LINK WRAY

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's most glaring omission

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GIG REVIEWS
Gig reviews can be found below. Photos of Link’s gigs are here.

  • Maryland Fireman’s Carnival - 1958
    REMEMBRANCE BY DAN FOX

     At eight o’clock Doug Wray took his place behind the drums and Shorty walked on with a hollow-body six-string bass. A little guy in a cheap suit and crewcut strutted out and announced the show. Link came on strong with Rawhide, then segued into Rumble. After that the music blurs together in a daze of sound and image. I remember Right Turn and Apache, with the audience yelling its part. Ray Vernon, who was Link and Doug’s older brother, M.C.’d the show and sang at least one song. Link had a limited repertoire at that time, as he hadn’t yet produced most of his songs. I believe he had just recorded Right Turn.

     After awhile Doug took the mike and sang Goosebumps, with a segue into Bony Marony. Ray took over the drums for Doug, playing cross-handed and fairly well. Shorty chimed in with a funny noise for Goosebumps and generally provided comic relief. My date didn’t like Shorty. He was missing a front tooth and she thought he was ‘creepy.’

     Link wore all black, tight jacket and no tie. Doug and Shorty wore pink sport coats, white shirts, ties, dark slacks – the standard uniform for band members at that time. Ray Vernon wore a contrasting suit and tie as befitted the M.C. Link was whip-thin as always; his black hair was short, greased back, no shades, 50s punk-hoodlum smirk.

     About midway through the show an old guy in the audience heckled good-naturedly that Link’s music was horse poop compared to country music. Link took the mike and invited the guy on stage (“C’mon, Pop, we’re just having fun tonight….”) The old guy actually got up there and belted out Foggy River, with Link and the band accompanying him. We gave him a big hand and he grinned and grinned.

     Link ended with a gospel vocal and then took it on out with Rawhide. My mother, a classical violinist, remarked that Ray Vernon’s singing was good – he had ‘a voice’ as she put it. Since she regarded everything else that night as pure noise, this was high praise. I went home and decided to learn to play the guitar. I don’t know what happened to the girl.
    Summer, 1958
     The summer of 1958 I turned fourteen and I worked at a swimming pool near my home in southern Pennsylvania. A fine young girl, likewise fourteen, came to the pool and told me that Link Wray was coming to the fireman’s carnival in a little town across the Maryland border. And would I take her?


     Link Wray:  Rumble. Rawhide. The Milt Grant show out of DC. Buddy Dean’s frantic dance party out of Baltimore. Bandstand. Jesus Christ! But it was too far to ride my bike.

     I don’t remember what I told my mother, but she drove me to Maryland and the carnival and stayed in the background while I sniffed around my date and we waited for Link to come on. After Link appeared I barely noticed her.

     The stage was a cement slab with metal folding chairs and bright lights with bugs flying around them. The outdoor sound system was better suited to the hillbilly bands that came to entertain the yahoos. How they booked Link Wray right after he had had two big hits in a row, I’ll never know.

  • London, UK - 1996
    LIVE AT THE GARAGE - LONDON UK - MELODY MAKER

    LINK WRAY / PENTHOUSE - The Garage, London

    (Penthouse review edited)
    Link Wray, of course, has evolved way beyond mess and bother - except for fun - and appears on stage to the sound of A) his own twangtastic epic RUMBLE, and B) delirium.

    Link the Queen thinking the world must smell of fresh paint, Mr. Wray must believe the world is composed of anoraks and psychobillies scrabbling to touch
    that guitar.  Which, of course, he allows.

    Dead-white, dead-cool, dead-dark shades and dead-legendary, but most importantly, not dead, he spends the evening pointing one finger upwards - through ACE OF SPADES, through BATMAN-meets-WIPEOUT - like there's no doubt whatsoever about...well, anything.
  • Melbourne, AUS - 1996
    LIVE AT THE CORNER HOTEL - MELBOURNE AUSTRALIA - 18 APRIL 1996

    The truth is the truth and it must be told!

    Link Wray is a rock legend, any doubt about this assertion was dispelled tonight by the firestorm of guitar noise created on stage by Mr.  Wray and his rhythm section.  

    Although he had his Marshall turned around so the speakers faced the back wall, this was no polite rock/cabaret oldies nostalgia trip.  Throughout the performance Link's guitar squealed with feedback, crackled and spat fire.  (During one part of the show he even turned his back on the audience and proceeded for a full three or four minutes to tune up his guitar with the volume on 11 while the band ploughed on regardless).

    Sure, Link is pushing the big seven-O and all of his hits are at least 30 years old, but hell - this guy bristles with the kind of hard rock aggressive punk attitude that transcends guitar playing technicalities and would make kids a quarter of his age tremble.

    Just hearing 'Rumble', 'Batman', 'Ace of Spades' and 'Jack the Ripper' performed by their creator was worth the price of admission alone but Link also sang (quite credibly, although he'd occasionally drop a word or phrase here and there if his guitar part needed attention) and generally displayed a control over the dynamics of his performance so that it was never less than totally engaging.  The vocal highpoint was probably his reworking of Hank Williams' 'Why Don't You Love Me Like You Used To Do?' into a smoldering, steamy ballad with a 6/8 feel.  He also sang the Bruce Springsteen song 'Fire' (which he recorded in the late 70's with Robert Gordon... remember?).

    During this song he launched into a guitar solo which quite honestly defied description.  It was like some totally free form Jimi Hendrix 'scuse me while I kiss the sky type of rave-up but its roots weren't Afro-American, they were Native American, the guitar imbued with the violence and spirituality of a proud warrior culture.  Woof! 

    Here was the guy who invented the power chord, who virtually laid out the blue print for hard rock and heavy metal (the dull throb of which is now unfortunately far removed from the vitality and life affirming nature of the original) offering his guitar to the audience to make their own noise on.  This wasn't some untouchable guitar hero, the walls had been broken down and performer and audience alike were reveling in the joyful noise!

    I've seen Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Keith Richards play definitive rock 'n roll guitar.  After this performance I place Link Wray in the same category.

    Mark F   
  • Tempe, AZ - 1997
    Way-gone daddy and pioneering guitarist Link (real name: Fred Lincoln Wray Jr.) set the standard for every rock and metal guitarist in his wake with the '58 hit "Rumble," following up that gem with equally classic sides like "Rawhide," "Comanche" and "Ace of Spades."

    The 68-year-old living legend is scheduled on Wednesday, June 25, at Nita's Hideaway, 1816 East Rio Salado Parkway in Tempe. Dieselhed shares the bill. Showtime is 10 p.m. Tickets are $13. For details call 967-9531.
  • Orlando, FL - 1998
    LINK WRAY AT THE HOUSE OF BLUES
    FEBRUARY 18, 1998

    I had been wanting to see Link Wray for a long time. I’ve been dancing to his all-intstro, nasty songs for years - but always played by other bands. Finally I was going to see the master of switchblade instrumentals himself. The original punk. The legendary Link Wray.

    When he took the stage my mind didn’t know what to focus on. Yes, he was glorious. But not right away. Maybe it was a clear case of, “when in Rome,” because Link Wray’s attire definitely blended in with the Mouse of Blues tourists. Either than, or he’s been hanging out with roadies so long he’s starting to look like one. Complete with jeans, black sleeveless tee shirt, sunglasses, and yes, the all-important fanny back, Legendary Link looked at any second he could whip out a camera and take your picture. But that’s where the similarities ended - nothing else about this 68 year old rocker compared with any musician I had ever seen.

    Opening with the classic “Rumble,” Link Wray, the God of Reverb, grabbed the small but mighty crowd and held their attention. With a constant sister, shit-eating grin on his face, and a hearty ponytail to his hips, Link defied all age limitations. He knew he was great. He knew what this music was doing to us. Hate Bombs guitarist Mick Crowley turned to me in two songs and said, “He’s beyond belief - definite proof that rock and roll is ageless.” In fact, Link Wray has been around so long, most of the young crowd didn’t know who he was. But they knew his songs. Murmurs of, “Link who?” were soon replaced by choruses of, “Oh yeah, I love this song!” that could be heard all the way back to the bar.

    No other artist’s songs, with the exception of The Beatles, have been so coveted. Just go to any garage rock festival. Sleaziness, Garage Rage, Fuzziest, Treblefest, you name it - Link Wray tunes are there. I have personally seen Southern Culture on the Skids, The Cowslingers, and Man or Astroman? perform smokin’ covers of Link Wray’s “Rumble,” “Jack the Ripper,” and “Branded.” Director Robert Rodriguez used Wray’s classic “Jack the Ripper” for the opening sequence of his film, “Desperado.” For those of you who are still lost, just watch TV for a few minutes until that new Taco Bell commercial with the chihuahua comes on. The theme for this popular ad is, again, “Jack the Ripper.” If you are still confused, go see the local garage band The Hate Bombs. They’ve been gladly delivering the great “Jack the Ripper” by request for years.

    Many people at the show felt Link’s drummer and bass player “looked confused.” Looking more like members of Green Day, they seemed too young to get it. Snare and cymbals were barely audible. Link Wray was amazing but he deserves a back-up band that knows what he’s all about.

    I did get a kick out of the encore - Link ran out of songs and played most of his set over again, including a ragin’ version of the theme from Batman. Once, twice, who cared? It was Link Wray. I was witnessing a miracle. I think Obliterati drummer Nadeem Khan said it best as he watched the show in obvious awe, “I’ll be happy when I’m sixty-eight if I can still go to the bathroom by myself. This guy rocks.” What a privilege to have seen him in my lifetime.

    Carol Benanti
  • Hoboken, NJ - 1998
    linktix1

    Hoboken, NJ is located on the Hudson River directly opposite the island of Manhattan, i.e. New York City. Formerly a somewhat industrial city, it is famous for, among other things, being the home of the old Maxwell House Coffee plant, easily seen from New York City. Down the road from Maxwell House Coffee is a saloon that in years past served the needs of the Maxwell House Coffee employees (Man does not live by coffee alone.) and appropriately enough came to be known as Maxwell’s.

    In the rear of Maxwell’s, away from the bar and dining area, is a small, deliberately unadorned, undecorated room, where over the years many bands have taken a stand, often while in transit between bigger and greater cities such as New York and Boston, or New York and Philly. A few have gone on to great accomplishment, such as Nirvana, Sonic Youth, and The Smashing Pumpkins. And a few landed up finding work at the Maxwell House Coffee plant. But most spend years traveling from city to city, bar to bar, doing what they love to do, the only thing they can do.

    Last month something happened at Maxwell’s that doesn’t neatly fit into any of these categorizations, though. It was obvious from the beginning, actually. Listening to Maxwell’s’ answering machine in September one could here a lengthy list of scheduled guests, some names familiar, but many not. However, when the Maxwell voice got to October 7ths guest, the name was preceded by, “the great...”. No other name before, or after, this name earned this preface. I’m sure many phoning in thought to themselves, “What makes this guy great? Nobody else was called ‘great’!” But I knew the answer to that question. Just like I knew the very first time I heard Link Wray play guitar that I had just heard the best rock and roll guitar I had ever heard in my life. No, not necessarily the best guitar, not necessarily the best rock guitar, but definitely the best rock and roll guitar. That was a long time ago, and a lot of things have changed in my life since then. But one thing that hasn’t is that I still think Link Wray is the greatest rock and roll guitarist I’ve ever heard.

    October 7th was a Saturday and a fine day for rock and roll! Autumn was doing its thing, and Halloween was just around the corner. Gabrielle and I got to Maxwell’s about an hour early. I am predictably late for everything and always have been, except for music. I go to concerts early. I like to check out the venue, the sound system, the guitars and amplifiers before the show begins.

    So I’m sitting on Maxwell’s’ floor for about an hour, checking the place out, thinking about “Barbed Wire”, Link’s recent follow up to “Shadowman”, and how powerful it is, and wondering if Link can still perform at that energy level live. Link’s live show has always been his strong suit, but he’s no spring chicken anymore (not that I am either!).

    “Homes”, the opening act, turns out to be a pleasant surprise. The front man is dressed in white coveralls sporting an STP decal (Special Treatment Petroleum, not Stone Temple Pilots). He has a good sense of humor and likes to tell a joke or two between each song. He explains that he likes Autumn because it’s the time of the year when his sideburns change color and fall off! Well, I thought it was funny at the time. Their music is British and early sixties in tone. There’s no doubt in my mind that they’ve listened to a lot of Yardbirds. The lead guitarist plays a Gibson SG, ala early Townsend or Clapton (while with Cream). Gabrielle seems to like them a lot, as does everyone else, and at the end of the set the small crowd asks for an encore. The STP endorsing frontman says he thinks the band knows one more song, and at its conclusion many in the room take advantage of the opportunity to relieve themselves of previously consumed beverages, and then purchase some more.

    Anticipation surely colors one’s sense of time, and it seems to me like hours, rather than minutes, are passing as I sit on the sidelines awaiting the arrival of Link, Olive Julie, Screaming Red, and Link’s bandmates from California. I’m not sure who he is, but some guy is asking everyone to out their smokes because it’s “ really rough on Link.”, and the next thing I know, the unmistakable leather jacketed, pony tailed image that personifies the spirit of rock and roll is on stage, strapping on a guitar.

    It only took the opening chords of Rumble to convince me that Link’s guitar prowess was completely intact, and septuagenarian or not, he still had the picking hand of a twenty year old. The sound was very loud and powerful, and maybe a little bit too much so, because before Rumble concluded it was clear that one of the amps, or some piece of sound equipment, had suffered a blown tube or some serious ground fault, because there was a very audible hum whenever there was a silence. This did not turn into a big problem because, for one thing, there is rarely a silence during a Link Wray show! Not only did this noise fail to distract Link, but he seemed to thrive on it and just played louder and harder. 

    Rumble was only the first of many classics to be heard, including Rawhide, Jack The Ripper, The Black Widow, Run Chicken Run, Deuces Wild, Ace of Spades, I’m Branded, and The Batman Theme. Many of the songs were performed with the newer names and personalities Link has assigned them the past few years, but whether you call it Barbed Wire or by some other name, Run Chicken Run is still Run Chicken Run! This inebriated Hoboken crowd definitely preferred the loud rockers over the slower, sentimental tunes, and I even heard a heckler yell some unpleasantries during one of the slower numbers. This didn’t deter Link from doing them, though. Songs like Home is Where The Heart Is and Young And Beautiful seem to carry a lot of meaning for Link, which is possibly attributable to Link’s feelings for Olive Julie. Link and Julie’s affection for each other is very real and, in my opinion, is part of the equation that explains Link’s ability to do what he’s doing at this point in his life. 

    Case in point: Julie does this rehearsed move occasionally during which she slowly walks from stage left to stage right, and back again, playing her tambourine with a drum stick the entire time. One time, though, the exact timing of this movement was less than perfect, and Link and Julie collided in center stage in the middle of a song! Link was clearly thrown off balance for a moment. He literally walked Julie back to stage left, and then returned to his central location and continued playing. I was concerned that this incident might impact on the momentum of the current song as well as the remaining songs. As Link continued with the song, I noticed his head turning slightly right. He winked at Julie, and I saw her smiling back at him... they never missed a beat.

    Before the set ended, Link broke into Rumble again, which received a very enthusiastic reaction in Maxwell’s back room, which at this point was quite crowded due to recent arrivals from the front part of Maxwell’s as well as Washington Street. When concluded, Julie and Link waved goodbye and left quickly. And I mean left as in completely exited the building to the street through a rear door. Link left Screamin Red plugged in and totally up (not in standby) and Screaming Red started feeding back. And feeding back. And feeding back! It got really loud and the walls were reverberating with the energy. Gabrielle and I looked at each other in amazement. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Link, followed by Julie, returning from outside with a grin on his face. He got Screaming Red under control and began a second set, the highlight of which, for me, was a smoking version of Jack The Ripper. It was very long and Link did this thing during which he would walk over to the bass guitarist and physically pull him over to the center stage area and jam with him while their backs were pressed against each others.

    Though Olive Julie and the band showed a little wear and tear at the end of the night, Link had obviously tapped into something, somewhere, somehow, and finished up past 2:00AM looking like he could easily have continued playing ‘till the sun came up. As he left the small back room of Maxwell’s, Link received a very warm, appreciative ovation from the mix of old fans, new fans, and other Saturday night revelers.

    Gabrielle and I left Maxwell’s at approximately 2:30AM. We cut through the restaurant section and discussed the possibility of returning to Maxwell’s someday soon and having dinner before a show. We walked out onto 11th St. into complete blackness and stillness. I could really hear my ears ringing from the show now. There was no one and nothing on the street with the exception of one very plain looking white van parked adjacent Maxwell’s’ building. We began walking to our car when suddenly Gabrielle exclaimed, “Look, there’s Link!”. And, sure enough, there were Link and Julie walking toward the van. I hastened our pace and arrived at the van just as Link was climbing in.. I turned toward Olive Julie, still standing outside the van, and told her how much Link and she coming to The States and touring like this meant to me. She thanked me for my words and assured me that they would be back real soon, and with that she joined Link in the van and off they drove. I stood totally still for a moment and watched the van drive away, east on 11th St.

    As my eyes looked eastward, ‘cross the river and toward midtown Manhattan, the evening’s great irony hit home with much, much greater force than it had earlier, though I had been feeling it since I woke up in the morning. 

    You see, for many, many months the press had been anticipating and writing about this glorious day in rock history. There were moments of doubt when some said it could never fly , and in the end the “rock event of the decade” didn’t come off as planned, but it did come off. I’m talking about Pete Townsend and The Who at the famous Madison Square Garden in midtown Manhattan. Jimmy Page was to be the opening act (supported by The Black Crows). Jimmy couldn’t make it due to a back injury, otherwise he certainly would have been there.

    As Link and Julie disappeared around the corner on their way to a local motel, or maybe even the next city on the tour, I imagined the mayhem at The Garden... 20,000 fans cheering one of rock’s super groups. The insanity when they were whisked away by limousine afterwards to The Plaza or some other very fine New York City Hotel. Rolling Stone, Spin, all those guitar, keyboard and drum magazines, not to mention The Voice and the local papers, fighting for a piece of the story. Then, just for a moment, I recalled those early Jimmy Page/Zeppelin albums with all those great I-IV-V songs, like Moby Dick. Have you ever listened to Moby Dick and then listened to Link’s The Black Widow? Quite a coincidence, don’t you think? And as for The Who, well, “Live At Leed’s” could easily have been a Link Wray tribute album. Townsend has, of course, made his heart felt debt to Link quite public in past interviews.

    Don’t get me wrong. I have great respect for The Who, and I love Jimmy Page. He’s my favorite of the 60’s Brit guitarists. He still plays great both live and on record. But the awesome irony , absurdity and inequity of the evening’s events on opposite sides of The Hudson was much too much to ignore.

    The following week I often thought of how well Link played that night at Maxwell’s, and how little credit, in my opinion, he’s received for his immeasurable contribution to rock and roll history. The following weekend I drove over 500 miles to another bar, in another town, in another state, to have that experience again. And if I could do it again this weekend, I surely would.

    These days there seem to be as many guitar heroes as Stratocaster clones, and anyone who’s stuck it out for ten years is deemed a legend. But that’s not the way it works. It takes a much greater sacrifice than that to be a hero, and a much greater commitment than that to be a legend. You can count the real heroes, the true guitar legends on your fingers. Link Wray is a rock and roll hero. If he ever passes by your home in his travels, make it a point to see him. Take a vacation day at work, borrow the cover ch
    arge if necessary, but do it. And get there early, so we can check out the guitars and amplifiers . See you there.
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  • Columbus, OH - 2000
    linktix2

    Seeing and hearing Link Wray in Hoboken, Oct. 7th, was an eye and ear opening experience that forced me to reevaluate my definitions of rock music and the rock musician. I concluded, for one thing, that the standard blues based progressions that rock and roll musicians, such as Link, have been enjoying for over four decades are still viable building blocks for great rock songs. 

    This was obvious to me from the response Link’s classics received from Maxwell’s patrons in the small back room off Washington St. A lot of these bar hoppers had never heard these great songs before, and they went nuts! I didn’t see anybody leave ‘till the second set ended past 2 A.M. 

    And as regards my concept of the rock musician, well, I thought I was a pretty liberal minded guy. I never limited the job classification to young, good looking males under the age of 30. I couldn’t do that, ‘cause then I’d be out of the running! But apparently I had never extended those parameters far enough to allow for a 70 year old rocker who could strap on an electric six shooter and drive a crowd into a frenzy. On October 7th Link continued a tradition he started nearly half a century ago, a tradition of exploding old, stale concepts about performing and recording music, about the proper way for a rock musician to look and behave, and about rock music itself.

    I’m a seasoned concert go-er and I’ve seen some knock-your-socks-off shows in my day. The better ones have left a smile on my face for days after the show ended, but usually the afterglow started to dim by a week following the show. However, one week following the Hoboken Link Wray show I still felt so exhilarated by Link’s performance, I had difficulty getting excited about other imminent concerts I was planning to attend.

    I awoke very early Saturday, October 14th, still feeling the Link Wray spell cast upon me one week earlier. I slept very little Friday night, thinking over a crazy idea that had snuck into the back of my mind a few days earlier. It went something like this... if Link and Julie were still traveling and touring out of the white Econovan in which they left Maxwell’s, October 7th, how far could they have gotten in one week, stopping to play a couple gigs along the way? And if they were within driving distance, did I have anything more important to do with my Autumn weekend than to drive that distance and experience Link’s show again? What, like rake some leaves or something? I suppose to a lot of people it would be crazy to drive all weekend to hear somebody play guitar for a couple hours. But Link has never cared about what anyone else thought, so why should I?

    After convincing my family there was no cause for alarm, they undid the straightjacket and wished me happy motoring! Actually, they were as always totally supportive of this rock and roll endeavor. And I know the neighbors were happy to see me leave... really, what’s the big deal. So I like to jam to Link’s old Swan recordings through the overdrive channel of my Marshall, with the gain adjusted to ten. Alright, we live in a small apartment building, but still...

    I needed to travel light, so I threw only the barest of essentials into my Volkswagen: the Barbed Wire CD, Walking Down A Street Called Love, Rhino’s “Best Of...” collection, some Stevie Ray Vaughn, the recent Leslie West solo effort, Keith Richard’s first solo album, a change of socks, a toothbrush, and a roadworthy electric in a hard-shell case. 

    The socks were admittedly an extravagance, but I wanted to be prepared in the event things got out of hand and I became detained by local authorities before the weekend concluded; One should always look one’s best while detained out of state. 

    I have failed to indicate the destination of this journey: The Thirsty Ear Tavern in Columbus, Ohio. Not a big deal at all. The only thing separating Link, Olive Julie, the band, and me was the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. OK, so it’s one of the widest states in the country and every one of its highways is being destructed, restructed, constructed and obstructed. I was on a mission to hear Link Wray live. Once I hit Rt. 80 West, I knew there wasn’t anyone or anything that could stop this inevitability from happening.

    In all honesty, the trip across Pennsylvania and into Ohio was absolutely beautiful. Autumn peaks the second and third weeks of October in this part of the country, and between the blasting CD player, the turning leaves, and the eighteen cups of MacDonald’s coffee I had drank along the way, I was feeling great as I got off Rt. 80 outside Akron and made my final decent via Rt. 71 into the greater Columbus metropolitan area. Just for kicks, and to find out what time zone I was in, I decided to give the CD player a break and check out the local radio stations. Surfing the FM band I discovered a commercial-free station that was smack in the middle of one of its fundraisers. I love those stations, especially the college based ones, but those money raising evangelists of rock and roll grate me the wrong way sometimes. But this rock and roll Jimmy Swaggart seemed pretty cool, so I listened for a few minutes as he explained that the next song was by a local band from Cleveland called The Cowslingers. He continued that they were opening for rock and roll legend Link Wray tonight in Columbus and that he had only one ticket left for some very lucky caller prepared to phone in and pledge X amount of dollars. Well, that really got my juices flowing! It was back to Link’s CDs and the final leg of the trip.

    I pulled into Columbus about 9:00 P.M. and had absolutely no trouble whatsoever locating The Thirsty Ear Tavern. I spend a lot of time listening to music in New York City and I found it odd that Columbus was even designated the same way, i.e. as a city. Actually, I was very pleased to discover I could park right on the street, alongside The Thirsty Ear Tavern, without 5 meter maids immediately rushing my car as a tow truck pulled in front and hooked up its chains. I apologize to those who haven’t had the pleasure of visiting New York City and don’t know what the hell I’m talking about.

    I paid my very reasonable cover charge (too reasonable, so far as I’m concerned - how much do you think a band is compensated when the house only pulls between $15 and $25 per head?) and stood near the bar sizing up this venue, still a casual observer and not quite yet an active participant. This was a whole different scene than Maxwell’s. For one thing, it was a much smaller room. For another, most of the floor space was occupied by cafe style tables and chairs overseen by smiling, enterprising waitresses. Maxwell’s was standing room only - no creature comforts whatsoever - only the strong survived. One feature of The Thirsty Ear Tavern that was very, very cool was this glass enclosed case displaying old rock and roll memorabilia. There was a copy of the original Link Wray And The Wraymen album, on the Epic label, behind the glass.

    I claimed a table for my own and proceeded to shed the tensions of the 500 mile trip I had just completed. Within seconds a smiling waitress introduced herself and requested my order, except I didn’t have one! I was just hanging out, waiting for Link. She left. I chilled out for a few minutes, and she returned. OK, I decided she and everyone else at The Ear had a right to make a living, so I ordered a bottle of Bud. Sure, I’m not a big spender, but I had something else to spend my money on, namely gas for the 500 mile trip home later that night!

    ‘Round about 10:00 P.M. the Cowslingers hit the stage, and though they were very competent musically, I didn’t care for them. They’re a rockabilly organization that’s a little too cocky, a little too sure of themselves, for my liking. I really like humility in an up and coming act, a respect for the masters and a respect for the audience... but that’s me. Many at The Thirsty Ear Tavern knew this band well and loved them. And that’s fine, cause it’s all in the ears of the beholder.

    Following the Cowslingers’ set I abandoned my table , leaving a generous tip (another gallon of gas shot to hell!) and moved on up to the stage. It was still early, ‘bout 11:00 P.M., but I hadn’t come this far to have anyone or anything stand between me and Link. I grabbed another Bud at the bar and chatted with the doorman as I awaited the arrival of Link, Julie , and the band. I mentioned that I just drove in from Jersey for tonight’s show and that I was leaving as soon as it ended, and he looked at me the same way the wife and kids did when I told them I was driving to Ohio, some sixteen hours earlier. I decided it might be best to maintain my close proximity to the stage and just keep my mouth shut.

    After another 10 or 15 minutes three figures I recognized appeared at the door. They were Link’s drummer, bass guitarist, and another fellow who, so far as I can tell, is a jack of all trades who functions as a PR man one minute, a drum tech the next, and any number of other possibilities the next. Who is he? He is “The Irish guy with the long hair”, at least according to Link’s drummer. I know nothing more about him than that.

    While the guys were setting up and preparing for Link’s arrival, I spoke with Link’s bass player. I was curious about his Danelectro Longhorn bass and questioned him about it. Turns out it’s an imported reissue - no surprise actually. The original Danelectros were made many years ago, and though they weren’t great guitars, they still have great value today because they’re collector’s guitars. We also discussed the strategics of his touring with Link. He described the process by which some moment of inspiration or urgency to tour on the part of Link would result in Link’s phoning him and their rendezvousing in New York City (I assumed at Kennedy Airport, although that may not necessarily be the case) and initiating a tour from the New York City, Tri State area.

    I let the boys continue with their work and waited patiently at the stage, and moments later I saw a long haired fellow sporting a black Elvis tee standing outside the large plate glass front window... it could only be one person! And seconds later Link and Julie were standing directly in front of me, tuning up and greeting the Midwestern, plus one screwball from New Jersey, crowd.

    It goes without saying that Link opened with Rumble - when the day comes that that doesn’t occur, be concerned about the balance of powers in this universe. After just enough bars to raise a goose bump or two, Link flipped Screaming Red around 180 degrees and offered Red up to those who wished to strum her heart strings and take their communication with Link one notch higher. One dude got so excited he climbed up on stage and started talking all this stuff to Link and I’m sure Link couldn’t understand one word of it! But Link smiled and was completely cool - I’m sure he’s seen crazier things in his day! 

    The show was similar to the show I saw one week earlier in New Jersey, concentrating heavily on the classics such as Run Chicken Run, Jack The Ripper, Deuces Wild, Ace Of Spades, The Sweeper, The Batman Theme, etc. One exception, though, was the exclusion of Bruce Springsteen’s Fire from the set in Columbus. It was wonderful hearing Link do it in Hoboken, especially being that Springsteen is from Jersey. On the other hand, Link did the “enhanced” version of Young And Beautiful, you know, where he pauses and says, “You’re so young and beautiful, and I’m so fucking old!”. Well, let me tell you, everybody in the house was screaming one thing or the other after that - I clearly remember what came out of my mouth at that moment as if it just happened last night - it was a defiant “No you’re not!”.

    When Link left the room at the conclusion of the opening set he again, as in Hoboken, set into motion a massive wall of feedback before he exited onto the street... except this time some knucklehead, thinking he was doing everyone a favor, walked up to the stage and turned off Link’s fuzz box in an effort to curb the feedback. What a knucklehead!

    When Link returned, Bobby (guitarist from The Cowslingers) joined Link on stage and attempted to jam with Link on several songs, including Rumble and Ace Of Spades. I was not very happy with this conclusion to the show. I don’t think this young guitarist had a clue what was actually coming down in Columbus that night. He was clearly showing off and playing in his own ego centered world, rather than playing with and in response to Link. I think the proper relationship between master and journeyman guitar slingers is well represented on the “In Session” CD featuring Stevie Ray Vaughn and Albert King. Stevie gave his senior plenty of room to stretch out and play - he clearly had tremendous respect for Albert. He never attempted to dominate the session or overshadow his mentor. There are recorded conversations between songs demonstrating Albert’s intention for Stevie to take over his work soon ‘cause he was getting on in his years. In the end, of course, Albert well outlived Stevie.

    At the conclusion of this short and uninspired exchange between Bobby and Link, Link exited to the street, not to be heard from again. I remained at the stage for some time, staring at Screaming Red, and eventually walked up to Link’s beloved guitar and placed my hands upon it. I don’t know why, I had already shaken Link’s hand, but I guess I was still looking for some physical connection to Link that might translate into some magic in my own songs and guitar playing. I walked onto the street hoping I might run into Link and Julie outside, and a representative from The Thirsty Ear Tavern reprimanded me for stepping outside with a beer in my hands. What did I know? In New York City, where I often go to hear music, it is not only acceptable to drink beer on the street, but it’s perfectly acceptable to urinate on the sidewalk afterwards... please do not misconstrue these statements as an endorsement of this practice.

    I decided to cut my losses and prepared to head back to Jersey. I spoke with Link’s drummer briefly and left Columbus about 2:00 A.M. Accept for a couple hours of shuteye at a truck stop on Rt. 71 where I sandwiched my VW between two semis, it was a direct run home that found me back in Morris County by sunset, Sunday night. I grabbed the kids and dragged them off to Ruby Tuesdays for steaks and burgers, where I tormented them with romantic tales about Link and Julie and, of course, Screaming Red.

    So that’s the end of the story. Don’t misunderstand me now, seeing Link in Hoboken and Columbus didn’t quench my thirst for that pure rock and roll tone... I tried like heck to learn exactly when and where Link was playing in Worcester, Mass. following the Columbus show. But have you ever attempted communications with an American university... you’re better off calling an office of the federal government!  Link may or may not have played at Clark College in Worcester, Mass., I have no idea. I sure hope he did, for the benefit of my friends in New England. According to his schedule, he eventually moved onto Spain, and not having that much faith in my VW, that’s when and where my touring with Link concluded.

    One final thought. I implied in my previous review (of the Hoboken show) that I had some misgivings about the manner in which Link’s been treated, or should I say mistreated, by the music industry over the years, and wrote about Link’s failure to attain fame and fortune as though it were a serious handicap. I may have been a little hasty in my conclusions...

    I checked out this movie a couple weeks ago called “The Filth And The Fury”, a documentary about punk rock band The Sex Pistols, including footage of Sid Vicious and his girlfriend, Nancy. Sid and Nancy were so tragic and self-destructive, they even ruined the lives of everyone around them. Sid achieved remarkable fame and fortune, very quickly, as a matter of fact, but the net results of his success were dope addiction and eventually death. It got me thinking, does Link really have it so bad? Sure, he’s never going to achieve tremendous fame and fortune, but he’s living a rock and roll fantasy. He tours the world with the girl he loves, playing rock and roll guitar in city after city for multiple generations of fans who respect and adore him. He has Julie, Screaming Red, his fans, and he has the satisfaction that comes with performing and recording on one’s own terms, without any compromises whatsoever. That’s a lot more than most rockers have.

    Howie Fishman
  • Portland, OR - 2000

    Being a Link Wray fan, it was a great night!

    PINE STREET THEATER, PORTLAND OREGON - RENE DESCARTE

    I went to see Link at the Pine Street Theater in Portland Oregon last night.

    Holy Guacamole....The man is timeless....he was in his usual groove and was unusually user friendly....gave two of his guitars to the crowd to play during his sets....talked on and off with the crowd...it was one of those nights to be remembered.

    The Pine Street Theater is a small venue in a sort of run down area of Portland.  Link commented that he really liked venues like the Pine Street Theater.  He said that's his bread and butter...and that he likes the crowd...very intimate as well as raucous.  He and his wife signed autographs afterward.

    I told Link to check in on his newsgroup to see if we were behaving ourselves properly....he seemed genuinely heartened when I told him of the group and I told him that he should stop by when he surfs the Net (and he does, although he is new to it) and post some thoughts and stop by and chat with his fans.

  • Hoboken, NJ - 2002
    MAXWELLS - JULY 11, 2002
    Link fans west of the Hudson rumbled with their hero on July 11th, 2002 at Maxwell's in Hoboken, NJ.  New Jersey has been a special stop for Link since 1958.  New Jersey’s infamous DJ, “Jocko”, was one of a very small group of radio personalities to support Link and play Rumble after it was banned from the airwaves, regardless of the risk to his own career.  

    I live in New Jersey so the Maxwell's shows are real special for me.  I came prepared with an album (my beloved Beans And Fatback) to be autographed and a special gift I’d selected for Link, however parking near Maxwell's was an impossibility.  I left my stuff locked in the car, many blocks from Maxwell's, and figured maybe I’d come back for it later.

    It was still early when I arrived at Maxwell's, so I had a couple cold ones and enjoyed the two opening acts.  I really enjoyed “The Sights”.   They were a cross between The Black Crows and The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion; In other words, they were a trashy, nasty, greasy, bad assed rock and roll band!  Excellent opener.  The next band, “The Newborn Naturals”, didn’t do too much for me.  I was not impressed with their song writing, musical skills, or stage presence. Enough about the preliminaries!

    Link came on about 11:00PM, but before commenting on Link’s performance I’d like to comment on Link’s great rhythm section as well as Link’s guitars and setup.  Please skip over the next couple paragraphs if you find this technical mumbo jumbo boring.

     Firstly, Link’s famous red Yamaha, “Screaming Red”, is not on this tour.  I do not believe there is any reason for concern; Red has seen a lot of action the past few years and is probably overdue for some fret work and routine repairs.  Link’s main guitar is currently a traditional looking black Fender Stratocaster, probably a Standard or similar model.  Link used this guitar as a backup for Screaming Red on the 2000 tour.  The backup for this guitar is a beautiful wine red “Fat Strat”, a Strat which has a humbucker in the bridge position rather than the more common single coil.  

    Link played through a Marshall JCM 900 head, a great all tube amp head. I’m not sure that Link actually owns this amp, though.  I’ve never seen his team actually carry this, or any other amp, for that matter, into or out of a venue. I n other words, Link may prefer to travel light and use house amps.  However, there is no doubt that he enjoys these Marshalls and plays through them whenever possible.  Before the show Link’s bass guitarist tunes up the guitars with a Boss TU-12H electronic tuner, though Link prefers to use his own good sense of pitch, and no electronics, to keep his guitars tuned correctly - or incorrectly - if that’s what the song calls for, during the show.

    Link is using two stomp boxes on this tour, a Boss CS-3 Compression Sustainer and a Soundtrack Digital Delay.  Using the two pedals simultaneously results in a strong, modulated sound akin to the reverb and tremolo drenched sounds Link helped to popularize in the late 50s and early sixties (before fuzzed-out wah wah and other sounds became popular).

    Now a couple words about Link’s fine rhythm section.  Link has been working with members of a San Francisco based band named Dieselhed since 1996.  I asked Link’s drummer for the correct spelling of his name, and he suggested that he write it down on my pad himself.  He wrote Lee Kepo Pokeeli.  So what’s so difficult about that?  I asked Link’s bass guitarist for his name, and he took my pad and simply wrote Atom (not Adam) and he drew the o in Atom as a ring around a nucleus.  Well, like I said, they’re from San Francisco!  Lee told me that Atom has been consistently working with Link since ‘96, but that he has shared the drummer’s stool with Danny Heifetz (another Dieselhed) since then.  He told me that working with Link is very much hard work and that, in the way of example, though they often start a show with a set list, Link often strays from it early on and that they go along for the ride like everyone else and just do the best they can to keep up with him!  Link obviously loves these guys and often affectionately refers to them as his adopted sons.

    The show in Hoboken started with Rumble, of course.  I tried to accurately write down all the songs played in the order in which they were played, but I’m a fan and not a good journalist... I gave up on my pad and pencil after the first three chords of Rumble!  I just couldn’t be distracted by writing, or anything else.  I can’t really tell anybody just how good this show was, it was much more than a good show.  Beside Rumble, Link not only performed Rawhide, The Batman Theme, Deuces Wild, Branded, and Jack The Ripper... he performed them all twice during the evening!  We even got seconds on Viva Zapata!  Other tunes performed included the much requested Run Chicken Run and Comanche. Link performed The Black Widow but introduced it as Spiderman (The Black Widow is camouflaged as Spiderman on Link’s 2000 release on Ace,
    Barbed Wire”.)  Link commented on the movie of the same name, explaining that his song was recorded long before the movie was released.

    Strats don’t hold up very well in the fierce hands of Link Wray, and it didn’t take long for Link to out of necessity move from the black Strat to the wine red model.  And in due time the red Strat suffered serious casualties and a hard tailed, whammy-barless white Strat was brought up and placed in Link’s hands.  Something rather curious occurred during one of these intermissions when guitar changes and technical repairs were taking place.  Somebody passed an album toward the stage to be signed by Link.  And then somebody else passed another album forward, and this went on for some time.  I saw an original Swan Records (not reissue) Jack The Ripper handed to Link for autographing; a mint Bullshot came through the crowd.  Some guy passed up the liner notes from Rhino’s The Best Of Link Wray CD and another guy passed up his 1971 Polydor self-titled Link Wray album.  Of course, the ubiquitous Epic Records Link Wray And The Wraymen (this one looked like a reissue) found its way into Link’s hands at one point.  Needless to say, all I could think of was how stupid I was to have my Beans And Fatback locked in my car six blocks away!  As if this weren’t enough, some kid (he looked very young, but he probably was already in his teens) pushed his way through the crowd holding a gorgeous blonde Fender Telecaster. Without saying a word he handed the guitar to Link. Link asked him something like, “Do you want me to play it or sign it!?!”. The kid made it clear that was hoping to get the guitar signed by Link, so with heavy marker in hand Link started writing on the guitar’s beautiful lacquer finish. And all I could think of was that as the years and eventually decades go by this kid is going to have such a cool story to tell, he’s going to have so many good times telling his kids and maybe even grandkids about the night Link Wray signed his Tele at Maxwell's.

    Link performed a few songs with the white Strat, including Rumble.  When the time came to operate the vibrato bar, glaringly missing from the white Strat,  Link jokingly went through the motion of using the bar even though it wasn’t there!  About 1:30 AM the management cued Link that the show had to wind down (local ordinances and all). After the show, Link graciously hung around signing even more autographs. Some guy hugged Link, explaining that he caught every one of Link’s New York City area shows. Another guy stood next to Link as his buddy shot a photo of the two together.

    My ears were ringing as I walked through the streets back to my VW.  This was even better than the 2000 show at Maxwell's and that show was great.  I had to drive directly past Maxwell's to get back to Washington St. which would eventually lead me back to Rt. 3 and the way home.  

    Driving south on 11th St. past Maxwell's I noticed Link’s van and I instinctively stopped the car and pulled up hard on the handbrake.  Fortunately it was almost 2:00 AM and there was almost no traffic left in Hoboken!  I grabbed my package and ran around the island in the middle of 11th St. toward the van.  When I got to the van Julie and Link were sitting together on the middle seat, unwinding from the show and just talking.  I handed Link my package, a recently released Elvis CD that I knew Link hadn’t seen or heard ‘cause it was so new.  Link worships Elvis.  

    As he began studying the cover his eyes lit up.  Link didn’t say much but I knew he liked the CD and both he and Julie expressed their gratitude.  As for my Beans And Fatback, well, it was still underneath the front seat of the VW while all this was going on!  That’s OK though. I t’s been putting smiles on peoples faces for almost thirty years without being autographed and I think it can go a little further without being Christened.

    I have to switch gears a little bit before I wrap this up.  Many artists representing many artistic fields have addressed the occurrences and aftermath of Sept. 11 in many different ways.  Keeping this in mind, anyone living or working anywhere in the vicinity of Hoboken on Sept. 11, 2001 witnessed the attack on The World Trade Towers firsthand and actually saw the buildings burning and collapsing in front of their own eyes.  And many of these witnesses still haven’t completely rebounded psychologically from this experience.  Of course, those who had friends or relatives across the river in those burning buildings are in even worse shape.  Link never spoke to 911 directly, however he added a song to the set list which under any other circumstances might have been out of context considering the other material played.  

    Specifically, during a more quiet moment Link introduced “Fallin’ Rain” off of the ‘71 award winning Polydor release, “Link Wray” (in musical circles this album is known as Link’s “comeback album”... Link’s next release, in 1973, was Beans And Fatback).  Link had some difficulty recalling all the lyrics but the performance was so moving nobody seemed to care.  At one point Link stopped singing and urged everyone to buy the Neville Brothers’ cover of the song if they liked it ‘cause, according to Link, The Neville Brothers did it so much better than he.  Bologna!!!  Trust me, the version recorded by the Wray brothers is, and always will, be the most beautiful recorded version of Fallin’ Rain, with all due respect to Aaron. Before performing the song Link looked out at the roomful of his loyals and in a serious, but not somber, tone explained that he felt the song had great meaning today.  I understand Link is performing Fallin’ Rain at other stops on the tour as well, and I’m sure it’s making a strong impression wherever it’s played.

    Well, I could go on and on about how much I love Link and the importance of Rumble not only to the development of rock and roll but also to the expansive changes that took place in American culture beginning in the 1950s, but I’ll give you a break and let Link have the last word!  As of this writing there are still a couple opportunities to see Link in 2002 if you haven’t already.  And support Link if you like what you hear by purchasing one or both of the Link CDs released this year, specifically “Slinky” on Sundazed Recordsand “Law Of The Jungle” on Ace. So long as Link wants to Rumble, let’s keep on Rumbling with him. Maybe we can take it another notch higher in 2003. 

    Howie Fishman July, 2002

    __________

    " It's 3:30 AM so I can only say a couple words...The man I saw a few hours ago is more vital and more energetic and more intense and more inspired than any 20 year old I know! The House had to literally pull the plug on Link at 1:30 AM 'cause he just wouldn't stop playing! Julie and the band were exhausted, but Link was ready for more! It was extraordinary in every way imaginable. After the show I spoke with Link for a few seconds outside Maxwell's and I gave him a small gift I had brought for him. It wasn't a big deal, but he seemed so appreciative."

  • New Orleans, LA - 2002
    LIVE IN NEW ORLEANS - JULY 21, 2002

         Fred Lincoln Wray, was born in Dunn, NC in 1930.  Link and his brothers Vernon and Doug began to play around Dunn, NC and surrounding towns in the late 40’s.  They played country music of course.  No rockin' in those days.  They had a trusty ole radio tubes and all. Imagine a song just getting good and the ole tube starts to flicker.  Somebody give that thing a whack.  Today you’d just run in the next room and turn on your extra CD player with FM already there.  When Link was a kid FM was an unheard of for the most part.  AM only and radios were not such a common commodity.  The Wray family listened to the Grand Ole Opry.  All good rural southern folk listened to the Opry.  You had to hear Ernest Tubb and Roy Acuff and by the 1950’s that new guy from Alabama Hank Williams was singing “Love Sick Blues,” now there’s a rocker for you!

         By 1951, the young Wrays were playing all across eastern North Carolina, and military bases were becoming very important to them, because you always got paid and they didn’t have to play in honky tonks behind chicken wire.   By this time the trio had decided that making music was better than working in a cotton mill or yarn factory and much, much better than farming tobacco or even worse life in a tobacco warehouse drying out stinking tobacco leaves.  Things were working out good for the country lads when Uncle Sam invited Link to join the Army and visit Korea. While Link was in the Army in Korea, he contacted TB and became very sick and had to have one of his lungs removed.  He was discharged and returned to his home in Dunn, NC.  

         In 1956-1957 the Wray brothers decided to move to Washington, DC, because country music was real big there.  On the way they stopped by Portsmouth, VA to pick up Shorty Horton their bass man.  Shorty knew Gene Vincent and they either played a gig with him or just talked with him.  Shortly never made it clear to me which it was.  Afterward they headed on to Washington, DC and began to play around town as Lucky Wray and the Palmetto Boys. Their paths crossed Milt Grants who was a Disc Jockey and he became their promoter and manager.  However, I don’t ever remember a time when Ray let go completely his managerial position of the group.  Rock-n-roll was coming into its own and they gave up their country clothes for coats and ties which the rock-n-roll groups were wearing and became Link Wray and the Wraymen .

       Ray had a minor hit with “Evil Angel” on Cameo Records out of Philadelphia and shortly after that in the summer of l958 they recorded “Rumble” in Nashville.  Except it was called “Odd Ball” there are many versions of how “Rumble” became “Rumble.” Shorty Horton told me that Archie Bleyer’s daughter played the record and told her dad it had a rumbling sound to it.  Be that as it may when the record was released it was under the name “Rumble" by Link Wray and the Wraymen on the Cadence Record Label out of Chicago, Il which was owned by band leader Archie Bleyer.  The recording went on to be a big hit for the group and sold over a million copies when all was said and done.

         Cadence was a good solid record company.  Archie Bleyer had a good reputation for treating his artist fairly.  However, a dispute occurred and the Wraymen left the company after only one recording.  The group moved to Epic Records and Rawhide was released. Rawhide was recorded at Edgewood Studios on Vermont Avenue in Washington, DC.   It sold good and became another hit for the group.  Shortly afterward a disagreement occurred with the Epic producers and their A&R department.  Link left Epic Records even though he had two years left on his contract he recorded “Mary Ann” and “Ain’t That Lovin' You Baby,” but no more  hits happened after “Rawhide.”  An album was released on Epic which was a disappointment to all concerned.  With time remaining on his Epic contract, Link did no more recording for the company choosing to record for several small record companies under different names than his own. 

         Link worked night clubs in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC throughout the 60’s and 70’s.  Ray his brother opened a recording studio in Accokeek, Maryland on a farm and the whole Wray family moved there.  They called their studio Wrays Three Track Shack. After several years, the band split up Link went solo.  Doug Wray became a barber and moved to Waldorf, Maryland and Shorty Horton the bass guitar player worked with many bands playing country music in the Washington, DC area.  Ray closed the recording studio, sold the farm, and moved to Arizona.  

    Link went to work for Robert Gordon and recorded two albums with him in California.  Link remained in California after his split with Robert Gordon.  By the 90’s Link’s long overdue reputation as the king of the power chord caught with him and he began to be recognized as the greatest metallic rock guitarist in the world.  Link Wray can play more guitar in one song than most guitarist can play in a month.  He is that good and better.  Link Wray is the best rock guitarist of the 21st century.  Why he has not been inducted into The Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame is their problem.  I suppose they don’t know enough history of rock music to understand they have left out a legend. 

           I saw Link Sunday, July 21st play in the French Quarter in New Orleans, Louisiana. He has a three piece band including his son on bass. He played all his ole favorites. He was just great. I spoke with him briefly. We recalled the golden days of the 50's in Washington, DC. Link said, "Bobby it's great to see and old friend." I got a hug from one of the most gracious and kind persons I have ever known. Link Wray is truly a rock legend. And at 73 bless his heart he's still rockin' as good as ever. Long live Link Wray the ole Cherokee Chief.

               For all of you who may not know, Link Wray is part Cherokee Indian and is very proud of his American Indian Heritage.

               Special thanks to Diane Scott of the Continental Club in Austin, Texas and Cain Burdeau of the Associated Press in New Orleans, LA for helping me with this article on Link Wray.

    LINK WRAY

    No bragging, it's understood

           When he starts playing, put your axe down.  The legendary Link Wray is in town.

  • Rochester, NY - 2002
    MONTAGE GRILLE - JULY 9, 2002

    I used to see Link & The Raymen in Cortland, NY from 1963 - 1967 at a local bar.  They were absolutely wild every time.  I also saw Link in a bar in Syracuse on June 14, 1979 w/The Spiders as backup (including Anton Fig on drums!). 

    This show was a little frustrating because Link blew his amp 3 times during the show.  However, he took the down time to talk some about his growing up in the south, early influences, the 70's, and The Neville Brothers.  It got a bit repetitive, but it was totally fascinating. 

    Link did 2 shows that night, but I only saw the first one.  I don't know if he had the same trouble at the 2nd show.   During the sound check he had on his leather jacket and shades.   At one point, when his shades were on top of his head, he quickly jerked his head down and the shades fell onto his nose right in place.   How cool.   

    He didn't wear the jacket or shades for the show.   In fact, he didn't even perform the early show on stage!   That is, he spent the whole time on the floor, walking around the seated crowd while he played. He often held his guitar out to someone at a table to make some noise of their own during a song.   He made his bass player do most of the show off the stage, too.  Whenever he needed the microphone, he'd grab the stand and lean it over to talk while his amp was being fixed.   The one time he sang (Fallin' Rain) he brought the mic & stand onto the floor!

     Bill Baldwin 
    ____________________
    9:30 pm show review

    Link, ladies and gents, is the one who showed the masses how to play the cool way. Back in the 50’s, he struck chords heard ‘round the rock and roll world with his blistering guitar and non-chalant attitude. It is only a shame that he is not more well-known. But popular culture is funny, and it seems that all of the great ones are the ones who get lost in the shuffle. However, if you mention him to anyone who is “someone” - rockabilly cats, garage rockers, mod hipsters, or glam-punk trash dolls, and they will sing the praises of Link Wray.

    This particular show was like a who’s who of Rochester’s music elite - cool people definitely in the know - but I’m not here to talk about that. I’m here to talk about the sheer glory of this show. One of the first cool songs I ever learned was “Rumble” and it was taught to me by one Gregory Townson of the Essentials - Salamanders - HiRisers fame. It was raw, powerful, and I loved it. Pretty much like the show that Link put on this particular evening.

    Sure, Link may be 73 years old, small and fragile, but the fact of the matter is, he’s still out there doing the stuff that gave him a name. And when he was on and in the groove, Link rocked like it was 1959 and he was out playing at a demented sock hop. His guitar blistered and twanged out RUMBLE, RUN CHICKEN RUN, RAW-HIDE, BIG CITY AFTER DARK, BATMAN, THE BLACK WIDOW, THE SWAG, ACE OF SPADES, etc. as he choked the neck and bashed at the strings with an elegant ferocity and cool ease that no one else can come close to emulating.

    There were lessons to be learned by everyone in that room. Wrong note? Who cares. Broken string? Let the band (who were great) come and break out the other guitar. There’s bound to be flaws. It’s pure, intimate music. Not some psycho-sick pop group stage circus. That’s the beauty of ti. Everyone got to see pure Link Wray with no fillers or additives. Just the way it should be.
  • Cambridge, MA - 2002
    July 10, 2002.

     
    The Middle East occupies a strange and wonderful old building on Massachusetts Avenue in an area of Cambridge known as Central Square. Dudes and homeless and students and misfits like me all hang out in the streets. On the way to the Link Wray show I pass the entrance to the Marxist Education Center in a narrow doorway that also advertises the Boston Dance Company rehearsal space. Graffiti, old newspapers blowing in the streets, MacDonald’s, a wino digging deep into the glop for cans. I’m smelling garbage and bus exhaust and hearing the sirens scream in the distance. OK.

     Upstairs at the East  features local rock bands; downstairs is a bigger space for the headliners. Link Wray and the Wraymen are downstairs. Twelve bucks. Jesus, you’d think they’d charge more for a legend.

     I meet Mitch in front of the East and we grab food in the cheaper of the East’s two restaurants. Mitch is my age and doesn’t give a rat’s ass about Link or 50s rock stars in general, but he comes along so we can shoot the shit. He wears shades for the occasion. We shovel down some bad kabobs and go to meet the man.

     Downstairs at the East is a big wooden cave with a bar on the right and ledges, alcoves and benches in odd funky places. I see the size of the amps on stage and suck in my breath. Link strides in and takes over the small stage - he’s smiling, having a good time already, wearing the trademark leather jacket and black T and slacks, old sneakers, no shades, packing a red Fender Stratocaster. He introduces his lovely wife, his son Doug on bass, and his drummer. Then he grabs the Strat like it was his dick and launches into Rumble at about 500 decibels. Mitch stumbles backwards and his shades fall off. I’m laughing and digging it all and getting dizzy as the bass from the refrigerator-sized amps slams my brain into the back of my skull. They’re selling earplugs at the bar but I figure fuck that, I’m here to get the full experience.

     After Rumble comes Rawhide, and then I lose track. Mitch screams in my ear, ‘does he do anything else?’ No, this is pretty much it, I answer. Mitch doesn’t get it, but he came with me and that’s cool. I’m snapping pictures and getting as close in as I can.

     Link is a better musician now, doing more, and his sidemen are hard-slamming pros. Everything hangs together, screaming feedback and all. Link breaks a string and finishes the number anyway, laughs about it and pulls on another guitar. I see why his lovely wife is on stage – she helps him when his strap comes loose, pulls his ponytail out from underneath it, moves his jacket out of the way when he tosses it, shows him the request list. I notice that his wife is not as young as I’d originally thought. But she kisses him on the cheek and makes sure he’s OK.

     Link is scheduled to do an hour and fifteen minutes. Instead he pounds it out for over two hours. The second hour he sings a bit, just his guitar and him, and talks to the audience as though they were his old friends. He’s got a very good voice. Then it’s over and he says goodnight. I worm my way up to the stage, past a beefy blonde chick with serious tattoos who high-fives me and screams, “Daddy! Daddy!” and wait my turn to talk to him. He’s signing album covers, tickets, menus, condoms, breasts, and some strange shit I can’t identify. I finally get to him and he shakes my hand, smiles, he’s very professional. Then I tell him about the 1958 show and his face changes. He remembers Shorty, Doug, Ray, all who were at that show, gone now, passed away. He says, “My God, we were all together.” Then he smiles and steps down off the stage to give me a big hug, and asks my name.

     Link is a self-described hillbilly from North Carolina with “no brain,” as he puts it, but at 73 he is a gentleman with class and a lot of heart.

     Forty-four years have passed since the show in Maryland. That 14-year-old girl who went with me is now 58 years old. I’ve got four broken marriages and a mountain of debt and no future. I have become the old guy at Link’s 1958 show. And I want to see Link again.  
    Link Wray at the Middle East in Cambridge, MA -
  • Ottawa, CAN - 2002
    CISCO SYSTEMS BLUES FESTIVAL - JULY 6, 2002

    To see such a living legend is such a treat.  He started his hour long set with A killer "Jack The Ripper" an finished off the set with the theme from Batman.  I'm not sure of the other songs but it was quite a sweet show.
  • De Kalb, IL - 2003
    OTTOS - FEBRUARY 15, 2003

    The Jet City Fix absolutely rocked the place, lots of high energy rock and roll. They did not commit the cardinal sins of babbling incoherently about politics, shoe gazing, moaning about how miserable life is or wasting time between songs. It was one rocking' tune after another.

    Big standouts for me were the Jet City Rockin, Dumb Luck and Sick of Drugs. Fun songs about girls, relationships and having a good time.


    Link came on and despite lackluster turnout, played like the place was packed. Justin and Dana from the JCF are doing a great job backing Link. They only had two rehearsals to learn 50 songs before the tour opener. As you will see, Link ain't playing like those sissy guitar heroes you always read about.

    He plays ever song as if he's never gonna be able to play it again, not wasting time between songs, it's I-2-3-4! Start the next one. Maybe this is where the Ramones got their inspiration.
  • Buffalo, NY - 2003
    MOHAWK PLACE - FEBRUARY 25, 2003

    Link stared to play and it was like someone turned on the power switch. It was killer.

    In the crowd was Bobby Comstock, a singer and guitar player from the 50's and early 60's who lives in the Buffalo area. Link saw him and pulled him on stage and they did a few numbers. They have been friends since back in the day and hadn't seen each other for over 25 years.

    It was great. Link stayed till the last autograph seeker and was so gracious.
  • New York, NY - 2003
    VILLAGE UNDERGROUND = MARCH 8, 2003

    A spectacular Link Wray show at NYC's Village Underground on Saturday, March 8th replete with fog machines and strobe lights.

    Several guests joined the fun including bluesman Jon Paris, harp and vocals, Randy Dash, vocals, and Springsteen's bassman Garry Tallent who played for most of the hour-long plus set. 

    Don't think I've ever seen a harder rockin' show - no slow dance numbers at this one!  Link was at his very best!  Hope you like the photos.

    SEE ANTHONY PEPITONE'S PHOTOS OVER AT THE PICTURE PAGES. 
  • Piedmont, NY - 2003
    THE TURNING POINT - MARCH 2

    Link Wray played to a full house las tonight at the show at the Turning Point and he kicked our asses good. It was one of the most killer shows I've ever seen, and I've seen Link 7 times since 1977. He's always hot, but man, oh man! This was the show. He's in tip to shape at 73.

    He did 'em all…JACK THE RIPPER, RUMBLE RAWHIDE, BATMAN, THE SWAG and a bunch of ones I knew, but never knew the names of, and a bunch I've never heard.

    He was in a real good mood, having lots of fun, talking and telling stories after every song. He was talking Jimi Hendrix and it was coming out in his music, a little Jimi mixed with Link Wray music.

    Link is a true master, with power and clarity in every note.
  • Rochester, NY - 2003
    MONTAGE GRILLE - FEBRUARY 23, 2003

    I will say this about the show in Rochester. It was THE GREATEST ROCK AND ROLL PERFORMANCE I HAVE EVER SEEN. As a point of reference, I have been going to show since 1-63 and I average over 50 a year since 1978, including 2 years where I saw over 100 shows each year. Lately it's 30-40 a year.
  • Cudahy, WI - 2005
    VNUKS LOUNGE - MAY 20

    The show last night was awesome!  Link was playing thru a vintage Marshall, sounded great. About an hour into the set, in the middle of a song that he's been playing the past few tours with no name that I know of, he just unstraps the guitar.  Thinking he's finished, he starts walking, comes right up to me and hands me the guitar!   I'm like a deer in the headlights, I play this song on my guitar all the time but, people are all over me and I can't even strap the thing on.

    So what do I do?  I play the opening chords to Rumble!  My dream comes true and I completely wig out and play a different song.  Of course, Link has done pretty much the same thing his whole career so, why can't I?  The way i see it, you get Link's  guitar, you play Rumble! 
  • Chicago, IL - 2005
    LIVE AT FITZGERALD'S - MAY 14, 2005

    Link put on a dynamite show in Chicago.  

    Fitzgeralds is relatively small venue so Link did not have the Marshall or orange colored amp.  Link played out of a Fender tube amp that could not take the whoopin' Link put it through.  Link made the best of it with funny facial expressions and comments like "Amps and me never get along!"  Link even teased the amp with a call and response routine where link would hit a chord put his hand to his ear as the amp responded with its audio death rattle.  Link kept on playin while he informed the crowd that "its gonna blow!"  He has obviously been in this position before and knows how to turn it into a positive.

    Link had a full house and very enthusiastic audience.  I wasn't expecting any vocals but he did his rendition of "Fire ", "It Was So Easy"and "King Creole."  On the instrumental side he performed Rumble twice Batman twice(each better the second time).

    A new amp had arrived by then.  He also performed Ace of spades Jack the Ripper,Rumble on the docks,Im Branded,Mr. Guitar.  He played two other instrumentals that I was not familiar with one of which he has played almost every time I have seen him but I have never heard on record.
      I was close enough to watch it and have learned it for my home pickin' pleasure.

    As usual Link kept the big smile on as he insured he was infusing the spirit of Rock & Roll into all who attended.  I have never seen him have so much fun as this night.  At times he was as in control of his music and audience as any musician could ever hope to be.  He has become more lovable with age but certainly he ain't no oldies act!

    __________

    I saw Link at Fitzgerald's Saturday.  He was great, amp was a big problem.  Another thing, Fitzgerald's probably has the best sound of any club i've ever been to, they have a great sound man there. 

    However, most people don't play loud there, amps are turned down and they get volume thru the PA.  Link, well he plays with the amp turned to 11!  You could barely hear him sing and the amp sounded AWFUL.  Fitzgerald's usually hosts more "roots rock" players, it is not a loud club. 

    Opening band, The Silvermen, were great, kinda surf rockabilly instros mostly. 

    I'm going to see Link tomorrow night at Vnuks, hopefully someone will have a marshall amp for him there. 
  • Phoenix, AZ - 2005
    Link switched out his Strats a number of times to get his sound going.  At one point Link sang God Bless America - a cappella!   Link announced his appreciation for Dick Clark...he yelled " without Dick Clark there would be no Link Wray!" and before starting into Run Chicken Run gave a jab to Kurt Cobain for pinching the melody of Run Chicken Run. 

    He continued with Batman, Ace of Spades, Jack the Ripper, Branded.  I think because of his dislike for his equipment set up he brought up a friend and fellow guitar player " Alexander" and went into an extended blues jam....about 40 mins.  The back up band was first rate - I feel the best he could of hired.  Link finished up with Rumble dropped his guitar and made his exit......Alexander shouted praises for Link---" Link Wray ladies and gentleman, the king of surf, punk rock and instrumental guitar!!!"  Alexander gets the MVP award for keeping the show going.
    LINK WRAY LIVE AT THE RYTHYM ROOM - MAY 27, 2005

    Link played to a full house.

    "Flathead" opened the night, they were good - lead guitarist's Telecaster was cooking.  Then came the Cadillac Angels, Phil Dirt of Reverb central loves these guys....I think  Flathead beat the Angels.  Before Link came on Oliver set up a video camera to catch all the action.   (Hopefully for a DVD release)

    Link came on stage and charged hard with Rumble, Raw Hide, It Was So Easy, King Creole; but he had some trouble with his sound throughout the set.  The amp he was playing through was not his typical Marshall head and cab, but a boutique amp brought in that caused some problems. 

  • Duluth, MN - 2005
    NORSHOR THEATER - MAY 18

    Still recovering from one hell of a night. Link Wray blew everybody away! Even the local guitar-snobs had to stand back and smile. Any scuttle-butt you may hear about Link being too old is complete ‘bull------‘! He signed my guitar, spoke to everyone he saw like a true gentleman, and played way past his expected time, satisfying everyone. Tell everyone to go see him no matter how far you have to drive, and—tell Link you love him and ‘thank you’, he really appreciates it. Don’t miss him! Thank you guys too, for passing word of Duluth
    fans to Links tour!
  • Buffalo, NY - 2005
    MOHAWK PLACE - BUFFALO NY - FEBRUARY 25, 2003

    The show just completely kicked ass.  Link and his wife came in and got on stage, people screamed for a while then he said hello and talked about his music.  He connected with the fans really well.

    Then he started to play and it was like someone turned on the power switch.  It was killer.

    In the audience was Bobby Comstock, a singer and guitar player from the 50's and early 60's who lives in the Buffalo area.  Link saw him and pulled him up on stage (really) and they did a few numbers.  They had been friends back in the day and hadn't seen each other in about 25 years.

    It was great.

    Link stayed till the last autograph seeker and was so gracious.
  • Hollywood, CA - 2005
    5/29 Henry Fonda Theater Hollywood, CA

    Packed

    The event was a full day of Rockabilly mania with Link batting clean up.  I skipped the rest of the acts and showed up at 12 midnight to catch Link.  I did see a few numbers from Three Bad Jacks --they were really good.  This Hollywood event was packed with serious rockabilly enthusiasts; most were dressed in Rock n roll gear- - dyed hair, boots , make up, body rings , 50's regalia.  The event managers  did a fantastic job keep things on schedule ; after an all day event , Link came out right on time.  I was curious to see how the crowd would react to Link, and if Link was going to be on his game....the crowd didn't seem too polite.

    As soon as Link walked on stage I know he was going to destroy the theater.  No Three Bad Jacks and or other bands were going to show him up; he made it clear why he was going on last.  He plugged into the Marshall 100 watt head and cab hit his fat E string, starting banging on the Fender Strat body like a madman and screamed " YOU READY TO F*CK'n Rock N Roll,...I said you ready to f*ck'n rock and roll?????!!!!!!!!!! "  Alexander watched with an ear to ear smile from behind the Marshall, never leaving his station except to change out Links Strat after a string break.

    Link controlled the whole theater with his menacing looks and showmanship and wild hip thrusts.  I don't think he smiled more than a couple times; his jaw was locked on snarl.  He crushed Rumble , Rawhide, It Was So Easy, Batman, Ace of Spades, Moped Baby.  He again made a reference to Kurt Cobain lifting Run Chicken Run, but because Kurt is in heaven Link forgave him.  He blistered through Run Chicken Run, a couple songs I can't name - maybe Switchblade and Branded, Commanche, and then nailing Jack the Ripper.  He  closed with Rumble, dropped his guitar ..and with feedback raging, he left.

    Even though the set was no more than 45 mins, this show proved Link is the King.  Everyone there was blown away.  Even the cynical industry folks behind the stage were thunderstruck.   I sure hope somebody recorded this show;  probably not, because like the Phoenix show, no cameras or audio recorders were allowed.

    I could of watched Link for another couple hours.
  • The Final Rumble - 2005

    GLENDALE CRUISE NIGHT by Anthony Ausgang
    JULY 16, 2005

    Death may be waiting in the wings but on Saturday night The Grim Reaper didn't even have a backstage pass. The "Godfather of Punk Guitar", Link Wray, was onstage front and center demonstrating the life saving qualities of the power chord, the whammy bar and gnarly "no effects" distortion. Rightfully staking claim as the O.G. of these musical potions of eternal youth, Link Wray raved on like a 16 year old as he slipped into "Rawhide". Even through his almost opaque sunglasses his defiant glare drove the pit crowd into a frenzy and his slinky, sexy power chords and lines stupefied the uninitiated. But the power wasn't just in the chords, it was also in the specter of this Rock and Roll survivor who makes Iggy Pop look like a mewling newborn. At 76 years old and as beaten up as a '37 Ford left out in the field, Link Wray made the understated slow-mo violence of "Rumble" as threatening now as when it was banned in 1958. Effortlessly keeping the fear alive, Wray tore through "Jack The Ripper", daring the audience to make something of it as only an old man can do who's veneration protects him from attack. Closing with a reprise of "Rumble", Wray finally threw his guitar down and began kicking it until he was led offstage. The guitar just lay there screaming, no one would go near it..


    GLENDALE 12TH ANNUAL CRUISE NIGHT - JULY 16, 2005

    This was a huge free outdoor event put on by the City of Glendale.  There was a big crowd of thousands of all ages meandering up down Brand Boulevard, checking out hundreds of classic cars...and yes the Batmobile was there. 

    At the end of the street was the main stage.  Dave Mason was the headliner...he canceled; that was probably a good move,  I don't think he could of followed Link successfully.  Three Bad Jacks open at 5:30 PM with the Nelson Brothers (Ricky's kids) on at 7:30. 

    People started crowding up tight to the stage waiting for Link to start. I think the crowd was waiting for some old guy to start playing swing standards.  Boy, were they surprised!  It was ear blasting loud.  The protocol was the same as Fishlips in Bakersfield, Alexander started off with Miserlou and others, the Elvis guy comes out to get the crowd and Link fired up. 

    When Link came out I think he was beside himself...the crowd was going nuts ....there was a sea of people all the way down the boulevard cheering .  Link plugged into the Marshall 100 Watt and went ape sh*t on an extended  Rumble ....10 mins +. He gave his trademark hip thrusts to a thundering audience. He even took time to hip thrust and kiss Olive while guitar feedbacking.  He was on Fire! 

    Link blew away everyone with Rumble , Raw  hide, Batman, Ace of Spades, Run Chicken Run, (complete with an extended maniacal chicken scratch solo!), Branded and Jack the Ripper.   In anarchy style,  Link screamed" there would be no F*CK'N Link Wray without Dick Clark!!!!!" and cleaned up with Rumble. 

    I was about three people deep from the stage; next to me were three kids ages 8-12 years old.  I looked over  at the father of the kids, and the dad was cracking up because his kids were going bonkers over Link, his music and stage maneuvers.  A film crew was there....live DVD?
    LINK WRAY
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