Born in rural Oklahoma in 1929, Lee Hazlewood mapped out a genre of music that was termed “Cowboy Psychedelia”. It sounds almost like an oxymoron; but when you learn more about Hazelwood you will feel completely comfortable with the etymology.
While being a D.J. in Arizona he hooked up with Rockabilly artist Sanford Clark and co-wrote the song “The Fool” which went to #7 on the Billboard chart. He followed up with Hazelwood again and released the track “Son of a Gun” which was about being the son of a western gunslinger. This was the first song that Keith Richards played and performed before joining the Rolling Stones. Pretty cool!
Lee later connected to the godfather of “Twang Guitar”, Duane Eddy and co-wrote and produced the brilliant instrumentals, “ Peter Gunn” and “Rebel Rouser”. Duane recorded again “Peter Gunn” with the band Art of Noise which connected him to the alternative audience and it produced a Top 10 hit in America and Europe
I promoted this track here in America while at Chrysalis Records and Eddy always stole his show with his “twang” guitar. He was unquestionably a rock pioneer and the most down to earth man you could ever meet; plus he was quite a dresser!
Hazlewood’s legacy only begins to take off when he coupled up with Nancy Sinatra where he enjoyed a slew of major hits that controlled pop radio. He wrote and produced “These Boots are Made for Walking” which launched her singing career let alone creating the iconic “Go Go Boots” in fashion.
His voice was thick and guttural when he spoke yet when he sang duets with Ms. Sinatra the combination was like divine intervention had occurred. It simply worked. I’ve included a video of “Summer Wine” as performed by the Irish group The Coors and Bono singing backup because it reflects a rugged romantic sexual intensity that many of Lee Hazelwood’s songs evoked.
Another clip included is a cover of “Jackson” performed by Johnny Cash and his wife June Carter performed at San Quentin Prison.
However, his greatest contribution that he wrote and produced was “Some Velvet Morning”.
Listen carefully and you will hear a song unlike any other. It’s alternating tempos sucks the listener into their web.
Former syndicated late night talk show host Art Bell would always play it on his show and comment that this was one of the best songs ever written!
Listen and enjoy one of the great seminal love songs sung by Nancy and Lee themselves.
Robert Plant and Allison Krauss did the only duos that ever came close to Hazelwood and Sinatra through the visionary production of T. Bone Burnett. Their process started with emotional influence, great song writing, brilliant production and a sense of vulnerable urgency.
Hazlewood later moved to Sweden and recorded a few records but they didn’t have the legs to be the phenomenon of when he recorded with Nancy Sinatra.
LEE HAZLEWOOD died in Henderson, Nevada on August 4th 2007 of complications from renal cancer. He was 78 years old. LEE left behind a wife, Jeane, and three children: Mark, Debbie and Samantha. His legacy is still a mainstay by many artists from Bono, Nick Cave and Jesus and Mary Chain. He set a standard that many producers could only imitated.