Fred Lincoln "Link" Wray Jr (May 2, 1929 – November 5, 2005) was an American rock and roll guitarist, songwriter and vocalist who first came to popularity in the late 1950s.

Building on the overdriven, distorted electric guitar sound of early electric blues records, his 1958 instrumental hit "Rumble" by Link Wray and his Ray Men introduced "the power chord, the major modus operandi of modern rock guitarists,"[1] making possible "punk and heavy rock."[2] Rolling Stone placed Wray at number 45 of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time.

Early life[edit source | editbeta][edit | edit source]

Wray was born in Dunn, North Carolina, to Fred Lincoln Wray,Sr. and his wife, Lillian M. Coats.[4][5]

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 to doctors meant he would never be able to sing again.[6]

Career[edit source | editbeta][edit | edit source]

After his initial hits, Wray's career had periods of retirement followed by renewed popularity, particularly in Europe. To escape the "trap" of big business involvement in music, he began recording albums using a three-track studio he converted from a chicken shack.[6]

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 Hutchinson.[7] He subsequently formed a band initially featuring special guest Cipollina along with the rhythm section from Cipollina's band Copperhead, bassist 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.[8] 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.[9] He toured and recorded two albums with retro-rockabilly artist Robert Gordon in the late 1970s.[10] 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.[11]

Later life[edit source | editbeta][edit | edit source]

[1][2]The grave of Link Wray in the crypt of the Christian's Church in Copenhagen.

Wray moved to Denmark in the 1980s after marrying his wife Olive, a Danish student who had been studying Native American culture. He spent his last years on a Danish island, touring frequently until he died of heart failure at 76 in 2005 at his home in Copenhagen. He was buried in the crypt of the Christian's Church, in the Copenhagen borough of Christianshavn.[12]

Legacy[edit source | editbeta][edit | edit source]

Jack Rose cited Wray as an influence,[13] as did Iggy Pop.[14]

Discography[edit source | editbeta][edit | edit source]

Singles[edit source | editbeta][edit | edit source]

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
1977 "Red Hot" 83
May 1979 "It's All Over Now Baby Blue" "Just That Kind" Charisma CB-333


Albums[edit source | editbeta][edit | edit source]

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 US Barbed Wire

Compilation albums[edit source | editbeta][edit | edit source]

Release date Title Label Catalog Number
1969 US Yesterday and Today Record Factory LP 1929
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 UK B000PATZPQ

With Robert Gordon[edit source | editbeta][edit | edit source]

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