Skip to comments.BE WILD, NOT EVIL: THE LINK WRAY STORY
Posted on 04/07/2006 11:07:58 AM PDT by weegee
BE WILD, NOT EVIL: THE LINK WRAY STORY
A tribute by Jimmy McDonough © 2006
Link Wray seemed so strong, so invincible, like he'd be lurking around forever, just wailing away in some East Jesus s**thole, terrorizing another doomed amp while he stuck the neck of Screamin' Red in the dazed faces of a new batch of converts. I guess I took him for granted. The music business sure did. Link is the music for the midnight ride. No question about it, he sounds best when you have somewhere to go. Tearing down the highway in some s**tbox of a car while blasting Link's guitar, some little chickadee flashing an inspirational bit of leg by your side--this is one of the great pleasures of still being ambulatory. That savage sound magnifies life's melodrama to a sublime degree. The night turns blacker, the moon more luminous, even her lipstick's a deeper shade of red. One could get all cutesy and call his music Ennio Morricone by way of a three-track-shack, but that would be dumb. You can't really compare Link to anything or anybody. He was an original to the death.
Crank up his version of "Hidden Charms" and it conjures visions of that dreamy bankteller you met just the other day, and how you'd like to waltz up to her window and present her with a gift-wrapped package of fishnet hose--cut low at the top, high at the bottom (in fact, I don't know see how we ever did without 'em). Or maybe it brings to mind a glorious dream of slamming your dusty cowboy boot in the fat face of that former boss over at the convenience store, the one who screwed you out of that vacation pay.
Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of men? Link Wray knew. Wray had been on both sides of the switchblade and knew neither end was very pretty. If you have any violence in you, any frustrated desires or uncontrollable urges, Link's your man. His instrumentals can unleash the bats in your belfry. Listen and you feel like you can hit the gas and outrun any cop, any creditor, any bad memory.
If you're bothering to read this, no doubt you read a postage stamp-sized obit or two that pointed out how Link's 1958 instrumental "Rumble" altered the sound of rock and roll. "It was such a definitive record, because it set the tone for so much guitar music that came after it," said producer and Strangeloves member Richard Gottehrer. "Except for rockabilly and country, at that time R & B, doo wop, city rock and roll was all saxophone solo driven. To hear a guitar played like that was outstanding, the power and the violence of it. Link came along and the guitar began to take over." Wray inspired Bob Dylan, Marc Bolan, Pete Townsend, Bruce Springsteen, countless others. Badass guitarslingers as disparate in style as Poison Ivy Rorschach and J. J. Cale namecheck him. It's hard to find a guitar player who hasn't been influenced by Link in some way.
Wray was the epitome of a certain sort of cool that continues to rev the engines of young upstarts the world over. "I just remember getting that Rockabilly Stars Volume 2 LP back in the early eighties when I was about thirteen years old," said guitar player Deke Dickerson. "There was a picture of Link, sneer on his face, big greasy pompadour, wearing a two-tone leather jacket playing a Danelectro Longhorn, with matching two-tone penny loafers. That picture changed my life. Link Wray, as far as I was concerned, was the coolest looking guy in the whole history of the world. And you know what I love about that picture? The two-tone leather jacket, the two-tone penny loafers, and the Danelectro Longhorn guitar--were all ordered out of the Sears & Roebuck catalogue!"
Of course, that's all real important stuff, but Wray deserves more. He was a hell of a lot more than some footnote in rock and roll history. Back in 1997, I interviewed Wray a bunch. After awhile, I got the feeling he felt he'd been too candid, and after a few more pickings of the brain, I never heard from him again. Not wanting to make Link's life any more complex than it already was, I vowed to sit on the interviews until he kicked the bucket. Now it's time to turn up the amp and let it rip.
MEE-MAW AND THE WRAY BOYS
The Link Wray story is really a tale of three brothers.... (excerpt not required, article runs for 6 pages)
Get that at Sears?
thanks dude, BTTT
The only man to get an *instrumental* banned. RIP to a fellow North Carolinian...
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