Guitar-Legend and Master-Arranger Billy Strange Celebrates 80th Birthday

Nancy Sinatra, Billy Strange (middle) and Lee Hazlewood in 2003.

Today Billy Strange celebrates his 80th birthday in Nashville, TN. Here’s a video interview with Billy Strange I did. He talks about working with The Beach Boys, Nat King Cole, Phil Spector and Nancy Sinatra.

Billy Strange helped the Beach Boys, Elvis, Frank and Nancy Sinatra and many others to make hits.

He was a number one studio guitarist in the music studios of Hollywood in the 1950s and 1960s. You can hear his guitar on songs like “Surfin’ U.S.A.”, “Sloop John B.” and countless other Beach Boys and surf songs. He’s also famous for playing the haunting guitar on “Bang Bang”, the song that was used by Quentin Tarantino in “Kill Bill”. His arranging skills made songs like “These Boots Are Made For Walkin'”, “Some Velvet Morning” and “Something Stupid” immortal.

Great American Drummer Earl Palmer Has Died

His legacy is immense: he shaped American popular music with his drumming from the late nineteen-forties until the nineteen-eighties. Earl Palmer, born October 25, 1924, in New Orleans died on September 19th at his home in Banning California. He had to undergo a lung surgery about a year ago and was suffering since then.

Earl Palmer was a jazz drummer at heart, but his tasteful and incredibly diverse drumming felt at home in every style of music: rhythm ‘n’ blues, rock ‘n’ roll, blues, rock, soul, funk, film scores, cartoon music, or easy listening. He can be heard on dozens of historic songs and film soundtracks.

In then nineteen-fifties his drums made teenagers dance all over the world. He played on defining rock ‘n’ roll songs like I’m Walkin (Fats Domino) , Tutti Frutti, The Girl Can’t Help It, Long Tall Sally (Little Richard) , La Bamba ( Ritchie Valens) or Summertime Blues (Eddie Cochran). He recorded for soul star Sam Cooke (Cupid, Twistin’ The Night Away), for Frank Sinatra, Dinah Washington, Ray Charles, Herb Alpert, Glen Campbell, Mel Tormé, Lou Rawls, The Beach Boys, The Monkees, Tim Buckley, Tom Waits, The Byrds, The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Randy Newman, Barbara Streisand and many others.

And then there are the film soundtracks: He worked with great composers like Quincy Jones, Elmer Bernstein, John Barry, Neal Hefti and Maurice Jarre. He supplied the rhythm to movies like Judgment At Nuremberg, Baby The Rain Must Fall, In The Heat Of The Night, Bullitt and he played on many television scores: 77 Sunset Strip, Peyton Place, The Partridge Family, M.A.S.H. and many others.

Earl Palmer was a tap dancer when he was a child and later picked up the drums. Soon he played with many local bands in New Orleans. After World War II he used the GI schooling for entering the Grunewald’s School of Music in New Orleans. He studied music theory, sight reading and arranging. So when he moved to Los Angeles in 1957, he not only brought with him the New Orleans “swamp beat”, but also a strong theoretical background that served him well in becoming the number one studio drummer of the Los Angeles music studios.

Drummerworld presents interesting information about his drumming including video samples. There’s also a very good biography called Backbeat: Earl Palmer’s Story that came out in 1999.

From Frank Sinatra To Jimi Hendrix: Art Director Ed Thrasher Designed Defining Album Covers

Covers Ed Thrasher

In the nineteen-sixties there was no MTV. Pop and rock stars had to rely on their album covers to build up an image. The LP album cover offered plenty of space to do so. One of the great American album designers and photographer was Ed Thrasher (1932-2006).

In 1957 Ed Thrasher started as graphical artist at Capitol Records and later became art director. In 1964 he went to Warner Bros. Records, where he was responsible for many Reprise Records covers (Reprise Records was founded by Frank Sinatra in 1957 and sold to Warner Bros. Records in 1963).

Ed Thrasher helped initiate a change of paradigm in album design. Until the early nineteen-sixties album covers were not considered art. Usually there was a more or less nice picture of the the artist on the cover. In many cases the artist wasn’t even on the cover, but a female model or dancing teenagers. During the nineteen-sixties cover designs changed. The covers became more diverse and were essential in portraying and marketing the artist’s image.

Ed Thrasher had the talent to adjust to his clients. He found the right approach to every artist. This versatility explains, why he could work for artists as diverse as Frank Sinatra and Jimi Hendrix. For the Joni Mitchell LP “Clouds” Ed Thrasher stayed in the background and used a self-portrait of her for the cover. He also worked as photographer, specializing in music and movie artists. Not only did he shoot the iconic Nancy Sinatra picture for the “These Boots Are Made For Walkin'” cover, but also many pictures of her father Frank Sinatra.

Ed Thrasher and Linda Gray

For your daily dose of trivia you may want to know, that Ed Thrasher was married to actress Linda Gray for twenty years (“Dallas”).

So keep your eyes open when you browse through a stack of old records. On many covers you will certainly find written in small letters “Art Direction: Ed Thrasher” or “Photo: Ed Thrasher”.

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