Billy Strange, Session Guitarist for Elvis, Dead at 81

Played on 'Pet Sounds,' 'These Boots Are Made for Walkin''

February 24, 2012 11:40 AM ET
billy strange circa 1970
Billy Strange
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Billy Strange, who played guitar for Elvis Presley and Nancy Sinatra and on the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds album, died Wednesday in Nashville at age 81. 

Strange, a member of the great L.A. session group known as the Wrecking Crew, was perhaps best known for stepping into the spotlight on some of Nancy Sinatra's biggest hits. He was the arranger on "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" and "Something Stupid," the singer's duet with her father, and his tremolo guitar was her sole accompaniment on "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)." He also played on countless hit records, for Ricky Nelson, the Everly Brothers and Phil Spector, to name a few.

Strange had writing credits on many songs, including Elvis' "A Little Less Conversation" and Chubby Checker's "Limbo Rock." He was a member of the Musicians Hall of Fame and the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. "He added raw insight to every session he sat in on," songwriter Van Dyke Parks told the Los Angeles Times.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

Music Main Next

blog comments powered by Disqus
Around the Web
Powered By ZergNet
Daily Newsletter

Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
marketing partners.


We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

Song Stories

“Madame George”

Van Morrison | 1968

One of the first stream-of-consciousness epics to make it onto a Van Morrison record, his drawn-out farewell to the eccentric "Madame George" lasted nearly 10 minutes, combining ingredients from folk, jazz and classical music. The character that gave the song its title provoked speculation that it was about a drag queen, though Morrison denied this in Rolling Stone. "If you see it as a male or a female or whatever, it's your trip," he remarked. "I see it as a ... a Swiss cheese sandwich. Something like that."

More Song Stories entries »