Pick of the Week
“Rumble”, Link Wray and His Ray Men (1958)
Jimmie Page said he was a major influence and studied this innovators guitar riffs. So did Neil Young, Pete Townshend and many others. Raising the bar from Chuck Berry, he took attitude, made his fingers move, which made the strings move on his guitar, and the attitude came out the amplifier - new and alive to the world. Why does this song hit you like it does?
Fred Lincoln (Link) Wray was responsible for pioneering a new sound with the electric guitar, with his most famous instrumental song being “Rumble”. He is credited with inventing the ‘power chord’, the mainstay of rock and roll for generations to come. He is also one of the early pioneers of distortion; some believe by cutting the cones on his amplifier initially, much like Dave Davies later does a few years later on “You Really Got Me” with the Kinks. Some say his sound makes him the father of punk and heavy metal as well.
Many have not heard of him as songs that were instrumentals, although more popular in his era, tend not to do as well as songs with lyrics. Part Shawnee Indian, Wray often talked about his Indian ancestry in interviews and at performances. He did three songs that pay tribute to his Indian heritage in “Shawnee”, “Comanche” and “Apache”1. Originally playing country music you may hear a slight ting of country mixed in. It also sounds similar to ‘surf’ songs that followed.
When it came out, “Rumble” was banned by some radio stations, as they felt it glorified juvenile delinquency. Quite amazing for a song with no words! Clearly the attitude came through.
After his death in 2005 at age 76, the governor of Maryland declared January 15th to be Link Wray Day.
1. “Apache” was later performed by the U.K. band ‘The Shadows’, with Sir Cliff Richard.