Saturday, May 2, 2009
Happy Birthday Link Wray
And this makes the 4th guitar player in the last week.
The liner notes of The Best of Link Wray album says it best:
"Quite simply, Link Wray invented the power chord. The major modus operandi of modern rock guitarists. Listen to any of the tracks on this anthology, and you'll hear the blueprints for heavy metal, thrash, you name it."
Far too many people who hear his name often respond with, "Who?!" There's no doubt that everyone has heard the instrumental classic "Rumble".
This song was released in 1958 and banned from numerous radio stations (including New York City) due to its association with the Dukes and the Sharks, gangs that were written about in the papers at the time. How badass is that?! An instrumental, banned from radio. It still hit #16 on the charts.
Back in 2003 I saw a flier for a Link Wray show at the Fine Line Music Cafe in Minneapolis. I wasn't aware of his age at the time, but for whatever reason I had assumed he had long since passed away. When I saw the ad I couldn't believe that not only was he still alive, but he was going to play at this tiny intimate venue in my own city. Purchasing tickets IMMEDIATELY was a no-brainer.
So the night came. A buddy and I were sitting on the upper lever at our own table, right above the side of the stage. That crappy opening band that nobody asked to see was finally wrapping their set. In the last minute of the song, they used a pyrotechnic, WITHOUT permission. It set the entire ceiling on fire. Everyone cleared out, but somehow kept their cool. The place was far from reaching its full capacity, but fortunately nobody was trampling each other or panicking to get out first. Everyone made it out just fine, and the staff did a great job keeping everyone under control. The really creepy part is that this all happened exactly 2 nights before 100 people were not so lucky at a Great White show in Rhode Island.
As we stood across the street, staring at the club with smoke pouring out the doors and watching the firetrucks pile in, all I could think was, "Man, Link Wray is gonna croak before he comes back to this town." He died a little more than 2 years later. He would have turned 80 today.
If I ever cross paths or get stuck under the same roof with that opening band (which shall remain nameless) ever again, I promise to make their night extremely unpleasant.