Quite simply, Link Wray invented the power chord, the major modus operandi of modern rock guitarists. Listen to any of the tracks he recorded between that landmark instrumental in 1958 through his Swan recordings in the early '60s and you'll hear the blueprints for heavy metal, thrash, you name it.
Everything that was handed down to today's current crop of headbangers from the likes of Led Zeppelin and the Who can be traced back to the guy from Dunn, NC, who started out in 1955 recording for Starday as a member of Lucky Wray & the Palomino Ranch Hands. by 1958, the music had changed, and so had Wray's life. With a lung missing from a bout with tuberculosis during his stint in the Korean War, Link was advised by his doctor to let brother Vernon do all the vocalizing. So Link started stretching out more and more on the guitar, coming up with one instrumental after another.
Armed with a 1953 Gibson Les Paul, a dinky Premier amp, an Elvis sneer, and a black leather jacket, Link started playing the local record hops around the D.C. area with disc jockey Milt Grant, who became his de facto manager. One night during a typical set, says Link, "They wanted me to play a stroll. I didn't know any, so I made one up. I made up "'Rumble.'"
"When Link Wray released the thrilling, ominous 'Rumble' in 1958, it became one of the only instrumentals ever to be banned from radio play for fear that it might incite gang violence. By stabbing his amplifier's speaker cone with a pencil, Wray created the distorted, overdriven sound that would reverberate through metal, punk and grunge. Wray, who proudly claimed Shawnee Indian ancestry and lost a lung to tuberculosis, was the archetypal leather-clad badass, and his song titles alone 'Slinky,' 'The Black Widow' convey the force and menace of his playing... When Wray died in 2005, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen both performed 'Rumble' onstage in tribute. 'If it hadn't been for Link Wray and 'Rumble,'' said Pete Townshend, 'I would have never picked up a guitar." - Rolling Stone
"Drawn from the one LP and the dozen or so singles Link Wray recorded for Swan Records between 1963 and 1966, Early Recordings, first released in this configuration by Chiswick Records in 1978, remains the best single-disc introduction to this powerful guitar player...It burns like a runaway gas fire, from the ragged, surging 'Batman Theme' that opens things clear through to the remake of his signature 'Rumble' that closes up the sequence. This is powerful, spooky, and haunting stuff... These cuts were recorded after Wray's stint with Epic Records, which kept trying to sweeten his sound with horns and strings, and you can feel the sense of desperation, freedom, and joyous release in every second here." - Steve Leggett, allmusic.com
45/100 Rolling Stone Greatest Guitarists
Drawn from Recordings between 1963 & 1966 for Swan Records
Link Wray, all guitars
Doug Wray, drums
Shorty Horton, bass
Vernon Wray, Joey Welz, keyboards
1. Batman Theme
2. Ace Of Spades
3. Cross Ties
4. Jack The Ripper
5. Hidden Charms
6. I'm Branded
7. The Shadow Knows
1. Fat Back
2. Run Chicken Run
3. Black Widow
5. Turnpike U.S.A.
6. Mr. Guitar