success with his rendition of Henry Mancini's theme song for the television series "Peter Gunn." He also composed theme music for films such as "Because They're Young," "Pepe," and "Gidget Goes Hawaiian."

Eddy's distinctive style had a lasting impression on younger British musicians like George Harrison of The Beatles and Hank Marvin of The Shadows, as well as inspiring numerous instrumental surf bands that emerged in Southern California during the early '60s, according to Variety.

Later, Bruce Springsteen honored Eddy's aggressive guitar approach through the expansive sound of "Born to Run."

Experiencing a brief but notable resurgence in the late '80s, Eddy collaborated with Art of Noise on a synthesizer-heavy remake of "Peter Gunn." This updated version soared to the top 10 in the UK charts and won the Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental in 1986.