Billy Strange Tells The Story Behind Nancy Sinatra’s Hit “These Boots Are Made For Walkin'”


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 (1937-2014): The Woman Behind The One Hit Wonder

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.

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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.

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Billy Strange: September 29, 1930 – February 22, 2012

Billy Strange, about two years old

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

Die Stiefel sind zum Wandern

Vom grossartigen Song «These Boots Are Made For Walkin’», den Nancy Sinatra unsterblich machte, gibt es unzählige Versionen in unzähligen Sprachen. Her einige aus den 1960er Jahren.

Yvonne Přenosilová – Boty proti lásce
Tschechisch im Doppelpack, zwei herrliche Videos des Songs.


Eileen – Die Stiefel sind zum Wandern
Deutsch mit charmantem Akzent.

Eileen – Questi stivali sono fatti per camminare
Neben der deutschen und italienischen Version sang Eileen übrigens auch noch eine französische.

Dalida – Stivaletti Rossi (1967)
Hier sind die Stiefel rot und die Rotzigkeit des Originals fehlt.

Annet Hesterman – Draag Schoenen Om Te Lopen
Holländisch, aber ansonsten ziemlich nah am Original.

Dominique Michel – Ces bottes sont faites pour marcher

Görenhafte Version mit Einsatz von Geigen.

Muguette – Ces bottes sont faites pour marcher

Die wütende Lässigkeit des Originals erreicht auch diese französische Version nicht.

Gloria Benavides – Estas Botas Son Para Caminar
Bei dieser Version konnten sich die Musiker nicht auf den Groove einigen.

Los IN – These Boots Are Made for Walkin'(1966)
Version im Stil der Beatles, gespielt von einer argentinischen Gruppe, gesungen auf englisch.

Nancy Sinatra – These Boots Are Made for Walkin’
Unschlagbar, das Original von Nancy Sinatra. Produziert von Lee Hazlewood, arrangiert von Billy Strange, der die Idee zum Bass-Intro hatte (das Chuck Berghofer spielte).

Working With Nancy Sinatra, Lee Hazlewood and Elvis Presley: Part II Of Billy Strange Video-Documentary

Nancy Sinatra and Billy Strange in the recording studio

Nancy Sinatra in the studio with Billy Strange.

Part 2 of my mini-video-documentary is now online: Billy Strange – Hit Maker.

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.

Billy Strange’s Fuzz Guitar Spices Up Ann-Margret Ballad

Singer Ann-Margret

Ann-Margret (Photo: unknown)

Guitarist Billy Strange

Billy Strange (Photo: The "Official" Billy Strange Fan Group on Facebook)

Recently I discovered a great fuzz guitar example on Westex’ blog Diggin’ It!!! performed by studio guitarist legend Billy Strange. He played a catchy fuzz guitar intro on Ann-Margret’s country-pop ballad I Just Don’t Understand from 1961 and added some more fuzz later in the song on the chorus and in the solo part.

Billy Strange is notorious for his fuzz guitar. In 1962 he played a driving fuzz guitar solo on the Phil Spector production “Zip-A-Dee-Doo Dah” by Bobb B. Sox and the Blue Jeans. To get the fuzz sound he used a very simple but effective method that he  explains in Tales Of Broken Guitar Amps.

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