Lee Hazlewood

July 9, 1929-August 4, 2007   Hometown: Port Neches, TX

An important backroom figure in the late Fifties and Sixties,

Lee Hazlewood is considered an essential contributor to the "cowboy psychedelia" or "saccharine underground" genre. He was born in Mannford, Oklahoma, and spent his teenage years in Port Neches, Texas, graduating from Port Neches-Groves High School. He then attended Southern Methodist University until the Army took him to Korea. After his discharge in 1953, Hazlewood became a deejay on KCKY in Tuscan, Arizona.

 

Lee first met Duane Eddy at KCKY, where Eddy used to hang around asking for song requests to be played. Hazlewood was doing some songwriting and record production on the side. With his help, Eddy made his recording debut in 1955. Hazlewood largely created Eddy's signature "twangy" guitar sound in his studio. He co-wrote most of Eddy's later hits, starting with his first million-seller, "Rebel Rouser" in 1958.

 

Hazlewood moved to KTYL in Phoenix, Arizona, and became

one of the town's most popular deejays, broadcasting Country and Western music. In 1956, he wrote and produced "The Fool" by Sanford Clark, which sold 800,000 copies and landed him a record producer contract with Dot Records. He became the dominant force in rockabilly music in Phoenix.

 

In 1957, with the help of Dick Clark, Hazlewood and Still formed the Jamie label in Philadelphia. They launched Eddy through Clark's American Bandstand program, and within a few years, had sold twenty million records. The Jamie label also produced Neil Sedaka and Barbara Lynn and was partially responsible for the "Philadelphia music scene" phenomenon of the late 50s and early 60s.

 

Hazlewood is best known for having written and produced the 1966 Nancy Sinatra U.S./U.K. No. 1 hit, "These Boots are Made for Walkin" and "Summer Wine." Hazlewood saw a couple arguing in a Gulfway Drive restaurant in Port Arthur and heard one of them state that one day "these boots were going to walk out on you." He jotted the phrase down on a napkin and, with a slight alteration, used it for his biggest hit.

 

His collaboration with Nancy Sinatra began when Frank Sinatra asked Lee to help boost his daughter's career. When recording "These Boots are Made for Walkin'," Hazlewood is said to have told Nancy, "You can't sing like Nancy Nice Lady anymore. You have to sing for the truckers." She later described him as "part Henry Higgins and part Sigmund Freud" and recalled decades later, "I had a horrible crush on him, but he was married then."

 

Hazlewood also wrote "How Does That Grab Ya, Darlin'," "Friday's Child," "So Long, Babe," "Sugar Town," and many others for Sinatra. Among his most well-known vocal performances is "Some Velvet Morning," a 1967 duet with Sinatra. He performed that song along with "Jackson" on her 1967 television special Movin' With Nancy. Early in 1967, Lee produced the number 1 hit song for Frank and Nancy Sinatra, "Somethin' Stupid." The pair became the only father-daughter duo to top the Hot 100. The record earned a Grammy Award nomination for Record of the Year and remains the only father-daughter duet to hit No. 1 in the U.S.

 

Hazlewood wrote the theme song "The Last of the Secret Agents," for the 1966 spy-spoof film of the same title. Nancy Sinatra, who had a role in the film, recorded the song for the soundtrack. For Frank Sinatra's 1967 detective film, Tony Rome, Hazlewood also wrote the theme song, again performed by Nancy.

 

He wrote "Houston," a 1965 U.S. hit recorded by Dean Martin, and also produced several singles for Martin's daughter, Deana Martin, including her country hit, "Girl of the Month Club," while she was a teenager. 

Hazlewood wrote "This Town," a song that was recorded by Frank Sinatra and was the basis for Paul Shaffer's "Small Town News" theme on the Late Show with David Letterman.

 

Hazlewood's last album, Cake or Death, was released shortly before his death in 2007. He has since achieved cult status in the underground rock scene. Producer Charles Normal and a group of musicians including Black Francis of the Pixies, Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse, Larry Norman, Pete Yorn, and members of Art Brut and the Dandy Warhols released a full cover of Hazlewood's album Trouble Is a Lonesome Town in July 2013.

 

Rolling Stone ranked Lee Hazlewood & Nancy Sinatra's "Jackson" No. 9 on its list of the 20 Greatest Duos of All Time.

Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra perform "Jackson".
Tex Ritter Portrait