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Billy Strange, Session Guitarist for Elvis, Dead at 81

Played on ‘Pet Sounds,’ ‘These Boots Are Made for Walkin”

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 BoysPet 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.


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