Link Wray

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Link Wray
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 Native American rock and roll guitarist, songwriter, and vocalist who became popular in the late 1950s.


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," [1] facilitating the emergence of "punk and heavy rock". [2] Rolling Stone placed Wray at No. 45 of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time. [3] In 2013 and 2017 he was a nominee for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. [4] Though he began in country music, his musical style went on to consist primarily of rock and roll, rockabilly, and instrumental rock. [5]

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), [6] [7] who were Shawnee Native Americans, although the 1930 and 1940 censuses refer to them as White. [8] 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.

Wray served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, 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. [9]


In 1958, Wray's first hit, "Rumble," was banned in New York and Boston for fear it would incite teenage gang violence. The record was first released on Cadence Records (catalog number 1347) as by "Link Wray & His Ray Men." Before, during, and after his stints with major labels Epic and Swan, Wray released 45's 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. [9]

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. [10] 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. [11] 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. [12] He toured and recorded two albums with retro-rockabilly artist Robert Gordon in the late 1970s. [13] 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. [14] 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 ]

Personal life

Link Wray's grave

Wray's first three marriages—to Elizabeth Canady Wray, Katherine Tidwell Wray, and Sharon Wray—each ended in divorce. [15] 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. [15]

Wray died of heart failure at his home in Copenhagen, at the age of 76. [16] Survivors included his fourth wife, Olive Julie Povlsen Wray, and their son. [15] He was buried in the crypt of the Christian's Church, Copenhagen. [17]


Jack Rose cited Wray as an influence, [18] as did Iggy Pop [19] and Neil Young. [20] 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." [21]



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. [23]


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


  1. Cub Koda & Steve Leggett (2008). "Link Wray" Biography,; accessed March 17, 2015.
  2. Simmonds, Jeremy (2008). The Encyclopedia of Dead Rock Stars: Heroin, Handguns, and Ham Sandwiches, p. 559; ISBN   1-55652-754-3.
  3. "Link Wray | Rolling Stone Music | Lists". Retrieved 2010-08-09.
  4. "Nirvana, Kiss, Hall and Oates Nominated for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame" Archived September 2, 2016, at the Wayback Machine .. Rolling Stone. October 16, 2013; retrieved October 16, 2013.
  5. Link Wray at AllMusic
  6. Deborah Wray: daughter-in-law
  7. "Ancestry of Link Wray". Retrieved 2012-08-24.
  8. Cartwright, Garth. "Link Wray". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 May 2016.
  9. 1 2 Meadows, Dick (August 28, 1971). "Link: Doing it his Way". Sounds . Spotlight Publications. p. 8.
  10. "The Leading Bands Site on the Net". Retrieved 2013-08-09.
  11. "Whisky A-Go-Go Show List 1971-1975" . Retrieved June 14, 2017.
  12. "Link Wray". Archived from the original on 2012-06-25. Retrieved 2012-08-24.
  13. Prown, Pete & Newquist, HP (1997). Legends of Rock Guitar: The Essential Reference of Rock's Greatest Guitarists, p. 25. Hal Leonard Corporation.
  14. Chatterton (album booklet). Alain Bashung. Barclay Records. 1994. 523 111-2.
  15. 1 2 3 Adam Bernstein (November 22, 2005). "Guitarist Link Wray Dies; Influenced Punk, Grunge". Washington Post. Retrieved December 8, 2013.
  16. Sisario, Ben (November 22, 2005). "Link Wray, 76, a Guitarist With Raw Rockabilly Sound, Dies". The New York Times .
  17. Link Wray at Find a Grave
  18. US. "Gratis muziek, tourneedata, foto's, video's". Retrieved 2012-08-24.
  19. "Iggy Pop – The Colbert Report". Retrieved 2013-08-09.
  20. "BBC Documentary; Don't Be Denied". BBC. Retrieved 2009-06-10.
  21. Smith, Mark E. (2009). Renegade: The Lives and Tales of Mark E. Smith. Penguin UK. ISBN   978-0141028668.
  22. 1 2 Strong, Martin C. (2000). The Great Rock Discography (5th ed.). Edinburgh: Mojo Books. pp. 1084–1085. ISBN   1-84195-017-3.
  23. "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".