Fred Lincoln 'Link' Wray, Jr. (May 2, 1929 – November 5, 2005), was an 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 and 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 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). They were Shawnee Native Americans. Three songs he performed were named for American Indian tribes: "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. 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 US Army during the Korean War, and contracted tuberculosis, which laid him up in a hospital 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.
Wray's first hit, "Rumble", was banned in New York and Boston for fear it would incite teenage gang violence. 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.
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 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 (FM) 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.
Wray's first three marriages—to Elizabeth Canady Wray, Katherine Tidwell Wray, and Sharon Wray—each ended in divorce. 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. He died of heart failure, aged 76, in 2005, at his home in Copenhagen. Survivors included 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."
On October 16, 2013, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced that Link Wray was a nominee for inclusion in 2014.
|Release date||A-side||B-side||Label||Catalog number||US|
|April 1958||"Rumble"||"The Swag"||Cadence||1347||16|
|January 1959||"Raw-Hide"||"The Dixie-Doodle"||Epic||5-9300||23|
|1959||"Vendetta" (as Ray Vernon)||"Roughshod"||"Scottie"||NRS-3020|
|March 1960||"Trail of the Lonesome Pine"||"Golden Strings" (based on A Chopin Etude)||Epic||5-9361|
|October 1960||"Ain't That Lovin' You Babe"||"Mary Ann"||Epic||5-9419|
|July 1961||"Jack The Ripper"||"The Stranger"||Rumble||1000||64|
|August 1961||"El Toro"||"Tijuana"||Epic||5-9454|
|1962||"Big City After Dark"||"Hold It"||(as Ray Vernon & the Raymen)||Mala|
|March 1962||"Big City Stomp"||"Poppin' Popeye"||Trans Atlas|
|March 1963||"Rumble Mambo"||"Hambone"||Okeh||4-7166|
|April 1963||"The Black Widow"||"Jack The Ripper"||Swan||S-4137|
|September 1963||"Week End"||"Turnpike U.S.A."||Swan||S-4154|
|November 1963||"Run Chicken Run"||"The Sweeper"||Swan||S-4163|
|March 1964||"The Shadow Knows"||"My Alberta"||Swan||S-4171|
|July 1964||"Deuces Wild"||"Summer Dream"||Swan||S-4187|
|February 1965||"Good Rockin' Tonight"||"I'll Do Anything For You"||Swan||S-4201|
|1965||"I'm Branded"||"Hang On"||Swan||S-4211|
|1965||"Girl from the North Country"||"You Hurt Me So"||Swan||S-4232|
|1965||"Ace of Spades"||"The Fuzz"||Swan||S-4239|
|1966||"The Batman Theme" (with Bobby Howard)||"Alone"||Swan||S-4244|
|1966||"Ace of Spades"||"Hidden Charms"||Swan||S-4261|
|1967||"Let the Good Times Roll" (with Kathy Lynn)||"Soul Train"||Swan||S-4273|
|1967||"Jack The Ripper"||"I'll Do Anything For You"||Swan||S-4284|
|May 1979||"It's All Over Now Baby Blue"||"Just That Kind"||Charisma||CB-333|
|Release date||Title||Label||Catalog Number|
|1960 US||Link Wray & The Wraymen||Epic||LN 3661|
|1962 US||Great Guitar Hits by Link Wray||Vermillion||V-1924|
|1963 US||Jack The Ripper||Swan||S-LP 510|
|1964 US||Link Wray Sings and Plays Guitar||Vermillion||V-1925|
|1963/2006||Link Wray Early Recordings||Rollercoaster/Ace|
|1971 US||Link Wray||Polydor||PD-24-4064|
|1971 US||Mordicai Jones (w/ Bobby Howard)||Polydor||PD-5010|
|1972 US||Be What You Want To||Polydor||PD-5047|
|1973 US||Beans and Fatback (rec. 1971)||Virgin||V-2006|
|1974 US||The Link Wray Rumble||Polydor||PD-6025|
|1975 US||Stuck in Gear||Virgin Records Ltd||Stereo 27 266 XOT|
|1979 US||Bullshot||Visa||VISA 7009|
|1979 US||Live at the Paradiso||RCA||PL-44012|
|1990 UK||Wild Side of the City Lights|
|1993 DE||Indian Child||Sony Music||EPC 473100 2|
|1997 UK||Walking Down a Street Called Love – live|
|2000 UK||Barbed Wire|
|Release date||Title||Label||Catalog Number|
|1969 US||Yesterday and Today||Record Factory||LP 1929|
|1989||Rumble Man||Ace Records||CH 266|
|May 1993||Rumble! The Best of Link Wray||Rhino Records|
|2002||Mr. Guitar||Norton Records|
|2003||Hillbilly Wolf – Missing Links Volume 1||Norton Records|
|2003||Streets of Chicago – Missing Links Volume 4||Norton Records|
|2006||Big City After Dark – Missing Links Volume 2||Norton Records|
|2006||Some Kinda Nut – Missing Links Volume 3||Norton Records|
|2007||King of the Wild Guitar||Ace Records||B000PATZPQ|
With Robert Gordon
|1977 UK||Robert Gordon w/ Link Wray|
|1978 UK||Fresh Fish Special||Private Stock||PS 7008|