Thursday, October 27, 2011

Link Wray - Late to the Party


Over the years I've seen the name Link Wray mentioned occasionally. I knew he was some kind of guitar pioneer, but never heard anything he's done. So, I've heard of him, but never heard him. Until recently anyway...

George, a musician work pal of mine and I, did a little music related DVD swap a few weeks back. I loaned him one of my Ramones DVDs in exchange for his copy of It Might Get Loud, which I really enjoyed. The film is worthy of an entire post itself, but that's for another time. In the documentary, Jimmy Page is listening and playing air guitar to Link Wray's Rumble, with a huge grin on his face.

See for yourself, via poor example taken from YouTube...





That put a bug in my ear to hear more of Link Wray, and after a few hours of cruising Google and YouTube, very cool find indeed. Being a fan of louder rock - metal, punk, surf - found his work fascinating. His early country western sound, no thanks, not my deal. His rock oriented work in the '50s and '60, yes please, way ahead of its time.

A few examples from the early '60s...










I've heard The Ventures and Dick Dale, both fantastic surf sounds from that era - but I think Link Wray is even better. There's more of a raw sound to it, which pushes all my buttons. And actual feedback. Feedback, I tell you. Link Wray could very well be the pioneer of the power chord distorted rock sound. And that is the basis for - punk, alternative, grunge - whatever you label it, rock goodness. Amazing.

His life story interesting as well. Born in 1929 in North Carolina, served in the Korean war, contracted tuberculosis that cost him a lung, which curtailed his singing and focus more on guitar. His instrumental Rumble in 1958 put him on the map, however he never obtained full guitar hero status, at least in a modern view. In a sense, denied his rock star fame and fortune, considering the sound he contributed to the evolving rock scene.

Out of all this, what I dig most of his story, is that he continued to perform until 2005. His last show only 4 months before his death at age 76. Incredible. And not only that, from the clips I've viewed, his sound was even better later on. Punchier and louder. Impressive.

Clip from 1998, Link Wray around 70 years old. Incredible. I've watched it about 10 times and still get a kick out of it...





It's always cool to discover great music that's new to you, especially a historic "find" like this. I'm just sorry I'm late to Link Wray party, would have been fantastic to see him live. He may have been possibly the coolest old dude in rock.

Link Wray, R.I.P - with maybe just little feedback for effect...

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