Barton Lee Hazlewood (July 9, 1929 – August 4, 2007) was an American country and pop singer, songwriter, and record producer, most widely known for his work with guitarist Duane Eddy during the late 1950s and singer Nancy Sinatra in the 1960s and 1970s. Hazlewood had a distinctive baritone voice that added a resonance to his music. His collaborations with Nancy Sinatra as well as his solo output in the late 1960s and early 1970s have been praised as an essential contribution to a sound often described as "cowboy psychedelia" or "saccharine underground".
Barton Lee Hazlewood was born in Mannford, Oklahoma on July 9, 1929. The son of an oil worker father, Hazlewood spent most of his youth living between Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas, and Louisiana. His paternal grandmother was Native American. He grew up listening to pop and bluegrass music. Lee spent his teenage years in Port Neches, Texas, where he was exposed to a rich Gulf Coast music tradition. He studied for a medical degree at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. He served with the United States Army during the Korean War.
Hazlewood was initially known as a producer and songwriter, for artists including Duane Eddy, Dean Martin, and Dino, Desi & Billy. Following discharge from the military in 1953, Hazlewood worked as a disc jockey in Coolidge, Arizona and two years later, moved to KRUX radio in Phoenix. During that time, he was already writing songs and formed his own record label, Viv. His first hit single as a producer and songwriter was "The Fool", recorded by rockabilly artist Sanford Clark in 1956. He partnered with pioneering rock guitarist Duane Eddy, producing and co-writing a string of hit instrumental records. "Rebel Rouser", released in 1958 was a hit in the US and in the UK; Eddy would eventually have another 14 US hits, including "Peter Gunn", "Boss Guitar", "Forty Miles of Bad Road", "Shazam!" and "(Dance With The) Guitar Man".
Hazlewood is perhaps best known for having written and produced the 1966 Nancy Sinatra U.S./UK No. 1 hit, "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" and "Summer Wine", the latter first recorded with Suzi Jane Hokom in 1966. 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 made this suggestion to Nancy, "You can’t sing like Nancy Nice Lady any more. You have to sing for the truckers". She later described him as "part Henry Higgins and part Sigmund Freud".
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 Nancy Sinatra. He performed that song along with "Jackson" on her 1967 television special Movin' With Nancy. Early in 1967, Lee also produced the number 1 hit song for Frank & Nancy Sinatra "Somethin' Stupid". The pair became the only father-daughter duo to top the Hot 100 with what DJs dubbed 'the incest song' because it performed as if sung by two lovers. 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. Jimmy Bowen was listed as co-producer on that record but wasn't there at the time. Hazlewood just gave him credit as per a previous agreement with Jimmy.
Hazlewood also wrote the theme song "The Last of the Secret Agents", the theme song of 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 movie, Tony Rome, Hazlewood also wrote the theme song which was performed by Nancy. He wrote "Houston", a 1965 US hit recorded by Dean Martin. He also produced several singles for Martin's daughter, Deana Martin, including her country hit, "Girl of the Month Club," while Deana was still a teenager. Other tunes on that project were "When He Remembers Me," "Baby I See You" and "The Bottom of My Mind," all recorded during the 1960s. Hazlewood also wrote "This Town", a song that was recorded by Frank Sinatra that appeared on his 1968 album Greatest Hits and is the basis for Paul Shaffer's "Small Town News" segment theme on the Late Show with David Letterman.
In 1967, Hazlewood started his own record label, LHI Records (Lee Hazlewood Industries). Though it did not receive much attention at the time, the International Submarine Band, led by a then-unknown Gram Parsons, signed with LHI in 1967 and released their one and only album, Safe at Home. Shortly after the album was recorded, Parsons left the band to join The Byrds, contributing several songs to their 1968 album Sweetheart of the Rodeo. The contract Parsons had signed with Hazlewood's LHI caused a great deal of trouble for himself and The Byrds, and in the court settlement most of Parsons' material on Sweetheart of the Rodeo had the vocals removed and re-recorded by Roger McGuinn. This situation led to Parsons' departure from the Byrds not long after the album's release. As LHI producer and Hazlewood's ex-girlfriend Suzi Jane Hokom later noted, Hazlewood was a performer and not a businessman, and his lack of business acumen figured greatly in the label's 1971 demise.
In the 1970s Hazlewood moved to Stockholm, Sweden, where he wrote and produced the one-hour television show Cowboy in Sweden together with friend and Director Torbjörn Axelman, which also later emerged as an album. During ten years in Sweden he made records and films with Axelman. According to a retrospective of his career, the move to Europe was motivated by his "tax problems", concern that his son might be drafted for the Vietnam war and the fact that his record label "LHI was dying anyway", so Sweden looked like the perfect escape route. Decades later, his friend Suzi Jane Hokom made this comment about the years in Europe. "I think he knew he'd burned his bridges in LA and here was a brand new world where he had a built-in fanclub ... He really needed a new start".
Lee was semi-retired from the music business from the late 1970s and all through the 1980s. However, his own output also achieved a cult status in the underground rock scene, with songs recorded by artists such as Rowland S. Howard, Kim Salmon and the Surrealists, Miles Kane, Vanilla Fudge, Spell, Lydia Lunch, Primal Scream, Entombed, Einstürzende Neubauten, Nick Cave, the Jesus and Mary Chain, Hooverphonic, KMFDM, Anita Lane, Megadeth, The Ukiah Drag, Beck, Baustelle, the Tubes, Thin White Rope, Yonatan Gat, Zeena Schreck/Radio Werewolf and Slowdive.
In 2006, Hazlewood sang on Bela B.'s first solo album, Bingo, on the song "Lee Hazlewood und das erste Lied des Tages" ("Lee Hazlewood and the first song of the day"). He said that he loved producing and writing albums.
In 2007, Reprise/Rhino Handmade Records posthumously released 'STRUNG OUT ON SOMETHING NEW: THE REPRISE RECORDINGS', a set of his work at Reprise from 1964-1968 (excluding the Nancy Sinatra recordings). The 2 CD collection, totaling 55 tracks, covers three of his solo albums as well as production work for other artists, such as Duane Eddy, Sanford Clark, Jack Nitzche and Dino, Desi & Billy.
Since 2012, the Light in the Attic record label reissued many Hazlewood albums, including 400 Miles From LA: 1955-1956, which became available in September 2019.
Hazlewood died of renal cancer in Henderson, Nevada, on August 4, 2007, survived by his wife Jeane, son Mark and daughters Debbie and Samantha. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply.