Billy Strange was one of the hottest players on the L.A. studio scene. He arranged Nancy Sinatra's 'These Boots Are Made for Walking' and played guitar on the Beach Boys' 'Pet Sounds' album.
Guitarist Billy Strange once took the kind of phone call that thousands of musicians receive only in their best and wildest dreams.
"I was staying at a hotel in Nashville in 1965 when my telephone rang and this unmistakable voice said, 'Billy, this is Elvis. I'd like for you to stop by my studios and play some music with me,'" Strange told an English newspaper in 2002. "I was absolutely thrilled, so I went along and he just sat at the piano playing gospel songs. We had a lot of fun; so much so that we never got around to recording anything that first day."
That made it a rare day in Strange's life in the 1960s: He not only was one of the hottest players but also a successful songwriter, arranger and recording artist working in L.A.'s' top recording studios at what may have been the pinnacle of a long career in which he contributed to hit records by artists such as Presley, the Beach Boys, Phil Spector, Frank and Nancy Sinatra, the Everly Brothers, Dean Martin, Willie Nelson and the Partridge Family.
Strange, who died Wednesday in Nashville at 81, is most widely known for his role as musical arranger of Nancy Sinatra's first No. 1 hit, "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'," in 1966 and her 1967 duet with her father, "Somethin' Stupid." Strange also was the budding pop singer's co-star on her eerie song "Bang Bang (He Shot Me Down)," on which the only accompaniment to her wistful vocal were the strums and runs from Strange's tremolo-soaked electric guitar.