Alan and Sharon Eldridge - Dunn, NC
LINK WRAY, 1929-2005
Obituary at Bottom of Page
Link Wray Tribute Page
Rock guitarist Link Wray was born on May 2nd in North
Carolina. In his 1958 instrumental hit "Rumble," Wray
invented the power chord, the basis of modern rock
guitar-playing from thrash to heavy metal. He is
the missing link in the history of rock guitar in that
he is not often given credit for being the connection
between early blues guitarists and the late '60s
gods (Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page,
Pete Townshend, etc.).
Wray began his career in the early '50s as a member of Lucky Wray and the
Palomino Ranch Hands, a band that he formed with his brothers
Vernon and Doug. They moved from North Carolina
to Washington, D.C., where they recorded an EP.
Soon after, Wray began concentrating on guitar, since an earlier bout with
tuberculosis began to make singing increasingly difficult. He then
developed his guitar style: a slow drag across
distorted strings in a simple chord progression.
This led to his recording of "Rumble," which
cracked the U.S. top 20, despite being banned by
some radio stations because its title connoted gang
violence. The Wrays then signed to Epic Records after disagreeing with
their original label, Cadence, which wanted to tone
down the tough image they began to have from "Rumble." The
Wrays' next single, the pounding "Rawhide," went to #23 and was a hit
among leather-jacketed, motorcycle-loving male youths. Link Wray was
becoming the hero of juvenile elinquents and this scared
record companies, who forced him to record non-rock songs such
as "Danny Boy" with orchestras.
The Wrays tried forming their own record company, Rumble
Records, which produced their next big hit, "Jack The Ripper." The song
was later used in the '80s remake of the film
"Breathless," starring Richard Gere. The company was short-lived and
the Wrays found themselves at U.K.-based Swan Records, where they were
given free rein to create what they wanted. What
followed was a decade of improvised, guitar-heavy records
issued under strange names such as the Moon Men and the Spiders.
The '70s were filled with ups and downs for Link Wray. In
1971, his self-titled solo album was critically lauded but
didn't sell, and none of his other releases made a splash. He spent some
time backing Robert Gordon -- the singer for New
York punkers the Tuff Darts -- on a rockabilly project and also
recorded several albums in the '80s that relied heavily on drum machines.
He attracted attention with rare live
appearances in which he proved that he could still wow 'em with the
guitar style he pioneered.
Link Wray at the Crystal Ballroom,
The Original Man in Black:
By CAIN BURDEAU, Associated Press Writer - August, 2002
Link Wray still rumbles
NEW ORLEANS - The power chord. Distortion. The raw and the rumble. The man in black at midnight. A wall of
noises, never-ending riffs, the echo of the whammy bar.
This is Link Wray. Fred Lincoln Wray Jr., the 73-year-old Shawnee Indian, a pioneer of
punk and heavy metal, or just that dirty guitar sound.
On a recent rainy night in the French Quarter, the rail-thin Wray played a two-hour show at
the Shim Sham Club that included his greats: 1958's "Rumble," 1959's "Rawhide," 1963's "Jack the Ripper."
Stooped at about 5 feet 7 inches (1.7 meters), his cataract-dimmed eyes hidden behind shades,
he was a haunt from the honky tonk joints of the 1950s, the ghosts of Elvis Presley and James Dean
clinging to him.
Born in Dunn, North Carolina, to semiliterate street preachers, Wray hit it big in the late '50s
and is now being rediscovered. His music has appeared in movies like "Pulp Fiction," "Independence
Day" and "Desperado." A petition drive is underway to get him inducted into the Rock and
Roll Hall of Fame.
"He is the king; if it hadn't been for Link Wray and 'Rumble,' I would have never picked up
a guitar'," Pete Townsend of The Who wrote on one of Wray's albums.
Neil Young once said: "If I could go back in time and see any band, it would be Link
Wray and the Raymen."
"Sixteen-year-old kids, they come with little bands, you know, and they come with tears
in their eyes," Wray said. "I feel like I'm in church. That's the truth. And I feel so
blessed, even though I'm not a rich rock star. I don't want to be a rich rock star."
Wray's lucky day came when he recorded "Rumble." The story goes like this: He punched
holes in his amplifiers to get a grumbling, mean sound. The kids loved it. Some deejays
in big cities banned the song; the instrumental was too suggestive of teen violence.
'"Rumble' came out on St. Patrick's Day and it went out right in the charts with
a bullet, played on the Dick Clark show ‹ a syndicated show ‹ so when he played something,
it meant something," he said.
"Rumble" sold 4 million copies. That year, dressed distinctively in black, Wray was in demand,
playing to screaming teenagers well past midnight. He was creating his own style. And the world
changed for a man born poor.
"I'm half Shawnee Indian, born to a Shawnee mother. I had a Shawnee dad, and he was in the
First World War and he lost his hair and he lost his teeth, and he was shell-shocked, and I
had to go to work when I was 10 years old to help feed the family. This was Dunn, North Carolina,
in a different era, you know, during the Ku Klux Klan days, you know ‹ really bad in the South,"
His family slept on the floor of barns under the protection of Cherokees. Ate whatever ‹ usually
little. Shook with fear at KKK raids.
"Elvis, he grew up" ‹ he paused ‹ "I don't want to sound racist when I say this: He grew up
white-man poor. I was growing up Shawnee poor."
Wray was born in 1929, the same year the stock market crashed.
"They told my mother when I was born that they'd have to kill me to save her life. And she
said, 'Please don't kill my baby,' so they pulled me out of my mother with prongs," he said. "So
it made me a slow learner, because they pulled me out with prongs. I am a slow learner:
I wanted to be Chet Atkins, I wanted to be Tal Farlow, I wanted to be those cats, jazz cats.
Like I told Frank Zappa, 'It took me a long time to learn my guitar.' He said, 'Well, Link,
it came to me quite easily.' 'That's because you got a brain, I don't have one.' You know,
I was telling him my story."
Wray claims that because he was too slow to be a wiz on guitar, he had to invent sounds.
"I was looking for something that Chet Atkins wasn't doing, that all the jazz kings wasn't
doing, that all the country pickers wasn't doing. I was looking for my own sound," he said.
He was one of the first guitarists to take a major chord and run it up and down the fret
board, creating the thundering sound known as the power chord ‹ a favorite among today's
Early on, he learned from Hambone, a black musician brought up by the Barnum and Bailey
Circus, who saw the 8-year-old Wray struggling with a Maybell acoustic guitar. Hambone
tuned the guitar up and whipped out a bottleneck.
"And I'm going, 'Wow.' I just loved that sound he was getting," Wray recalled.
Later, when his father found work in a Navy yard and the family moved to Portsmouth,
Virginia, he paid dlrs 20 to the Phelps Brothers, the big country act there, to play with them.
Wray contracted tuberculosis while serving in the Korean War. His left lung was removed and
his singing career was compromised, so he focused even more on electric guitars ‹ preferably
His two brothers, Vernon and Doug, were also musicians. The three went on the country circuit
as "Lucky Wray and the Palomino Ranch Hands." Later, when "Rumble" became a hit, they became
"Link Wray and the Raymen," or Wraymen, as it was sometimes spelled.
Much later, the brothers' relationship soured. Link said that Vernon, acting as manager,
became bitter over his brother's fame, stole the rights to "Rumble" and other classics,
and destroyed the master tapes of many of the early songs. Vernon died in 1979. To this
day, Link said, he gets no money for many of his old songs.
Back in 1957, when Presley was upending a music world dominated by jazz and country, the
28-year-old Wray was caught up in the rock craze. And he started going places no one else
was ‹ into a thrashing, weird, rumbling sound.
"He came up with a sound that was totally different. And people like myself who were
teenagers were taken aback by that and you just wanted to hear it over and over ‹ it
had a hook to it," said Bobby Morris, a Pensacola, Florida-based rock historian specializing
in the 1950s.
"It aggravated me for years and years that no one recognized Link as the pioneer of all
these wild rock groups like Kiss, AC/DC, Metallica ( news - web sites). All those people
owe their loud driving music to him....'
In the '60s, Wray went out of style, playing in underground clubs, hillbilly joints and
the occasional acoustical set in Greenwich Village with Bob Dylan. He said the entertainment
business was "always grabbing for you, to control you."
"I was a little hippie, without the drugs, you know, because I'm very religious," Wray said.
And then in 1978, he moved to Denmark and married Olive Julie Povlsen. They're raising a
19-year-old son, Oliver Christian, in a three-story house on an island where Hans Christian
Andersen once lived.
"You know, when I'm home I don't go out of the house. Television's my world," Wray said.
During his years away from the spotlight, he was rediscovered by new generations, from The
Cramps to the Sex Pistols.
"I may live in Denmark," he shouted in the middle of his set at the Shim Sham. "But I'm
100 percent American!"
May 20, 1999
Alan Scally - email@example.com - January 20, 2004
Well, Link Wray strutted last night across the stage at the Crystal Ballroom in Portland,
Oregon but it was really 1950 Oklahoma and he got out of his 1937 Ford coupe and walked
boot heels crunch crunch across the gravel parking lot of the DariFreez, brushing past
the football players staring at him and his black leather jacket, greased-back hair
and at the Cherokee girl-child at his side--Hank Williams and John Lee Hooker, wind
storm off the prairie, fire wrapped inside the wind he rides, hard chords of eternal
defiance ringing out across endless wheat field and down lonesome highways, across
cities and through silent farmhouses where a men sit and watch the darkness sink
into the earth like a bitter flood; Link Wray struts like a black leather rooster,
shakes his guitar like an angry lover as the notes fly away like buffalo stampeding
across green spring grasses of empty Kansas forever land; Link Wray raged last night
with all the defiance and laughter and love and power he carried within him - a legend
surely as Crazy Horse, a force of nature like a tornado, a howling prophet man shouting
blind in a dust bowl sun of tribulation and triumph to come.
I saw Link Wray, I saw America, I saw the beautiful back-road land we turned away from
because we're afraid of our dreams - our dreams came back last night, bulletproof and wary,
shining in all the beat glory and visionary wildness of an electrical, storm in July over
Omaha, followed by a double rainbow over the Missouri River. Ride, ride, ride across the
land, shattered guitar explosion ripping out of the radio as the prophet man rages on,
full-force rock n roll; proving why the American night holds no secrets only dreams,
nightmares and visions.
Greaser hair hanging in a ponytail to his waist, Indian chief painted on back
of leather jacket, eternal shades, taunting grin, the coolest baddest bad-boy of
forever came to town and we had a rumble in the high school parking lot. The
prodigal son came home and killed the fatted calf his own bad self, then stole
his daddy's gold and had a party for the temple prostitutes and his wastrel
friends while playing rock n' roll on King David's harp.
So Link Wray was here and yeah there is hope, yeah we can dream and if we
listen hard we can hear the mocking laughter of angels leaving heaven to ride
motorcycles toward an always infinite horizon to a small town where rattlesnakes
sleep inside a jukebox that plays blues, Hank Williams, Elvis and the screaming
guitar of a boy who stabbed his amplifier with a pencil and wrote his name in
the storm clouds over a Wyoming highway. Link Wray strutted for us. He done good.
He done America proud.
2737 NW Upshur #109
Portland, OR 97210
Link Wray Obit:
Fred Lincoln Wray (Link Wray), guitarist and singer:
born Dunn, North Carolina 2 May 1929; four times married
(one son); died on Copenhagen 5 November 2005.
It's hard to imagine an instrumental being banned as too
subversive, but that is what happened to Link Wray's
"Rumble" in 1958. Its tough, muscular sound captured the
tension of a gang fight and many US radio stations refused
to play it or even mention its title. Wray's opening chord
sets the scene for 150 echo-drenched seconds of feedback and
"Rumble" was a record like no other and years ahead of its
time. Although it was only a minor hit, Bob Dylan went to
see Link Wray playing live in 1958 and Jeff Beck and Jimi
Hendrix both acknowledged Wray's influence. Pete Townshend
of the Who praised "Rumble", saying, "It made me very uneasy
the first time I heard it and yet I was excited by the
savage guitar sound." Neil Young commented, "If I could
return in time and see one band live, it would be Link Wray
and the Ray Men."
Fred Lincoln Wray was born in Dunn, North Carolina in
1929. He inherited the dark looks of his mother, a Shawnee
Indian, and by all accounts, it was an unusual family:
according to Wray, his grandfather was imprisoned at the age
of 96 for not supporting his family and lived on to be 113.
Both of Link Wray's parents were preachers and they often
held meetings on the streets. Link was a sickly child and a
bout of measles damaged both his hearing and his sight.
In 1944 his father and his elder brother, Vernon, went to
work in the dockyards in Portsmouth, Virginia and they sent
for the rest of the family three years later. Vernon formed
a western swing band with his youngest brother, Doug,
playing drums and a cousin, Brentley "Shorty" Horton, on
double-bass, and the DJ Sheriff Tex Davis, who later
discovered Gene Vincent, featured them on radio shows.
Although Link Wray played with them from time to time, he
was conscripted into the US army in 1951 and was sent to
Germany and then Korea. When he returned to the States in
1953, he ordered a Gibson Les Paul guitar. It was then he
developed his own style, playing louder than most because of
his impaired hearing.
The family group obtained bookings performing cowboy songs
as the Palomino Ranch Gang. When they did some bookings in
Washington, a local singer Dick Williams asked them to cut
some demonstration records of new songs. The rockabilly
track "I Sez Baby" shows that Wray was uncomfortable as a
vocalist, performing with a gruff howl. He said later, "The
only reason I was doing instrumentals was because I couldn't
sing." He was also having problems with his lungs. In the
army, he had been told this was nothing to worry about, but
now he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. His left lung was
removed and he was in hospital for most of 1956.
When the band was playing at a dance in Fredericksberg,
Virginia in 1958, the DJ Milt Grant asked them to play "The
Stroll" by the Diamonds. Grant hummed the tune and they
performed an approximation to this. As they were playing,
someone thrust the microphone in front of Wray's amplifier
and the dancers became intrigued with the weird sound. The
group developed the result into the instrumental "Oddball".
Capitol and Decca Records both turned down "Oddball", but
Archie Bleyer, the owner of Cadence Records, wanting to
please the influential Grant, said he would consider it. He
thought it was out of tune and awful, but his daughter
played it to her teenage friends. They begged Bleyer to
release it and, in a reference to West Side Story, renamed
it "Rumble". Bleyer was uncomfortable at having the record
on his label and his promotional ad in Billboard even says,
"Rumble, Schmumble, who cares, as long as it's a hit?" The
controversy over the record only infuriated Bleyer more and
despite "Rumble" being a hit, he refused to release any more
records by "that Indian in Washington".
Epic Records thought that Link Wray and the Ray Men (Horton
and Doug Wray) might rival Duane Eddy and the Rebels, and
Wray copied that style for "Dixie Doodle". The label allowed
him to develop his frenzied R&B style provided he also
recorded orchestrated versions of "Clair De Lune" and "Danny
Boy". His best moment was his 1959 instrumental hit,
"Rawhide", on which he was already improvising with his new
Danelectro Longhorn guitar.
By 1960 Wray was singing on his records, with an unusual
cracked voice. It enhanced his image of jet black hair,
black sunglasses, black leather jacket and black trousers,
not to mention an Indian headband. Wray put his mark on
other people's records as well: he played guitar for Bunker
Hill (in reality the gospel singer David Walker) on his Top
Forty record "Hide and Go Seek" and it is Wray's scream on
it that listeners remember.
Epic turned down another example of feedback madness, Wray's
"Jack the Ripper", and he released it instead through Swan
Records. He recorded for Swan from 1963 to 1967, by then
being marketed as a surf guitarist. By and large, though,
Wray was left to his own devices and the many singles
include "The Sweeper", "Good Rockin' Tonight" and a jokey
cover of the "Batman Theme".
Disillusioned with the business, Wray retired to the family
farm in Accokeek, Maryland, where he converted a chicken
shack into a small studio. He made the album Link Wray
(1971), on which he wrote about his frustrations. The
Neville Brothers have recorded two tracks from it, "Fallin'
Rain" and "Fire and Brimstone".
Another home-made album, Beans and Fatback, was licensed to
Virgin by his management in 1973 without Wray's knowledge
and although he did not blame Virgin, he refused to promote
it. He signed with Polydor and made Be What You Want To
(1973) in San Franscisco with Jerry Garcia and Commander
Cody. The Link Wray Rumble (1974) features Boz Scaggs and
the Tower of Power horn section and "I Got To Ramble" is
dedicated to the memory of Duane Allman. Having no ill will
towards Virgin, Wray made another album, Stuck In Gear
(1976), for them at Ridge Farm, near Dorking in Surrey. He
described it as the work of "two Scots, one Irishman and an
In 1977 the new wave rockabilly singer Robert Gordon teamed
with Wray for the albums Robert Gordon with Link Wray (1977)
and Fresh Fish Special (1978). They are good albums, but
their live shows, including some in the UK, were more
exciting. Wray went for a heavier sound on Bullshot (1979),
although it included a quiet revival of Elvis Presley's
"Don't". Live at the Paradiso, Amsterdam, recorded in 1979
but released in 1982, shows how powerful he could be on
stage. It included a cover of the Beatles' "I Saw Her
Standing There" and on the title track of Apache (1990), he
performed his own distorted take on the Shadows' hit. By
then, Wray had settled with his fourth wife in Copenhagen
and his career had a boost in 1994 when "Rumble" and "Ace of
Spades" were included on the soundtrack of Quentin
Tarantino's film Pulp Fiction.
In the late 1990s Link Wray appeared to a young audience at
Dingwall's in London. He performed instrumentals for an hour
and when asked for an encore, he played another 45 minutes
of the same songs. Already 70 and wearing a black singlet
and black trousers, he was the coolest person in the place.
- Spencer Leigh
More Info on Link's Family
My name is Deborah Wray. My husband is Fred Lincoln Wray III, Link Wray's oldest son.
In the obit, it reads that Link has one son, In fact, he has four sons:
Fred Lincoln Wray III
Link Elvis Wray
Oliver Christian Wray
Link also has five daughters:
Elizabeth (Beth) Wray Webb
Mona Kay Wray
Rhonda Wray Sayen
It also states his name as Frederick. Link Wray was named for his father, my husband's grandfather,
and none of them are named "Frederick" The name on the grandfather's headstone in the
City Park cemetery reads "Fred". My husband's name is Fred. I have no idea where this Frederick
came from but it is incorrect. Sincerely, Deborah L. Wray
Link Wray's Children, Grandchildren, and Great-Grandchildren (Grandchildren
and Great-Grandchildren listed under parent's name).
1st Wife: Elizabeth A. Canady
Elizabeth (Beth) Wray-Webb / Tommy Joe Webb Sr.
Tommy Joe Webb Jr.
Christopher Edward Webb
Fred Lincoln Wray III / Deborah L. Wray
2nd wife: Ethel (Kitty) Tidwell
Link Elvis Wray / Darlene Bello
Brandon Ray Wray
Link Aaron Wray
Mona Kay Wray-Tidwell / Mike Tidwell
Belinda Wray-Muth / Brent Muth
3rd wife: Sharon Cole
Rhonda Wray-Sayen /Dave Sayen
Nicole Ashley Sayen
Matthew David Sayen
Elizabeth (little Beth) Marie Sayen
Shayne West Wray/Dorothy Wray
Charlotte (Char) Wray-Glass /Donald Glass Jr.
Donald Glass III
4th wife: Olive Julie Poslov
Oliver Christian Wray
NOTE: Link Wray's birth name is Fred, Lincoln Wray Jr. (not Frederick) as is stated on
a lot of web pages and printings.
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