Corki Casey O'Dell (1936 - 2017)

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Corki Casey O'Dell (Ed Rode / Getty)
Corki Casey O'Dell, a pioneering female guitarist who played with Duane Eddy, died Thursday, May 11, 2017, in Nashville, according to multiple news sources. She was 80.

Her session work in the early days of rock 'n' roll helped pave the way for future female musicians.

In the late 1950s in Phoenix, O’Dell was part of a group of musicians that included Duane Eddy, Lee Hazlewood, and Sanford Clark. In 1956, she played rhythm guitar on Clark’s hit song “The Fool.” Elvis Presley would record a version of that song. Hazlewood would use O’Dell on many of the sessions he produced.

She played guitar on many of Eddy’s early hit songs as a member of his backing band, the Rebels, including the iconic “Peter Gunn.” According to the Tennessean, the two were “lifelong friends and sidekicks,” a bond that motivated Eddy to describe O’Dell as “the first side-chick of rock ‘n’ roll.”

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She married songwriter Kenny O’Dell in the 1960s and moved to Nashville. The pair became well-known figures in the Nashville music scene.

O’Dell was one of the first women to be inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame. Inducted in 2014, she performed at the ceremony with Eddy for the first time in about 50 years.

“She stood her place with all the guys. She was not looked at as a female player. She was looked at as a player, period,” Joe Chambers, founder of the Musicians Hall of Fame, told the Tennessean. “She was just a joy to be around.”

Eddy mourned his friend on Twitter: “Pioneer for women musicians, my dear friend since 1955. RIP.”

She is survived by her husband of nearly 50 years, Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee Kenny O'Dell; three children; seven grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

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