“These Boots Are Made for Walkin'” is a hit song written by Lee Hazlewood and recorded by Nancy Sinatra. It charted January 22, 1966 and reached No. 1 in the United States Billboard Hot 100 and in the UK Singles Chart.
Subsequently, many cover versions of the song have been released in a range of styles: metal, pop, rock, punk rock, country, dance, and industrial. Loretta Lynn, Jessica Simpson, Kon Kan, Geri Halliwell, The Residents, Megadeth, Jewel, Operation Ivy, Parquet Courts, and KMFDM also released covers of the song. Leningrad Cowboys titled their version “These Boots”, and released a video of the song, directed by Aki Kaurismäki.
Nancy Sinatra was encouraged by Lee Hazlewood to sing the song as if she were “a sixteen-year-old girl who fucks truck drivers”. Sinatra’s recording of the song was made with the help of Los Angeles session musicians known as the Wrecking Crew. This session included Hal Blaine on drums, Al Casey, Tommy Tedesco, and Billy Strange on guitars, Ollie Mitchell, Roy Caton and Lew McCreary on horns, Carol Kaye on electric bass and Chuck Berghofer on double bass, providing the notable bass line. Nick Bonney was the guitarist for the Nelson Riddle Orchestra.
According to Carol Kaye, “Arranger Billy Strange believed in using the two basses together. Producer Lee Hazlewood asked Chuck to put a sliding run on the front of the tune. Chuck complied by playing notes about three tones apart (4–6 frets apart), but Lee stopped the take. ‘No Chuck, make your sliding notes closer together’, and that is what you hear.”
According to Al Casey, “Well, Lee and I had been friends forever, and he said, ‘I’ve got this song I’m working on, and I want the guitar to play this.’ And he showed me, because there’s a little bit more than banging on an ‘E-chord’, which is what most people do. There’s more to it than that. He said, ‘I want you to do this on the song,’ and he sang the song and played the rhythm guitar lick, and I went ‘Oh, that’s cute!’, little suspecting it was gonna be huge.”
Nancy Sinatra would later record one of Don Lanier’s songs on her 1969 album Nancy.
Other personnel, as seen in the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) contracts for the session include:
Billy Strange – arranger, conductor, and guitar
William Miller – (unknown)
Don Lanier – guitar
Lou Norell – guitar
Jerry Cole – guitar
William Pitman – guitar
Don Randi – keyboard
Richard Perissi – French horn
Oliver Mitchell – trumpet
Plas Johnson – tenor sax
Nick Bonney – guitar
Donald Frost – (unknown)
Charles Berghofer – bass
Eddie Brackett Jr. – engineer
Emil Richards – percussion
Jim Gordon – drums
Roy V. Caton – (contractor) trumpet
Lee Hazlewood – supervisor
The second single taken from her debut album Boots, and follow-up to the minor hit “So Long, Babe”, the song became an instant success. In late February 1966, the song topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart, a move it replicated in similar charts across the world.
When the single was first released, some thought it had to do with the subway strike in New York.
In the same year Sinatra recorded a promotional film, which would later be known as the music video, for the song. It was produced by Color-Sonics and played on Scopitone video jukeboxes. In 1986, for the song’s 20th anniversary, cable station VH1 played the video.
Sinatra told Alison Martino that other videos and performances are from TV shows like The Ed Sullivan Show, Hullaballoo and Shindig!
The videos featured Sinatra wearing an iconic pair of boots.