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.

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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.

Sheila, Dalida And Mina: Bang Bang European Style

You could spend your whole life listening to cover versions of Cher’s song “Bang, Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” on YouTube – or at least one evening. Over the years Cher’s original was overtaken by Nancy Sinatra’s version with the haunting guitar played by Billy Strange, which made the song immortal. Besides Nancy Sinatra’s version of “Bang, Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” and countless other versions, there were also many covers sung in foreign languages.

From all the non-English versions I stumbled upon, I’ve chosen three sung by European singers, who share several things: they all have pseudonyms ending on the same letter, sing in several languages, acted in movies and had very successful and long careers. I’m speaking of Sheila, Dalida and Mina.

Dalida’s and Mina’s versions are sung in Italian, Sheila’s in French. The videos were probably shot for TV shows, they’re all playbacks. Sheila’s and Dalida’s videos interestingly use the same footage of a girl and a boy who has a toy gun. Listen in Mina’s video to how different her voice sounds when she sings “bang, bang”, there’s much more reverb. And here’s the question of the day: How many guitar players can you count in Mina’s version? Have fun.

Sheila (1966)

French singer Sheila was born in 1945. Her real name is Annie Chancel. She was very popular in France and many other European countries during the nineteen-sixties and nineteen-seventies. Her popularity was so huge, that her name was used for a chain of clothing shops and for beauty products. She sang in several languages and was successful all over Europe. In the late seventies she became a disco star. Her disco hit “Spacer” was produced by Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards of the US funk group Chic. Sheila is still performing and recording.

Dalida (1966)

Dalida (1933-1987), real name Yolanda Christina Gigliotti, was a French singer of Italian ancestry who grew up in Egypt. She sang not only in French but also in Arabian, Italian, German and English. She started her career in 1956 at a singing contest in Paris, where she was discovered. From her first record release on she had an endless string of hit records in different styles of music all over the World. Her success in the music business was overshadowed by many private tragedies. She killed herself with an overdose of sleeping pills.

Mina (1967)

Mina, born in 1940, real name Anna Maria Mazzini, is an Italian singer. She sings in French, Spanish, Turkish, German and Japanese. She was discovered at a singing contest in 1958. During the nineteen-sixties and nineteen-seventies she was very successful in Italy and other European countries. Her regular performances on Italian television very much added to her huge success. In 1978 she stopped performing live, but kept on recording.

Guitarist Billy Strange Talks About Nancy Sinatra’s ‘Bang Bang’

Nancy Sinatra, Billy Strange

Nancy Sinatra and Billy Strange

Nancy Sinatra’s “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” is a masterpiece of minimalism. Just a voice telling a dark love story and a haunting guitar.

The man who played the haunting guitar is Billy Strange, a veteran studio guitar player, singer, arranger, composer and producer. He was so kind to talk with me about the birth of this enthralling song.

Lost & Sound: Did you arrange the song?
Billy Strange:
There was no arrangement. I just played what I thought was appropriate and Nancy liked the way it was sounding, so we recorded it.

L&S: Why did you decide to record it with just one guitar?
BS: It was just as if the song called for it. More than one instrument would have been too many.

L&S: What kind of sound effect did you use on the guitar?
BS: I used a tremolo effect. There is a small box that creates it, made by Vox, I believe.

L&S: Do you remember which amp and guitar you used?
BS:
The amp was my old Fender Twin and the guitar was the Gibson 335 that Nancy gave me

L&S: Where did you record it?
BS: It was recorded at either United Recorders or Western Recorders in Hollywood. The engineer was Eddie Brackett.

L&S: Did you and Nancy record live together or did you lay down the guitar first?
BS: We recorded it live with no overdubbing at all.

‘Bang Bang’ took a long time to make some noise
Nancy Sinatra’s version of the Sonny Bono written “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” was a sleeper. When it came out in 1966 on the LP “How Does That Grab You?” it didn’t make a big impact. Cher’s original version was a big hit, though. This changed dramatically over the years. Nancy Sinatra’s take on the song is better known today. The song had a late breakthrough in 2005 when it was used for the soundtrack of the Quentin Tarantino movie “Kill Bill”.

L&S: Do you have any special memories regarding the recording session?
BS: I recall that Nancy and I were both very pleased with the way it turned out. I think it was done in one take.

L&S: How do you feel about the fact, that the song became popular again thanks to the “Kill Bill” soundtrack?
BS: It was very gratifying that it was felt to be “the” song for the movie main title.

L&S: How would you interpret the lyrics?
BS: It is simply a very sad love song about lost love, as I see it.

(This interview is based on an email conversation.)

Billy Strange, Jeanne Black

Billy Strange with his wife, singer Jeanne Black

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