Thursday, February 23, 2012

RIP Billy Strange

Musicians Hall of Famer Billy Strange, a songwriter, guitarist and arranger who aided the hit-making efforts of Elvis Presley, the Beach Boys, Frank Sinatra and Nancy Sinatra, has died in Nashville at age 81.

“My dear friend, the legendary guitarist/arranger Billy Strange passed away this morning in Nashville,” Nancy Sinatra wrote on her Twitter page. “My heart is shattered.”

Mr. Strange wrote the musical arrangement for Sinatra’s smash, “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’,” directing standup bass player George Burghofer to play the song’s signature sliding descent.

Mr. Strange also played the haunting guitar part on Sinatra’s “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down),” a minimalist recording popularized in the new century as part of the soundtrack for the Quentin Tarantino movie Kill Bill. And he helped arrange “Somethin’ Stupid,” Ms. Sinatra’s duet with father Frank Sinatra.

For Presley, Mr. Strange contributed hit compositions including “A Little Less Conversation” and “Memories.” He also wrote Chubby Checker’s hit, “Limbo Rock.”

A member of the “Wrecking Crew” of Los Angeles-based session musicians in the 1960s, Mr. Strange played guitar on the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds album, as well as on recordings by The Everly Brothers, Randy Newman, Willie Nelson, Nat King Cole and many others.

Mr. Strange was raised in Long Beach, Calif., and he was performing on local radio with his father and mother as a young boy. He began playing guitar at age 14, and touring with other musicians at 16.

Though he worked in the rodeo, as a truck driver and as a stunt man in his 20s, he settled into a musical life, performing early on with Spade Cooley, Roy Rogers, Count Basie, Speedy West & Jimmy Bryant and others.

His striking guitar work soon caught the attention of major producers, and he became an essential member of the informal group known as “The Wrecking Crew.” And he released a series of solo works in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s that highlighted his unusual tone and musicianship.

When Presley came to Los Angeles for sessions, he employed Mr. Strange as a player and arranger, and the two became fast friends, riding motorcycles together and sitting and playing with baby Lisa Marie Presley together.

Mr. Strange moved to Middle Tennessee in the early 1970s, and in Tennessee he ran a publishing company for Frank and Nancy Sinatra.

Survivor, cause of death and memorial service information is incomplete.

STRANGE, Billy (William Everet Strange)
Born: 9/29/1930, Long Beach, California, U.S.A.
Died: 2/22/2012, Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.A.

Billy Strange's westerns - musician, composer, actor:
Corral Cuties 1954 (himself) [musician]
Rawhide (TV) - 1961 (Murphy)
Incident at Phantom Hill - 1966 (banjo player)
Charro! - 1969 (musician)
Dirty Dingus Magee - 1970 (composer)

1 comment:

  1. ==Personal life of William "Billy" E. Strange==

    Strange was married to singer and actress [[Joan O'Brien]] from 1954 to 1955. They had a son, Russell Glen Strange, born October 4, 1955.

    He was also married to Betty Jo Conrad from 1960 to 1978. They had a daughter together, Kelly Kimberly Strange, born on November 11, 1964, and a stepson from Betty's previous marriage, Jerry Joseph Mitchell, born October 23, 1954.

    While separated from Betty Jo, Strange moved from CA to TN to open & run a publishing firm for the Sinatra's and lived with/dated Tricia "LeAnn" King. They had a daughter, Mary "Micah" King (Strange), she was born on December 23, 1976 in Lawrenceburg, TN.

    He was married to singer [[Jeanne Black]] in his last years.

    Billy Strange died on February 22, 2012, age 81.