Link Wray

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Link Wray
Link Wray - 3-8-03 Photo by Anthony Pepitone.jpg
Wray in New York City, 2003
Background information
Birth name Fred Lincoln Wray, Jr.
Born (1929-05-02)May 2, 1929
Dunn, North Carolina, U.S.
Died November 5, 2005(2005-11-05) (aged 76)
Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Musician
  • songwriter
Years active 1956–2005
Associated acts Robert Gordon
Notable instruments
1957 Supro Dual Tone[1]
1953 Gibson Les Paul
Early 60s Gibson SG[2]

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",[3] facilitating the emergence of "punk and heavy rock".[4] Rolling Stone placed Wray at No. 45 of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time.[5] In 2013 he was a nominee for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.[6] Though he began in country music, his musical style went on to consist primarily of rock and roll, rockabilly, and instrumental rock.[7]

Early life[edit]

Wray was born on May 2, 1929 in Dunn, North Carolina, to Fred Lincoln Wray, Sr. and his wife, Lillian M. Wray (née Coats).[8][9] They were Shawnee Native Americans.[10] 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.[11]


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 as Cat # 1347 (as Link Wray and the Ray-Men). 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.[11]

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.[12] He subsequently formed a band initially featuring special guest Cipollina along with the rhythm section from Cipollina's band Copperhead, bassist James "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.[13] 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.[14] He toured and recorded two albums with retro-rockabilly artist Robert Gordon in the late 1970s.[15] 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.[16]

Personal life[edit]

Link Wray's grave

Wray's first three marriages—to Elizabeth Canady Wray, Katherine Tidwell Wray, and Sharon Wray—each ended in divorce.[17] 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.[17]

Wray died of heart failure at his home in Copenhagen, at the age of 76.[18] Survivors included his fourth wife, Olive Julie Povlsen Wray, and their son.[17] He was buried in the crypt of the Christian's Church, Copenhagen.[19]


Jack Rose cited Wray as an influence,[20] as did Iggy Pop[21] and Neil Young.[22] 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."[23]



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
June 1959 "Comanche" "Lillian" Epic 5-9321
October 1959 "Slinky" "Rendezvous" Epic 5-9343
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
1969 "Rumble '69" "Mind Blower" Mr. G (an imprint of Audio Fidelity) G-820
May 1979 "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" "Just That Kind" Charisma CB-333


Wray was a featured collaborator on Robert Gordon's 1977 single "Red Hot" (Private Stock Records, PS 45,156). The single peaked at no. 83 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.[25]


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 Apache
1990 UK Wild Side of the City Lights
1993 DE Indian Child Sony Music EPC 473100 2
1997 US Shadowman
1997 UK Walking Down a Street Called Love – live
2000 UK Barbed Wire

Compilation albums[edit]

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[edit]

Release date Title Label Number
1977 UK Robert Gordon w/ Link Wray
1978 UK Fresh Fish Special Private Stock PS 7008


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dave Hunter (1 March 2006). The Electric Guitar Sourcebook: How to Find the Sounds You Like. Backbeat Books. p. 67. ISBN 978-1-4768-5347-5. 
  2. ^ Jeff Kitts; Brad Tolinski (2002). Guitar World Presents the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time!: From the Pages of Guitar World Magazine. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 105. ISBN 978-0-634-04619-3. 
  3. ^ Cub Koda & Steve Leggett (2008). "Link Wray" Biography,; accessed March 17, 2015.
  4. ^ Simmonds, Jeremy (2008). The Encyclopedia of Dead Rock Stars: Heroin, Handguns, and Ham Sandwiches, p. 559; ISBN 1-55652-754-3.
  5. ^ "Link Wray | Rolling Stone Music | Lists". Retrieved 2010-08-09. 
  6. ^ "Nirvana, Kiss, Hall and Oates Nominated for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame" Archived September 2, 2016, at the Wayback Machine.. Rolling Stone. October 16, 2013; retrieved October 16, 2013.
  7. ^ Link Wray at AllMusic
  8. ^ Deborah Wray: daughter-in-law
  9. ^ "Ancestry of Link Wray". Retrieved 2012-08-24. 
  10. ^ Cartwright, Garth. "Link Wray". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 May 2016. 
  11. ^ a b Meadows, Dick (August 28, 1971). "Link: Doing it his Way". Sounds. Spotlight Publications. p. 8. 
  12. ^ "The Leading Bands Site on the Net". Retrieved 2013-08-09. 
  13. ^ "Whisky A-Go-Go Show List 1971-1975". Retrieved June 14, 2017. 
  14. ^ "Link Wray". Retrieved 2012-08-24. 
  15. ^ Prown, Pete & Newquist, HP (1997). Legends of Rock Guitar: The Essential Reference of Rock's Greatest Guitarists, p. 25. Hal Leonard Corporation.
  16. ^ Chatterton (album booklet). Alain Bashung. Barclay Records. 1994. 523 111-2. 
  17. ^ a b c Adam Bernstein (November 22, 2005). "Guitarist Link Wray Dies; Influenced Punk, Grunge". Washington Post. Retrieved December 8, 2013. 
  18. ^ Sisario, Ben (November 22, 2005). "Link Wray, 76, a Guitarist With Raw Rockabilly Sound, Dies". The New York Times. 
  19. ^ Link Wray at Find a Grave
  20. ^ US. "Gratis muziek, tourneedata, foto's, video's". Retrieved 2012-08-24. 
  21. ^ "Iggy Pop – The Colbert Report". Retrieved 2013-08-09. 
  22. ^ "BBC Documentary; Don't Be Denied". BBC. Retrieved 2009-06-10. 
  23. ^ Smith, Mark E. (2009). Renegade: The Lives and Tales of Mark E. Smith. Penguin UK. ISBN 978-0141028668. 
  24. ^ a b Strong, Martin C. (2000). The Great Rock Discography (5th ed.). Edinburgh: Mojo Books. pp. 1084–1085. ISBN 1-84195-017-3. 
  25. ^ "Hot 100 for the week ending October 15, 1977". Billboard. Vol. 89 no. 41. October 15, 1977. p. 88.  Note that, despite the correct credit on the record itself, the Billboard chart credited Wray as "Link Ray".

External links[edit]