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.
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. In 2013 and 2017 he was a nominee for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Though he began in country music, his musical style went on to consist primarily of rock and roll, rockabilly, and instrumental rock.
Wray was born on May 2, 1929 in Dunn, North Carolina, to Fred Lincoln Wray, Sr., and his wife, Lillian M. Wray (née Coats), who were both Native Americans of Shawnee descent,. 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.
His two brothers, Vernon (born January 7, 1924) and Doug (born July 4, 1933), were his earliest bandmates.
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 (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.
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.” 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,” facilitating the emergence of “punk and heavy rock”. 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.
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. 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. 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. He toured and recorded two albums with retro-rockabilly artist Robert Gordon in the late 1970s. 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. 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.
Wray’s first three marriages, to Elizabeth Canady Wray, Katherine Tidwell Wray, and Sharon Cole Wray, produced eight children. Wray relocated to Denmark in the early 1980s.
Wray died of heart failure at his home in Copenhagen, on 5 November 2005, at the age of 76. Survivors included his eight children and 23 grandchildren, two great-grandchildren from the United States, daughter Beth Wray Webb, son Link Wray III, son Link Elvis Wray, daughter Belinda Wray Muth, daughter Mona Wray Tidwell, daughter Rhonda Wray Sayen, son Shayne Wray, daughter Charlotte Wray, and his fourth wife, Olive Julie Povlsen Wray, and their son. He was buried in the crypt of the Christian’s Church, Copenhagen.
Jack Rose cited Wray as an influence, as did Iggy Pop and Neil Young. 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.”
Bob Dylan references Wray in his song, “Sign Language”, which he recorded as a duo with Eric Clapton in 1975: “Link Wray was playin’ on a juke box I was payin’/ for the words I was saying, so misunderstood/he didn’t do me no good” Both Dylan and Bruce Springsteen performed Wray’s tune “Rumble” in concert as a tribute to the influential musician upon his 2005 death.(by wikipedia)
As bad-ass as Elvis and Gene Vincent were, Link Wray was the first real punk rocker. Not only did his guitar work suggest a man whose talent came from a deal with Satan, one look at the man’s face told you this was no one to fuck with. That’s why his fellow guitarist Duane Eddy, with the pretty-boy looks, got into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame while Link was relegated to cult-rocker status.
Wray is most famous, and justifiably so, as the originator of 1958’s “Rumble,” the first power-chord-based guitar number. “Jack the Ripper” sports a re-recording, which is nowhere near as good as its predecessor. Another track I could have done without is “My Beth,” a cloying surf number that sounds like the Ventures on Quaaludes.
As for the other ten tracks, they’re all first-rate instrumental rockers! The cowboy-flavored “Mr. Guitar” begins Side A and leaves the listener thirsting for more. The organ-driven “Deacon Jones,” with Wray’s demented yowls, might just be the first garage-rock tune. (It predated the Kingsmen’s “Louie, Louie.”) “Steel Trap,” with its jabbing brass riffs, could have been a lo-fi soul record if a singer had replaced the lead guitar. “Cross Ties” evokes images of a steam-powered train chugging through the Old West. Closing out Side A is “Jack the Ripper,” which more than lives up to its title.
The numbers on Side B are just as hot, especially “Run Chicken Run” and “Big Ben.” And “Mash Potato Party” is even grittier than what Nat Kendrick & The Swans (A/K/A James Brown & The Famous Flames) came up with! (by goldwax)
Link Wray (guitar, vocals)
a bunch of unknown studio musicians
01. Mr. Guitar (F.L. Wray, Sr.) 2.36
02. My Beth (B.Wray) 2.17
03. Deacon Jones (F.L. Wray, Sr.) 2.08
04. Steel Trap (F.L. Wray, Sr.) 2.08
05. Cross Ties (F.L. Wray, Sr.) 1.37
06. Jack The Ripper (F.L. Wray, Sr./Cooper) 2.22
07. Fat Back (F.L. Wray, Sr.) 2,43
08. Run Chicken Run (F.L. Wray, Sr.) 1.48
09. Dinosaur (V.Wray) 2.12
10. Big Ben (F.L. Wray, Sr.) 2.18
11. Mash Potato Party (F.L. Wray, Sr.) 2.12
12. Rumble (F.L. Wray, Sr./Cooper) 2.27
Link Wray, Jr. (May 2, 1929 – November 5, 2005)