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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Back to back: Nancy Sinatra sings Lee Hazlewood songs

Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood on cover of Reprise LP “Nancy & Lee” (1968)

Beauty and mustache: Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood on cover of Reprise LP “Nancy & Lee” (1968)

He wrote “These Boots Are Made For Walkin'”, produced several of Nancy Sinatra’s records and was her duet partner. «Some Velvet Morning», «Summer Wine» and «Sand» became immortal gems of popular music. The pairing of Hazlewood’s and  Sinatra’s voices and the headstrong Hazlewood lyrics still intrigue listeners today.

But let’s turn the spotlight to some lesser known songs by Lee Hazlewood that were sung by Nancy Sinatra. On this playlists Nancy’s versions are played back to back with Lee’s. His most famous song “These Boots Are Made For Walkin'” is also included.

After Nancy had a huge hit with this song, Lee recorded his own very funny version which comments about how he and arranger Billy Strange recorded Nancy’s Hit.

Lee was not only an adept songwriter, he was also a clever businessman. He sold his songs to as many artists as possible and also recorded them himself. In many cases he also produced the songs that he had written. Sometimes Lee recorded his version before Nancy’s, sometimes it was the other way around.

All songs on the playlist are arranged and co-produced by Billy Strange, who worked both with Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra. He’s responsible for the unique sound, an astonishing mixture of sophisticated pop music and easy listening. And on all songs Eddie Brackett was responsible for the sound engineering.

Lee used the same group of Los Angeles studio musicians for his own and Nancy’s version. That includes drummers like Jim Gordon and Hal Blaine, keyboard player Don Randi, electric bass player Carol Kaye, acoustic bass player Chuck Berghofer, Al Casey or Billy Strange on guitar and countless others.

These boots are made for walkin'
 1966: Lee Hazlewood. LP "The very special world of Lee Hazlewood" (MGM)
 1966: Nancy Sinatra. LP "Boots" (Reprise)
Shades
 1968: Lee Hazlewood. LP  "Something special" (MGM)
 1968: Nancy Sinatra. LP "Nancy in London" (Reprise)
So long, babe
 1966: Lee Hazlewood. LP "The very special world of Lee Hazlewood" (MGM)
 1966: Nancy Sinatra.  LP "Boots" (Reprise)
My Baby Cried All Night long
 1966: Lee Hazlewood. LP "The very special world of Lee Hazlewood" (MGM)
 1966: Nancy Sinatra. LP "How does that grab you?" (Reprise)
Not the loving kind
 1966: Lee Hazlewood. LP "The very special world of Lee Hazlewood" (MGM)
 1966: Nancy Sinatra. LP "How does that grab you?" (Reprise)
I Move Around
 1966: Lee Hazlewood. LP "The very special world of Lee Hazlewood" (MGM)
 1966: Nancy Sinatra.  LP "Boots" (Reprise)

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

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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Keyboard And Electric Bass Player Larry Knechtel Dies

According to the Yakima Herald keyboarder/electric bass player Larry Knechtel dies at age 69.

Larry Knechtel was a busy musician, working live and in the studios. He recently collaborated with The Dixie Chicks. Besides that he played with musicians and bands such as Ray Charles, Dolly Parton, The Doors, The Byrds, Neil Diamond, The Beach Boys, Steppenwolf, Randy Newman, Harry Nilsson and Elvis Presley.

Larry Knechtel received a Grammy award for arranging Simon and Garfunkel’s super hit Bridge Over Troubled Water, on which he also played keyboard. He was also a member of Bread.

As studio musician Larry Knechtel was an important part of the Los Angeles music studio scene of the nineteen-sixties.