Billy Strange: Guitarist with the Wrecking Crew

 

The record companies in Los Angeles and Hollywood in the 1960s found Billy Strange a useful musician for a session. He could sing, play guitar, arrange and conduct and he would do whatever was asked of him very effectively. The drawback was him telling others if he thought they were wrong, leading to the industry joke, "Have you seen the Billy Strange doll? You wind it up and it takes over the session."

Billy Strange was born in Long Beach, California in 1930. His father, George, presented a country music show onthe radio and sang in clubs with his wife, Billie. Because of asthma, the young boy had difficulty in learning thetrumpet and he switched to guitarwhen he was 14. He joined his father's band two years later and when all the adult members were too drunk he would drive the bus home even though he had no licence.

By the 1950s Strange was in demand as a guitarist backing country acts on both radio and television and became a regular singer on a TV show from Hollywood. He became a session musician as he could adopt easily to what was wanted – lead or rhythm guitar, electric or acoustic.

In 1962 he was challenged by his friend, Jon Sheldon, to write a song in 15 minutes. He wrote a riff and sang "What a monotonous melody" for every line. Sheldon supplied the lyric, "Limbo Rock". It was recorded by Chubby Checker and went to No 1 in the US.

In the '60s Billy Strange became a guitarist with the famed LA session men known as the Wrecking Crew. In 1962 he was recorded as part of the Ventures when the lead guitarist was drafted and the band did not want to lose its impetus. Although he recorded his own instrumental and vocal albums, they were not big sellers, but he did provide the singing voice for Steve McQueen as a rockabilly singer in Baby The Rain Must Fall (1964).

Strange undertook session work for the Beach Boys, in particular, being hired by Brian Wilson to record Pet Sounds (1966) while the other Beach Boys were on tour. He played on several of their hit singles including "California Girls" (1965). He recorded with Ricky Nelson, Jan and Dean, the Everly Brothers and Doris Day (including "Move Over Darling") His strangest moment came in 1964 when he played lead guitar on "Bikini With No Top On Top" for two busty blondes, Mamie Van Doren and June Wilkinson.

In the mid-1960s Strange was the music director on two of Presley's films and he and Mac Davis collaborated on the songs, "Memories", "Clean Up Your Own Back Yard" and "A Little Less Conversation". Strange befriended Elvis Presley and they rode Harley-Davidsons together in the Hollywood hills. Unfortunately, Strange broke a finger in a motorcycle accident and could no longer play the guitar competently.

Strange's most intriguing collaborations were with the singer/songwriter Lee Hazlewood, who had a succession of off-the-wall projects including the atmospheric Trouble Is A Lonesome Town (1963). With Hazlewood as producer and songwriter and Strange as arranger, they worked on "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'", a transatlantic No 1 for Nancy Sinatra in 1966. Strange arranged her equally successful duet with her father, "Somethin' Stupid" (1967) as well as her 1967 album with Hazlewood, Nancy And Lee, which included the country duet, "Jackson" and the attractively mysterious "Some Velvet Morning".

In 2001, an alternative take of Elvis Presley's "A Little Less Conversation" was used in the George Clooney film Ocean's Eleven. This was remixed by a Dutch DJ, Tom Holkenberg (aka Junkie XL), for Nike commercials, and as a single it became a surprise No 1 hit under the billing, Elvis vs JXL.

In 2003, Strange worked on a new album, Nancy And Lee 3, which included a moody arrangement of "She Won't" with guitarist Duane Eddy, which showed that they hadn't lost their touch. Strange's third marriage was to the singer, Jeanne Black, and he had produced her US hit, "He'll Have To Stay", in 1960.

William E Strange, guitarist: born Long Beach, California 29 September 1930; married 1954 Joan O'Brien (one son), 1960 Betty Jo Conrad (one daughter), thirdly Gloria Jeanne Black: died Franklin, Tennessee 22 February 2012.

Arts and Entertainment
Sheeran arrives at the 56th annual Grammy Awards earlier this year
musicYes, that would be Ed Sheeran, according to the BBC
Sport
Rio Ferdinand, Alan Shearer, Alan Hansen and Gary Lineker during Hansen's final broadcast
Sport
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Eminem's daughter Hailie has graduated from high school
music
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Arts and Entertainment
'Deep Breath' is Peter Capaldi's first full-length adventure as the twelfth Doctor
TVFirst episode of new series has ended up on the internet
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Dynamics CRM Developer (C#, .NET, Dynamics CRM 2011/2013)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Dynamics CRM D...

Web Developer (C#, ASP.NET, AJAX, JavaScript, MVC, HTML)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Web Developer ...

C# R&D .NET Developer-Algorithms, WCF, WPF, Agile, ASP.NET,MVC

£50000 - £67000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# R&D .NE...

C# Developer (Web, HTML5, CSS3, ASP.NET, JS, Visual Studios)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?