In this video arranger Billy Strange talks about the recording session and the history behind the Nancy Sinatra hit “These Boots Are Made For Walkin'”.
Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made For Walkin'” was number 1 50 years ago. “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’,” hit number 1 on Billboard’s and Cash Box’s national singles charts on February 26, 1966. Besides Nancy’s great singing it was Billy Strange’s skills as an arranger and co-producer that made this song immortal.
In 2010 I talked to Billy Strange (1930-2012) for at his home in Franklin, TN, about ”Boots“ and he told me how he came up with the famous sliding bass intro played by Chuck Berghofer and why songwriter and producer Lee Hazlewwod didn’t want Nancy to record ”Boots“. You can watch the interview in the video above.
Billboard’s December 25, 1965 “Spotlight Singles” review of “Boots” recognized the hit potential of the song:
Having hit the Hot 100 chart with her ‘So Long Babe,’ Miss Sinatra has top of the chart potential with this fine folk-rock material from the pen of Lee Hazlewood. Her vocal performance and the Billy Strange driving dance beat should move this one rapidly up the chart.
More information about “Boots” on Nancy Sinatra’s website.
Billy Strange had a extraordinaire career as a guitarist, singer, recording artist, arranger, conductor, songwriter, composer and producer. He worked with Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley. He also worked as a studio guitarist in Los Angeles in the nineteen fifties and sixties. Here you can find his huge but incomplete discography.
Country-pop singer Jeanne Black, who had a million-selling hit with “He’ll Have To Stay” in 1960, passed away on October 23, 2014 in Orem, Utah — two days shy of her 77th birthday. According to her son Josh Shipley she was suffering from Alzheimer’s.
Jeannie Black was born on October 25, 1937 in Pomona, California.
Her biggest hit “He’ll Have To Stay” was the answer song to Jim Reeves’ “He’ll Have To Go”. It sold over one million copies worldwide. Because she could never repeat this success, she was labeled as “one hit wonder”. But she was more than that. Jeanne Black was a versatile singer with a dramatic talent. She was not only a fine ballad singer, but could also sing western swing, pop, rock ‘n’ roll and even proved that she was able to sing the blues.
All photos in the slideshow were taken between 1956 and early 1960s. (Courtesy of Billy Strange)
From 1956 until 1959 Jeanne Black was part of Cliffie Stone’s radio and TV show “Hometown Jamboree” that broadcasted live from the Harmony Park Ballroom in Anaheim, California. The show paved the way for many country musicians of the west coast. Among others Tennessee Ernie Ford, Zane Ashton (aka Bill Aken), Speedy West and Molly Bee played on Hometown Jamboree.
In 1960 Jeanne Black signed a record contract with Capitol. She worked very close with guitarist Billy Strange. He not only accompanied her on stage and in the music studio, but he was also her arranger and music coach and they became lovers. They parted in the early sixties. Billy Strange became a famous studio musician and arranger in Los Angeles. He worked with stars like Elvis Presley, Frank and Nancy Sinatra and Nat King Cole. He was also a successful song writer and music publisher. After breaking up with Billy Strange, Jeanne Black married Mark Shipley. Together the rose six children and ran community theatres in California and Utah. In 1999 she finally married her early love Billy Strange. They lived together in Franklin, TN until he died in 2012.
In the video Jeanne Black talks about how she and her youngest sister Janie auditioned for Cliffie Stone in 1956 and how she became a singer and recording artist. And while browsing through old issues of country music magazine “Country Song Roundup”, she and Billy share memories and remember the first time they saw Elvis Presley on TV.
I stumbled upon a great article by Jas Obrecht about the history of guitar in the music studios of Los Angeles. In 1980 Obrecht had the unique opportunity to interview guitar legends such as George M. Smith, Al Hendrickson, Bob Bain, Mitch Holder, Tim May and Tommy Tedesco.
Billy Strange, about two years old
I’m still very sad about the passing of the great musician Billy Strange. Not was he only a wonderful guitarist, producer and arranger, he was also a great friend. A unique man: thoughtful, funny, clever, heardheaded and supportive. He had the greatness to let others shine on stage and on records.
Over the years I’ve met Billy several times. And the more I learned about his life and career, the more in awe I was. That’s why I started writing about him on this blog. Later I interviewed Billy on video. Two parts of this video interview were published by Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger (English with German subtitles):
Das unbekannte Genie hinter Elvis und Sinatra: Teil 1
Das unbekannte Genie hinter Elvis und Sinatra: Teil 2
Here is my farewell to Billy (in German):
Der Forrest Gump der Musikgeschichte
And here are some articles from this blog about Billy Strange:
Billy Strange talks about Nancy Sinatra
Billy Strange’s Fuzz Guitar Spices Up Ann-Margret Ballad
The Billy Strange Story of Chubby Checker Hit Song ‘Limbo Rock’
The Birth of a Beach Boys Song
The Forgotten Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood CD
Billy Strange instrumentals on iTunes