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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Link Wray - one of the founders of Rock & Roll - dead at 76

Sunday, November 20, 2005 Posted at 8:10 PM EST Associated Press Copenhagen, Denmark�

[Update 11/30/05: see Buddy's comments below]

Guitar player Link Wray, who invented the power chord, the major modus operandi of modern rock guitarists, has died. He was 76.
A native of Dunn, North Carolina, Wray's style is considered the blueprint for heavy metal and punk music. Wray is best known for his 1958 instrumental Rumble, 1959's Rawhide and 1963's Jack the Ripper. His music has appeared in movies like Pulp Fiction, Independence Day and Desperado.

His style is said to have inspired many other rock musicians, including Pete Townsend of the Who. David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Steve Van Zandt and Bruce Springsteen have also been quoted as saying that Wray and Rumble inspired them to become musicians. "He is the king; if it hadn't been for Link Wray and Rumble, I would have never picked up a guitar'." Townsend wrote on one of Wray's albums. Neil Young once said: "If I could go back in time and see any band, it would be Link Wray and the Raymen."

According to Wray's official website, he invented the fuzz tone by deliberately punching holes in his amplifier speakers. In 2002, Guitar World magazine elected Wray one of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time. Wray, known for his trademark black leather jacket, toured the United States and Canada from 1997 to 2002. He was half Shawnee Indian. The date of Wray's death was not known. He lived in Copenhagen. Denmark's Politiken newspaper said his funeral had already taken place in Copenhagen's Christian Church. No dates were given. His family could not be reached for comment. His official site does not mention his death. Wray is survived by his wife and son.
The Globe and Mail: Link Wray, 76

The man who taught Koody how to play power chords before they had a name for 'em. Thanks, Link... - Cub Koda (Brownsville Station)

Link Wray played the most important D chord in history. It opened "Rumble" and signaled the birth of the power-chord. With "Rumble" the guitar arrived as an instrument of pure menace. - Colin Escott (rock and roll historian)

The greatest rock 'n' roll guitarist ever. - Lemmy (Motorhead,Hawkwind)

"Rumble" is one of my all time favorite instrumentals. - Elvis Costello

"Rumble" is the best instrumental ever. - Bob Dylan

That's him! That's him! This is the guy! "Rumble" "Rumble" Keith Moon (The Who - while running around naked at the Record Plant studio in New York, 1974)

Gene Vincent and Link Wray, two of the greatest unknowns in rock 'n' roll. - John Lennon (The Beatles, Plastic Ono Band)

It'd be next to impossible to begin listin' all the string scratchers Link Wray has influenced. Really, anybody who's whacked a chord any harder than Al Caiola owes a supreme hat tip to the "Rumble" Man. - Billy Miller (The A-Bones, The Zantees, Norton Records)

Link is a quiet man to meet - easy and courteous. His music, though, betrays that deep inside he gets very very mean very often... I remember being made very uneasy the first time I heard Link Wray's "Rumble", and yet excited by the guitar sound. And his voice! He sounds like a cross between Jagger and Van Morrison, even sometimes like Robbie Robertson. We met him in New York in 1970 while recording "Who's Next"... this later inspired the b-side "Wasp Man", a tune we dedicated to Link Wray. - Pete Townsend (The Who)

more here: No Rock&Roll Fun

and here: Rolling Stone

and Buddy Blue speaks:

When I saw Link Wray in concert a few years back, he seemed very much the dead man walking. Or rather, limping. Or rather, tottering to the stage on frail, trembling pins, aided by his wife, who looked young enough to be his granddaughter. Where it not for his dyed hair, Ramones-styled get-up, impenetrable shades and the fact that he turned 25 again the moment his guitar was strapped on, Wray might have been just another ailing codger bound for the glue factory.
So I wasn�t outwardly shocked when I heard that Wray -- best known for malevolent �50s guitar instrumentals with titles like �Rumble,� �Run Chicken Run� and �Jack The Ripper� -- had died at 76 on November 5 in Copenhagen. On the other hand, I subconsciously figured the old fella would never go and kak off on us. He seemed very much a Mephistophelian figure whose personal connections with the bigwigs in Hell would preclude something so mundane as death from afflicting him.
Link Wray was and shall ever be the personification of every nightmare several generations of clenched-sphincter Falwellian types ever suffered over the sinister, corruptive, blasphemous nature of rock & roll. In his music and in his image, Wray was an anthropomorphized switchblade purchased illicitly in a Tijuana alleyway, honed to a razor�s edge and harboring the DNA evidence of countless victims.

�If you sit down and learn his songs, there�s an inherent violence in the structure,� says Dave Alvin. �There�s a raw, ominous dread inside those songs. He cut it down to the basics � bass, drums and very, very loud guitar. There�s a sense of menace and a threat inside all his instrumentals, like a film noir thing. It made you want to pick up a guitar and have that kind of power yourself.�

Alvin is hardly alone in that assessment. I recall reading �Guitar Player� magazine as a teen in the early �70s, and seemingly every contemporary axe-slinger interviewed cited Wray�s �Rumble� as a primary motivation for adopting the instrument. It was frustrating, as this was an era before obscure �50s rock & roll records were being reissued. Nothing by Wray was in print, and all I could do was wistfully wonder what Quicksilver�s John Cippolina meant, exactly, when he enthused, �Link Wray made his guitar bitch, man!�

Because of his hardcore greaser image, Wray was often wrongly cast as a rockabilly guy; in fact, his sound was far more innovative. In its primitive approach, square-one use of power chords and unambiguously �fuck off, Jack� attitude, Wray�s playing was nothing less than the foundation of punk rock. With his emphasis on volume over finesse and his rudimentary backing bands, Wray was also the originator of the hard rock power trio � rock minus the roll.

�With most guitar players, you can trace where they came from,� say Lee Rocker, �but Link Wray just came out of the blue. He invented something, tone and playing-wise�he just pulled it out of thin air. Nothing preceded it. To me, he�s the godfather of players like Hendrix, Page and Townshend. It�s like, �Where the hell did this guy come from, and how did he come up with this sound?� He was an unbelievably unique talent.�

It�s a mark of Wray�s dark, enigmatic persona that his death wasn�t even reported until two weeks after it had occurred. The reams of glowing prose accorded the recent passings of rock & roll innovators like Johnny Cash and Ray Charles weren�t evinced in the mainstream media; there was no awkward Blitzer-babble to be endured. At the end of the day, though, Wray�s legacy and impact on rock & roll was perhaps no less profound than Johnny�s or Ray�s. This was borne out when Bob Dylan opened his November 20th concert in London with a hellfire version of �Rumble.�

Even more to the point of Wray�s sway, some stinky outlaw somewhere out there is likely getting a garish tattoo of Link inked into his chest even as you read this memorial. The guess here is that Wray would have appreciated that tribute most of all.


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