LINK WRAY

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

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ALBANY (GLENVILLE) 2003
The G-Spot

I bumped into Link & Olive as they came in and told them that I had seen the Montage show in Rochester 11 days before.  They went and sat next to the stage to watch their boys prepare for the show.  I had brought a couple of things to get him to sign and thought it may be easier to try now instead of after the show.

I went over and asked if he would sign a poster I brought.  It's a repro of a late 50's / early 60's tour poster from Iowa with 5 stars listed (there's a pic of it on the back cover of the Norton label Missing Link's Volume 4).  Link looked it over for a long time and started telling me about the people on the poster:

the Bell Notes: Link said they held him down and stuffed pizza in his mouth, but they were just having fun;

the Kalin Twins: they went to work for the government;

Jesse Lee Turner: he didn't know what happened to him;

Bill Parsons: he was surprised that I knew Bobby Bare had recorded the hit credited to Parsons.

I told Link that I used to see him in the early 60's with The Wraymen at Domino's in Cortland.   At this point, the band had finished their sound check and I was invited backstage to continue the discussion!  I was the only one backstage with them.  Olive pulled out a chair, set it right next to Link, and told me to sit there because I was the guest!  We got talking about the old days.

When I told him I was from Bobby Comstock's hometown of Ithaca and that I had seen Bobby numerous times back in the early 60's, as well as on rock & roll revival shows into the 80's, Link told me about Bobby taking him for a scary ride in a new Corvette on one of his many trips to Ithaca.

Then, I asked him about a story I had heard for a long time but never knew if it was true.  The legend around Ithaca is that Link & The Wraymen were having dinner at Joe's Restaurant (at the time the best Italian food in Ithaca) and someone saw this dangerous looking bunch of men and called the cops and said it looked like they were a bunch of gangsters planning something.  The cops arrived and rushed in with guns drawn.  Link laughed and said that it was absolutely true!  Fortunately, Bobby Comstock was eating with them and he, being well-known by everyone in the area, got up and told the cops that it was just a band in town to play.  Everything was ok and the cops left.  The story I had heard all those years ago was true after all!  Link was fairly excited because I had sparked his brain to dig out stuff he hadn't thought about in a long time between the poster and the Ithaca story.  Then we really got rolling. 

He told me about the first time he met Elvis: he was introduced by his brother Doug, who was drumming for Slim Whitman: Elvis was opening for Slim (!) on a Jimmy Dean show in Maryland (this is when Elvis was still on Sun). Link said that Elvis is still The King of Rock & Roll.

We also talked about Chuck Berry, who Link has a great deal of respect and love for.  He mentioned Jerry Lee Lewis as another of the greatest from that time. He said Jerry Lee used to have fire on stage in those days, but that it was well controlled, not like the terrible incident last week at that club where almost 100 fans died.  Then he proceeded to tell me that he had almost burned up in a fire a couple of weeks ago while on tour!

Justin, the bass player extraordinaire, ran back into the cellar of the building where Link & Olive were staying and helped them escape.  They hadn't known the building was on fire.  He said both Justin & Olive helped Link get out. He couldn't stress enough how much Justin had done.  Both Justin & Olive preferred that Link not talk about it.  He was calling them Captain Marvel & Wonder Woman.  Later, on stage, he told the audience the story and renamed "Spiderman" as "Wonder Woman"! 

He asked me if I knew Frank Zappa (?).  I told him that I had some of his albums and liked them a lot.  He said he & Frank had been good friends and that Frank had given him good advice on dealing with the press (basically, honesty is not the best policy).

We also talked about Pete Townshend, who Link speaks very highly of, and the lousy deal he's been getting from the press lately.  He said Pete is a dear friend who would never hurt anyone.  

I asked Olive how she had met Link.  She was in college in Denmark studying Native American culture and saw this man who was obviously a Native American and thought he was beautiful.  The next night she was at a club.  Link was onstage, but his back was to the audience.  When he turned around she saw that it was the man she had seen before.  She talked to him after the show, and the rest is history.

I also asked Link if he was making any money now from all of the CD's and movies that have his music.  He said he gets nothing from any of them, not even the recent albums of new material out in Europe.  He didn't make any money on recording back in the old days, either.  He said he makes all of his money touring, but that he loves to play to so many appreciative fans, and especially with these guys who are with him now. 

I asked him about working with Robert Gordon back in the 70's and he said it had been a lot of fun.  He told me about auditioning Anton Fig for the tour.  He said Anton (drummer in David Letterman's house band) was fresh out of a Conservatory in Boston and was very non-rock as a drummer.  Link told him to beat the shit out of the drums if he wanted to get the gig.  Yes, Anton got the gig. 

I told him that I had seen Link with Siren in 1979 with Anton as the drummer. It was quite different than any other time I'd seen Link because he had the full band backing him, including a female backup singer.  The band was getting ready to go onstage to do their set, so I bid farewell to Link & Olive. They had been so wonderful to me. The whole time had been amazing.

     Link & Olive sat stage side the whole time The Jet City Fix played and obviously loved the show.  After a short break Link, Olive, Justin and Dana came out to a tiny crowd of about 40 people (my guess is poor advertising / bad location / extreme cold).  As soon as he got on stage Link started motioning for everyone to come forward right up to the stage and most did. 

They lit into "Rumble" and rocked for a little over an hour.  The set was basically the usual, although the individual playing is never the usual.  He had some trouble with his effects and even complained about Olive having given his original effects to The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.   He said he's not familiar enough with the new boxes, He actually had to restart "Rumble" after that.

As he has been doing on this tour, he regularly raves about his backup band and their Seattle sound (I thought he was calling Justin Seattle Sam in Rochester!).  The one break from the usual song choices was when Link did a solo spot singing what I think is an Elvis ballad called " Mansion On The Hill" ( "Home Is Where the Heart Is" from the BARBED WIRE CD.).  Just Link singing and playing some very soothing guitar. 

They played a little over an hour, no encore (no noisy crowd yelling for more) and hung around for anyone to say hi to Link and get an autograph.  I can't wait for the next tour.  

_________

After almost getting lost trying to find The Glenville Spot (which is nowhere near Glenville, itself a non-existent town) we arrive at the G Spot (that’s what the sign said) just in time to catch the Jet City Fix doing their sound check.
Link Wray - Albany NY 2003