Link Wray

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Link Wray
Link Wray in Seattle 2005 (1).jpg
Wray in Seattle, 2005
Background information
Birth nameFred Lincoln Wray, Jr.
Born(1929-05-02)May 2, 1929
Dunn, North Carolina, U.S.
DiedNovember 5, 2005(2005-11-05) (aged 76)
Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Musician
  • songwriter
Years active1956–2005
Associated acts Robert Gordon

Fred Lincoln "Link" Wray, Jr. (May 2, 1929 – November 5, 2005) was a Shawnee rock and roll guitarist, songwriter, and vocalist who became popular in the late 1950s.

Shawnee ethnic group

The Shawnee are an Algonquian-speaking ethnic group indigenous to North America. In colonial times they were a semi-migratory Native American nation, primarily inhabiting areas of the Ohio Valley, extending from what became Ohio and Kentucky eastward to West Virginia, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Western Maryland; south to Alabama and South Carolina; and westward to Indiana, and Illinois.

Rock and roll is a genre of popular music that originated and evolved in the United States during the late 1940s and early 1950s from musical styles such as gospel, jump blues, jazz, boogie woogie, and rhythm and blues, along with country music. While elements of what was to become rock and roll can be heard in blues records from the 1920s and in country records of the 1930s, the genre did not acquire its name until 1954.


Building on the distorted electric guitar sound of early records, his 1958 instrumental hit "Rumble" by Link Wray & His Ray Men popularized "the power chord, the major modus operandi of modern rock guitarists," facilitating the emergence of "punk and heavy rock". Rolling Stone placed Wray at No. 45 of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time. [1] In 2013 and 2017 he was a nominee for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. [2] Though he began in country music, his musical style went on to consist primarily of rock and roll, rockabilly, and instrumental rock. [3]

Distortion (music) form of audio signal processing giving "fuzzy" sound

Distortion and overdrive are forms of audio signal processing used to alter the sound of amplified electric musical instruments, usually by increasing their gain, producing a "fuzzy", "growling", or "gritty" tone. Distortion is most commonly used with the electric guitar, but may also be used with other electric instruments such as bass guitar, electric piano, and Hammond organ. Guitarists playing electric blues originally obtained an overdriven sound by turning up their vacuum tube-powered guitar amplifiers to high volumes, which caused the signal to distort. While overdriven tube amps are still used to obtain overdrive in the 2010s, especially in genres like blues and rockabilly, a number of other ways to produce distortion have been developed since the 1960s, such as distortion effect pedals. The growling tone of distorted electric guitar is a key part of many genres, including blues and many rock music genres, notably hard rock, punk rock, hardcore punk, acid rock, and heavy metal music.

An instrumental is a musical composition or recording without lyrics, or singing, although it might include some inarticulate vocals, such as shouted backup vocals in a Big Band setting. Through semantic widening, a broader sense of the word song may refer to instrumentals. The music is primarily or exclusively produced using musical instruments. An instrumental can exist in music notation, after it is written by a composer; in the mind of the composer ; as a piece that is performed live by a single instrumentalist or a musical ensemble, which could range in components from a duo or trio to a large Big Band, concert band or orchestra.

Rumble (instrumental) 1958 instrumental by Link Wray

"Rumble" is an instrumental by American group Link Wray & His Ray Men. Released in the United States on March 31, 1958, as a single, though recorded in 1954, "Rumble" utilized the techniques of distortion and feedback, then largely unexplored in rock and roll. The single is the only instrumental ever banned from radio in the United States. It is also one of the first tunes to use the power chord, the "major modus operandi of the modern rock guitarist".

Early life

Wray was born on May 2, 1929 in Dunn, North Carolina, to Fred Lincoln Wray, Sr., and his wife, Lillian M. Wray (née Coats), [4] [5] who were semi-literate Shawnee Native Americans,. [6] although the 1930 and 1940 censuses refer to them as White as many Native Americans either registered themselves as White or Black to avoid discrimination,[ citation needed ] Three songs he performed were named for indigenous peoples: "Shawnee," "Apache," and "Comanche." "Apache" was an instrumental composed by Jerry Lordan; it was originally a hit in the United Kingdom for The Shadows in 1960 and reached #2 on the Billboard charts in the U.S. on April 3, 1961 by Danish guitarist Jørgen Ingmann. Wray recorded a cover version 30 years later, when it was also associated with The Ventures and the Incredible Bongo Band.

Dunn, North Carolina City in North Carolina, United States

Dunn is a city in Harnett County, North Carolina, United States. The population was 9,263 at the 2010 census, and an estimated 9,718 in 2018. It is the anchor city of the Dunn Micropolitan Area, population 114,678, which is a part of the greater Raleigh–Durham–Cary Combined Statistical Area (CSA) as defined by the United States Census Bureau.

Apache (instrumental) instrumental by Jerry Lordan

"Apache" is an instrumental written by English composer Jerry Lordan. The original version was by Bert Weedon, but Lordan did not like the version. The British rock group the Shadows recorded "Apache" in June 1960 and released it the next month. It topped the UK Singles Chart for five weeks.

Wray served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War (1950-53), and contracted tuberculosis, which hospitalized him for a year. His stay concluded with the removal of a lung, which doctors predicted would mean he would never be able to sing again. [7]

United States Army Land warfare branch of the United States Armed Forces

The United States Army (USA) is the land warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces. It is one of the seven uniformed services of the United States, and is designated as the Army of the United States in the United States Constitution. As the oldest and most senior branch of the U.S. military in order of precedence, the modern U.S. Army has its roots in the Continental Army, which was formed to fight the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783)—before the United States of America was established as a country. After the Revolutionary War, the Congress of the Confederation created the United States Army on 3 June 1784 to replace the disbanded Continental Army. The United States Army considers itself descended from the Continental Army, and dates its institutional inception from the origin of that armed force in 1775.

Korean War 1950s war between North and South Korea

The Korean War was a war between North Korea and South Korea. The war began on 25 June 1950 when North Korea invaded South Korea following a series of clashes along the border.

Tuberculosis Infectious disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis

Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease usually caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) bacteria. Tuberculosis generally affects the lungs, but can also affect other parts of the body. Most infections do not have symptoms, in which case it is known as latent tuberculosis. About 10% of latent infections progress to active disease which, if left untreated, kills about half of those affected. The classic symptoms of active TB are a chronic cough with blood-containing mucus, fever, night sweats, and weight loss. It was historically called "consumption" due to the weight loss. Infection of other organs can cause a wide range of symptoms.


In 1958, Wray's first hit, "Rumble," was banned in New York and Boston for fear it would incite teenage gang violence. [8] The record was first released on Cadence Records (catalog number 1347) as by "Link Wray & His Ray Men." Building on the distorted electric guitar sound of early records, his 1958 instrumental hit "Rumble" by Wray and his band popularized "the power chord, the major modus operandi of modern rock guitarists," [9] facilitating the emergence of "punk and heavy rock". [10] Before, during, and after his stints with major labels Epic and Swan, Wray released 45s under many names. Tiring of the corporate music machine, he began recording albums using a three-track studio he converted from an outbuilding on his brother's property that his father used to raise chickens. [7]

Cadence Records was an American record company based in New York City whose labels had a picture of a metronome. It was founded by Archie Bleyer, who had been the musical director and orchestra leader for Arthur Godfrey in 1952. Bleyer had written a few hot songs in 1932–34 and had a band that recorded for ARC in 1934 and 1935.

A power chordPlay  is a colloquial name for a chord in guitar music, especially electric guitar, that consists of the root note and the fifth, as well as possibly octaves of those notes. Power chords are commonly played on amplified guitars, especially on electric guitar with distortion. Power chords are a key element of many styles of rock and especially in heavy metal, and punk rock.

Rock music is a genre of popular music that originated as "rock and roll" in the United States in the early 1950s, and developed into a range of different styles in the 1960s and later, particularly in the United States and the United Kingdom. It has its roots in 1940s and 1950s rock and roll, a style which drew heavily from the genres of blues, rhythm and blues, and from country music. Rock music also drew strongly from a number of other genres such as electric blues and folk, and incorporated influences from jazz, classical and other musical styles. Musically, rock has centered on the electric guitar, usually as part of a rock group with electric bass, drums, and one or more singers. Usually, rock is song-based music usually with a 4/4 time signature using a verse–chorus form, but the genre has become extremely diverse. Like pop music, lyrics often stress romantic love but also address a wide variety of other themes that are frequently social or political.

While living in the San Francisco Bay Area in the early 1970s, Wray was introduced to Quicksilver Messenger Service guitarist John Cipollina by bassist James "Hutch" Hutchinson. [11] He subsequently formed a band initially featuring special guest Cipollina along with the rhythm section from Cipollina's band Copperhead, bassist Hutch Hutchinson, and drummer David Weber. They opened for the band Lighthouse at the Whisky a Go Go in Los Angeles from May 15–19, 1974. [12] He later did numerous concerts and radio broadcasts in the Bay Area including KSAN and the Bill Graham venue Winterland Ballroom, with Les Lizama later replacing Hutchinson on bass. [13] He toured and recorded two albums with retro-rockabilly artist Robert Gordon in the late 1970s. [14] The 1980s to the present day saw a large number of reissues as well as new material. One member of his band in the 1980s, drummer Anton Fig, later became drummer in the CBS Orchestra on the Late Show with David Letterman . In 1994, he played on four songs of the album Chatterton by French rocker Alain Bashung. [15] He went on to release two albums of new music: Shadowman (1997) and Barbed Wire (2005). Recently discovered recordings were slated to be released in 2018.[ citation needed ]

Quicksilver Messenger Service American psychedelic rock band formed in 1965 in San Francisco

Quicksilver Messenger Service is an American psychedelic rock band formed in 1965 in San Francisco. The band achieved wide popularity in the San Francisco Bay Area and through their recordings, with psychedelic rock enthusiasts around the globe, and several of their albums ranked in the Top 30 of the Billboard Pop charts. They were part of the new wave of album-oriented bands, achieving renown and popularity despite an almost complete lack of success with their singles. Though not as commercially successful as contemporaries Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead, Quicksilver was integral to the beginnings of their genre. With their jazz and classical influences and a strong folk background, the band attempted to create an individual, innovative sound. Music historian Colin Larkin wrote: "Of all the bands that came out of the San Francisco area during the late '60s, Quicksilver typified most the style, attitude and sound of that era."

John Cipollina American musician

John Cipollina was a guitarist best known for his role as a founder and the lead guitarist of the prominent San Francisco rock band Quicksilver Messenger Service. After leaving Quicksilver he formed the band Copperhead, was a member of the San Francisco All Stars and later played with numerous other bands, including Janis Joplin on the Dick Cavett show.

Lighthouse is a Canadian rock band formed in 1968 in Toronto, Ontario. Their sound included horns, string instruments, and vibraphone; their music reflected elements of rock music, jazz, classical music, and swing. They won Juno Awards for Best Canadian Group of the Year in 1972, 1973, and 1974.

Personal life

Link Wray's grave Grave of Link Wray.JPG
Link Wray's grave

Wray's first three marriages—to Elizabeth Canady Wray, Katherine Tidwell Wray, and Sharon Wray—each ended in divorce. [16] Although Wray had eight children with his first three wives, he had little contact with any of them after relocating to Denmark in the early 1980s. [16]

Wray died of heart failure at his home in Copenhagen, at the age of 76. [17] Survivors included his fourth wife, Olive Julie Povlsen Wray, and their son. [16] He was buried in the crypt of the Christian's Church, Copenhagen. [18]


Jack Rose cited Wray as an influence, [19] as did Iggy Pop [20] and Neil Young. [21] Jimmy Page says that Link Wray had a "real rebel attitude" and credits him in It Might Get Loud as a major influence in his early career. According to Rolling Stone , Pete Townshend of The Who once said, "If it hadn't been for Link Wray and 'Rumble,' I never would have picked up a guitar." "The only people I ever really looked up to were Link Wray and Iggy Pop," said Mark E. Smith of The Fall. "Guys like…Link Wray…are very special to me." [22]



Release date A-side B-side LabelCatalog number US
March 1958"Rumble""The Swag" Cadence 134716
January 1959"Raw-Hide""Dixie-Doodle" Epic 5-930023
June 1959"Comanche""Lillian"Epic5-9321
October 1959"Slinky""Rendezvous"Epic5-9343
1959"Roughshod""Vendetta" [released as by Ray Vernon; no credit to Link Wray or The Raymen]Scottie1320
March 1960"Trail of the Lonesome Pine""Golden Strings" (Based on a Chopin etude)Epic5-9361
October 1960"Ain't That Lovin' You Babe""Mary Ann"Epic5-9419
July 1961"Jack The Ripper""The Stranger"Rumble1000
August 1961"El Toro""Tijuana"Epic5-9454
November 1961"Evil Angel""Danger One Way Love" [released as by Ray Vernon with Link Wray & His Raymen]Rumble1349
April 1962"Poppin' Popeye""Big City Stomp"Trans AtlasM-687
October 1962"Big City After Dark""Hold It" [released as by Ray Vernon & The Raymen]Mala456
1963"Dancing Party""There's a Hole in the Middle of the Moon"Mala458
March 1963"Hambone" [A-side by Red Saunders & His Orchestra with Dolores Hawkins and the Hambone Kids]"Rumble Mambo" [B-side by Link Wray & The Wraymen] Okeh 4-7166
April 1963"Jack The Ripper""The Black Widow" Swan S-413764
September 1963"Week End""Turnpike U.S.A."SwanS-4154
November 1963"The Sweeper""Run Chicken Run"SwanS-4163
February 1964"The Shadow Knows""My Alberta"SwanS-4171
July 1964"Deuces Wild""Summer Dream"SwanS-4187
February 1965"Good Rockin' Tonight""I'll Do Anything For You"SwanS-4201
April 1965"I'm Branded""Hang On"SwanS-4211
never released/withdrawn from schedule (originally set for mid–1965)"Please Please Me""Rumble '65"SwanS-4221
July 1965""Baby, What'cha Want Me""Walkin' Down the Street Called Love"Diamond186
October 1965"Girl from the North Country""You Hurt Me So"SwanS-4232
December 1965"Ace of Spades""The Fuzz"SwanS-4239
February 1966"Batman Theme" (with Bobby Howard)"Alone"SwanS-4244
July 1966"Hidden Charms""Ace of Spades" [alternate version]SwanS-4261
October 1966"Let the Good Times Roll" (with Kathy Lynn)"Soul Train"SwanS-4273
1967"Jack The Ripper" [reissue]"I'll Do Anything For You" [reissue]SwanS-4284
1968"Rumble '68""Blow Your Mind"Heavy101
1969"Rumble–69""Mind Blower"Mr. G (an imprint of Audio Fidelity)G-820
July 1971"Fire and Brimstone""Juke Box Mama" Polydor PD-14084
October 1971"Fallin' Rain""Juke Box Mama"PolydorPD-14096
1973"Shine the Light""Lawdy Miss Clawdy"PolydorPD-14188
1973"I'm So Glad, I'm So Proud""Shawnee Tribe"Virgin [UK]VS-103
1974"I Got To Ramble" (Dedicated to the memory of Duane Allman)"She's That Kind of Woman"PolydorPD-14256
1974"It Was a Bad Scene""Backwoods Preacher Man"Polydor [UK]2066 366
1975"I Know You're Leaving Me Now""Quicksand"Virgin [UK]VS-142
June 1979"It's All Over Now, Baby Blue""Just That Kind" Charisma[UK]CB-333


Wray was a featured collaborator on Robert Gordon's 1977 single "Red Hot" (Private Stock Records, PS 45-156). The single peaked at # 83 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. [24]


Release dateTitleLabelCatalog Number
1960 USLink Wray & The Wraymen Epic LN 3661
1962 USGreat Guitar Hits by Link Wray and His RaymenVermillionLP-1924
1963 US Jack The Ripper (album) Swan S-LP 510
1964 USLink Wray Sings and Plays GuitarVermillionLP-1925
1969 USYesterday – TodayRecord FactoryLP-1929
1971 US Link Wray Polydor PD-24-4064
1971 US Mordicai Jones (with Bobby Howard)PolydorPD-5010
1973 US Beans and Fatback (rec. 1971) Virgin V-2006
1973 US Be What You Want To PolydorPD-5047
1974 USThe Link Wray RumblePolydorPD-6025
1974 USListen to the Voices That Want to Be Free (with Joey Welz; rec. 1969–70) [reissued in 2013 as Rumble & Roll on Rokarola/Music Avenue 250346]Music CityMCR-5003
1975 US Stuck in Gear VirginV-2050
1979 USBullshotVisa/Passport/GemVISA 7009
1980 US Live at the Paradiso at the Paradiso, Amsterdam Visa/Passport/GemVISA 7010
1985 UK Live in '85 Big BeatWIK 42; CDWIK 972
1989 DEBorn to Be Wild: Live in the U.S.A. 1987LineLICD 9.00690
1989 UK Rumble Man Ace CH 266
1990 UK Apache (album) AceCH 286; CDCHD 931
1990 UKWild Side of the City LightsAceCH 296; CDCHD 931
1993 DK Indian Child Epic/Sony MusicEPC 473100 2
1997 US Shadowman Hip-O/UMeHIPD-40069
1997 USWalking Down a Street Called Love [live]Cult Music/Cleopatra CLP-9989
2000 UK Barbed Wire AceCDCHD 770

Compilation albums

Release dateTitleLabelCatalog Number
1978 UKLink Wray: Early RecordingsChiswick/AceCH 6; CDCHD 1460
1982 UKGood Rockin' TonightChiswick/AceCH 69 ; CDCHD 1460
1987 UKGrowling GuitarBig BeatWIK 65; CDWIK 972
1989 UKThe Original Rumble: Plus 22 Other Storming Guitar Instrumentals Ace CDCH 924
1989 UKThe Swan Demos '64 [reissued in 2005 as Law of the Jungle! The Swan Demos '64 on Sundazed SC-6221]HangmanHANG-31 UP
1990 UKJack The Ripper [reissued in 1994 on Forevermore FVR-5002; and again in 2005 on Sundazed LP-5192]HangmanHANG-33 UP
1990 USHillbilly Wolf: Missing Links Vol. 1 Norton ED 210
1990 USBig City After Dark: Missing Links Vol. 2NortonED 211
1990 USSome Kinda Nut: Missing Links Vol. 3NortonED 212
1992 USWalkin' With Link Epic/LegacyEK 47904
1993 USRumble! The Best of Link Wray Rhino R2 71222
1995 USGuitar Preacher: The Polydor Years [2CD]Chronicles/Polydor 527 717
1995 USMr. Guitar: Original Swan Recordings [2CD]NortonCED 242
1997 USStreets of Chicago: Missing Links Volume 4NortonED 253
1997 UKRobert Gordon with Link Wray / Fresh Fish Special [2-LPs-on-1-CD; with extra bonus track: "Endless Sleep"]AceCDCHD 656
1997 UKThe Swan Singles Collection 1963–1967 [reissued in 2004 on Sundazed LP-5178]RollercoasterRCCD 3011
2002 USSlinky! The Epic Sessions '58–'61 [2CD] Sundazed SC-11098
2002 UKLaw of the JungleAceCDCHD 837
2004 UK"They're Outta Here", Says ArchieRollercoasterRCCD 3032
2006 USWhite Lightning: Lost Cadence Sessions '58SundazedSC-11137
2007 UKKing of the Wild Guitar AceCDCHD 1143
2007 UKThe Pathway Sessions (includes the albums: Apache, Wild Side of the City Lights)AceCDCHD 1154
2015 UK3-Track Shack [2CD] (includes the albums: Link Wray, Mordicai Jones, Beans and Fatback)AceCDCH2 1451

With Robert Gordon

Release dateTitleLabelNumber
1977 USRobert Gordon with Link Wray Private Stock; 1979 reissue: RCA Victor; 1997 CD reissue: One Way; 2015 CD reissue: Culture FactoryPS 2030; AFL1-3296; OW-34493; 850703003880
1978 USFresh Fish SpecialPrivate Stock; 1979 reissue: RCA Victor; 1997 CD reissue: One Way; 2015 CD reissue: Culture FactoryPS 7008; AFL1-3299; OW-34491; 850703003873
2014 USRobert Gordon/Link Wray: Cleveland '78 [live]Rock-A-Billy/Cleopatra CLP-CD-1952


See also

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  22. Smith, Mark E. (2009). Renegade: The Lives and Tales of Mark E. Smith. Penguin UK. ISBN   978-0141028668.
  23. 1 2 Strong, Martin C. (2000). The Great Rock Discography (5th ed.). Edinburgh: Mojo Books. pp. 1084–1085. ISBN   1-84195-017-3.
  24. "Hot 100 for the week ending October 15, 1977". Billboard. Vol. 89 no. 41. October 15, 1977. p. 88. Note that, despite the correct credit on the record itself, the Billboard chart credited Wray as "Link Ray".