Link Wray, Grandfather of the Power Chord

It is with the deepest sorrow that we have to inform Link's dear fans that our beloved husband and father Link Wray has deceased November 5, 2005.
In respect of Links wishes, he was buried in silence and privacy from the historic protestant Church: Christians Church in Copenhagen Denmark, Friday 18th of November 2005. with attendance of his family Olive and Oliver Wray. Link passed away in their arms, safely in his home in Copenhagen, not ever aware that his heart was getting tired. This was the way he had told us, he wanted it... read more

Link Wray was born on May 2, 1935 (the liner notes of "Early Days" claims 1930) in Dunn, North Carolina. One of the most influential rock 'n' roll guitar instrumentalists of the '50s, Link Wray pioneered the use of tremolo, distortion, and feedback with his classic 1958 single "Rumble." Forming perhaps the very first power trio with his brothers in the '50s, Wray produced a raw, violent, ominous sound unlike anything heard to date. Often basing his instrumentals on chordal themes, Wray has been called both "the grandfather of the power chord" and "the father of heavy metal." Although his popularity was short-lived, his style influenced not only British guitarists such as Pete Townshend, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page, but latter-day practitioners of heavy metal, punk, and grunge as well.

Part Shawnee Indian, Link Wray's family moved to Arizona, where he took up guitar at the age of eight, forming a country band with his brothers Vernon (rhythm guitar, piano) and Doug (drums) in the late '40s. While serving a four-year stint in the Army, Link contracted tuberculosis in Korea, necessitating the removal of a lung and a period of convalescence. Resettling near Washington, D.C., Link, advised to limit his singing, concentrated on guitar and formed a new trio with brother Doug and bassist Shorty Horton, with brother Vernon switching to producer / manager and occasional accompanist. Initially recording as Luck Wray for Starday Records in 1956, Link Wray met local disc jockey Milt Grant and backed Fats Domino and Rick Nelson on Grant's television show. The two devised "Rumble," and upon release on Cadence Records, the instrumental became a major pop and R&B hit in 1958, despite being banned from airplay in several locales, including New York City and Boston.

The group soon switched to Epic Records, where they scored a major pop hit with "Rawhide" and recorded their first album. By 1963 they had moved to Swan Records, achieving a minor pop hit with "Jack The Ripper" and recording a second album. Much of the the Swan material, regarded as some of the group's finest, was reissued on Ace as Early Recordings (picture above). By 1966 Link had withdrawn to a family farm in Accokeek, Maryland, where he set up a recording studio, called the Three Track Shack, in a converted chicken coop. Playing the occasional local engagement, Wray recorded at Three Track for years, and the product was eventually released to high acclaim but poor sales on Polydor as "Link Wray." Polydor subsequently issued two more Link Wray albums, including "Be What You Want," recorded with David Bromberg and Jerry Garcia. In 1972 Wray produced the British pub rock band Eggs Over Easy's Good 'n Cheap album.

In the '70s Link Wray linked up with rockabilly revivalist Robert Gordon in the late '70s , recording two albums with him. Link recorded for Visa at the end of the '70s and several British labels in the '80s. In the '90s Link recorded in Denmark and his songs were featured in the films Desperado, Pulp Fiction and Independance Day. In 1997 he conducted his first American tour in twenty years.

Source: The Rockin' 50s by Brock Helander
Order "The Rockin' 50s" from Amazon

Link Wray's Official Website:

Also read: Link Wray, The Rumble Man on DVD