Link Wray 1929 - 2005
Link Wray 1929 - 2005
I was 7 years-old when I got my first guitar. I wanted an electric guitar but what I got was an acoustic almost as big as I was. My dad told me that I could have an electric if I did well on my lessons and practice. I was doomed. My small hands barely fit around the guitar's neck so making chords was difficult. Add to that, my guitar teacher only taught me chords and what I got to play with those chords was shit like Michael Rowed His Boat Ashore and Shoo Fly. I told him I wanted to play rock & roll solos. He said he didn't know if that's what my parents would want ! I was screwed.
The first rock & roll record I ever cherished was Duane Eddy's Have Twangy Guitar Will Travel. At 5 years-old, I snatched it out of my mom's record collection and it has never gone back. I played it over and over, especially the song Rebel Rouser. For pre-teen me, Duane Eddy was soul music. It was what I wanted to play on guitar but what my guitar teacher forbade me to play. No Duane Eddy riffs? No point in practicing the guitar. I never owned an electric until I was an adult (and I still can't play Duane Eddy!).
I was 13 or 14 when I first heard Link Ray's Rumble. It was like a shot of ice water in the spine. So cool, so dark and so mysterious, my Duane Eddy records (I had a few by then) got tucked away. Link Wray was the man. I searched for LPs, I dug for 45s. But in the late 70s, no one cared about Link Wray except the Brits and the Cramps. Unless you found them used, Link's records were impossible to find in the US, at least for teen me. For a few years the only thing I had was that well worn copy of Rumble. Then one day I happened upon a English bootleg of Link Wray singles. It was $7 which was a lot of money for a record in 1981, but I bought it.
I had been into punk rock for a few years by the time I got that Link Wray record collection, however even Black Flag didn't prime me for Link's version of Willie Dixon's Hidden Charms. Tortured, horny, raw, primitive and with the most twisted guitar outro, Hidden Charms might as well be punk rock. Fuck it, Hidden Charms is punk rock. Who cares if it was recorded in 1965. It has everything that makes punk rock great.
So on this holiday, when you are gathered around the table about to chow down, give thanks for Link Wray. His guitar did as much for the sound of rock & roll as Elvis or the Beatles. He is who people should keep in mind when using the phrase "guitar god." And now he is dead. No one knows how he made it to 76, but he did and he played his music til the very end. Thanks Link!
He used to get that evil fuzztone sound by poking holes in his amp's speakers with a pencil. He also prefered recording with a 3 track in an old shed than being in a professional studio. He was that kinda guy.....