Link Wray, 1929-2005
The “Rumble” has been silenced.
Legendary guitarist Link Wray, whose seminal instrumental work was an inestimable influence on generations of rock musicians, died on Nov. 5 at his home in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Wray’s passing at age 76 was revealed on Nov. 21 in a statement by his wife, Olive, and son, Oliver Christian. He was laid to rest on Nov. 18 after a service at Copenhagen’s Christian Church.
His 1958 instrumental, “Rumble,” was a dark, swaggering smash that moved legions of inspired kids to pick up the guitar, a few of whom were Pete Townshend, Bruce Springsteen, David Bowie and Bob Dylan. Wray was considered by many as one of the spiritual fathers of rock ‘n’ roll—particularly its metal and punk subgenres—and was named in Guitar World magazine as one of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time. Other signature hits included “Rawhide” (1959) and “Jack the Ripper” (1963). With his omnipresent shades and black leather jacket, he was an archtypal bad-boy guitar slinger.
Wray, born Frederick Lincoln Wray Jr. in 1929 in Dunn, N.C., was an early proponent of the power chord, and achieved the famous fuzz tone on “Rumble” by punching holes in his guitar amp speakers. He moved to Denmark in 1978 and continued playing and touring right up through 2005.
“He was an amazing guitarist and an amazing human being,” said guitarist Robert Alexander, who toured with Wray in 2005. “He was and always will be my friend and inspiration. I was very lucky to be so close to him. He blazed a big trail.”
Wray in his late ’50s-early ’60s heyday.
Photo courtesy Michael Ochs archives.com
Wray onstage in Santa Cruz, Calif., 2005.
Photo by Robert Alexander