Fred Lincoln 'Link' Wray, Jr. (May 2, 1929 – November 5, 2005), was an American rock and roll guitarist, songwriter and vocalist who became popular in the late 1950s.

Building on the distorted electric guitar sound of early records, his 1958 instrumental hit "Rumble" by Link Wray and his Ray Men popularized "the power chord, the major modus operandi of modern rock guitarists", facilitating the emergence of "punk and heavy rock". Rolling Stone placed Wray at No. 45 of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time. In 2013 he was a nominee for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Though he began in country music, his musical style went on to consist primarily of rock and roll, rockabilly, and instrumental rock.

Early life

Wray was born on May 2, 1929 in Dunn, North Carolina, to Fred Lincoln Wray, Sr. and his wife, Lillian M. Wray (née Coats). They were Shawnee Native Americans. Three songs he performed were named for American Indian tribes: "Shawnee", "Apache", and "Comanche". "Apache" was an instrumental composed by Jerry Lordan; it was originally a hit in the United Kingdom for The Shadows in 1960. Wray recorded a cover version 30 years later, when it was also associated with The Ventures and the Incredible Bongo Band.

Wray served in the US Army during the Korean War, and contracted tuberculosis, which laid him up in a hospital for a year. His stay concluded with the removal of a lung, which doctors predicted would mean he would never be able to sing again.


Wray's first hit, "Rumble", was banned in New York and Boston for fear it would incite teenage gang violence. Before, during and after his stints with major labels Epic and Swan, Wray released 45's under many names. Tiring of the corporate music machine, he began recording albums using a three-track studio he converted from an outbuilding on his brother's property that his father used to raise chickens.

While living in the San Francisco Bay Area in the early 1970s, Wray was introduced to Quicksilver Messenger Service guitarist John Cipollina by bassist James Hutchinson. He subsequently formed a band initially featuring special guest Cipollina along with the rhythm section from Cipollina's band Copperhead, bassist Hutch Hutchinson, and drummer David Weber. They opened for the band Lighthouse at The Whisky a Go Go in Los Angeles from May 15–19, 1974. He later did numerous concerts and radio broadcasts in the Bay Area including KSAN (FM) and the Bill Graham venue Winterland Ballroom, with Les Lizama later replacing Hutchinson on bass. He toured and recorded two albums with retro-rockabilly artist Robert Gordon in the late 1970s. The 1980s to the present day saw a large number of reissues as well as new material. One member of his band in the 1980s, drummer Anton Fig, later became drummer in the CBS Orchestra on the Late Show with David Letterman. In 1994, he played on four songs of the album Chatterton by French rocker Alain Bashung.

Personal life

Wray's first three marriages—to Elizabeth Canady Wray, Katherine Tidwell Wray, and Sharon Wray—each ended in divorce. Although Wray had eight children with his first three wives, he had little contact with any of them after relocating to Denmark in the early 1980s. He died of heart failure, aged 76, in 2005, at his home in Copenhagen. Survivors included his fourth wife, Olive Julie Povlsen Wray, and their son. He was buried in the crypt of the Christian's Church, Copenhagen.


Jack Rose cited Wray as an influence, as did Iggy Pop and Neil Young. Jimmy Page says that Link Wray had a "real rebel attitude" and credits him in It Might Get Loud as a major influence in his early career. According to Rolling Stone, Pete Townshend of The Who once said, "If it hadn't been for Link Wray and 'Rumble,' I never would have picked up a guitar."

On October 16, 2013, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced that Link Wray was a nominee for inclusion in 2014.



Release dateA-sideB-sideLabelCatalog numberUS
April 1958"Rumble""The Swag"Cadence134716
January 1959"Raw-Hide""The Dixie-Doodle"Epic5-930023
June 1959"Comanche""Lillian"Epic5-9321
October 1959"Slinky""Rendezvous"Epic5-9343
1959"Vendetta" (as Ray Vernon)"Roughshod""Scottie"NRS-3020
March 1960"Trail of the Lonesome Pine""Golden Strings" (based on A Chopin Etude)Epic5-9361
October 1960"Ain't That Lovin' You Babe""Mary Ann"Epic5-9419
July 1961"Jack The Ripper""The Stranger"Rumble100064
August 1961"El Toro""Tijuana"Epic5-9454
1962"Big City After Dark""Hold It"(as Ray Vernon & the Raymen)Mala
March 1962"Big City Stomp""Poppin' Popeye"Trans Atlas
March 1963"Rumble Mambo""Hambone"Okeh4-7166
April 1963"The Black Widow""Jack The Ripper"SwanS-4137
September 1963"Week End""Turnpike U.S.A."SwanS-4154
November 1963"Run Chicken Run""The Sweeper"SwanS-4163
March 1964"The Shadow Knows""My Alberta"SwanS-4171
July 1964"Deuces Wild""Summer Dream"SwanS-4187
February 1965"Good Rockin' Tonight""I'll Do Anything For You"SwanS-4201
1965"I'm Branded""Hang On"SwanS-4211
1965"Girl from the North Country""You Hurt Me So"SwanS-4232
1965"Ace of Spades""The Fuzz"SwanS-4239
1966"The Batman Theme" (with Bobby Howard)"Alone"SwanS-4244
1966"Ace of Spades""Hidden Charms"SwanS-4261
1967"Let the Good Times Roll" (with Kathy Lynn)"Soul Train"SwanS-4273
1967"Jack The Ripper""I'll Do Anything For You"SwanS-4284
1977"Red Hot"83
May 1979"It's All Over Now Baby Blue""Just That Kind"CharismaCB-333


Release dateTitleLabelCatalog Number
1960 USLink Wray & The WraymenEpicLN 3661
1962 USGreat Guitar Hits by Link WrayVermillionV-1924
1963 USJack The RipperSwanS-LP 510
1964 USLink Wray Sings and Plays GuitarVermillionV-1925
1963/2006Link Wray Early RecordingsRollercoaster/Ace
1971 USLink WrayPolydorPD-24-4064
1971 USMordicai Jones (w/ Bobby Howard)PolydorPD-5010
1972 USBe What You Want ToPolydorPD-5047
1973 USBeans and Fatback (rec. 1971)VirginV-2006
1974 USThe Link Wray RumblePolydorPD-6025
1975 USStuck in GearVirgin Records LtdStereo 27 266 XOT
1979 USBullshotVisaVISA 7009
1979 USLive at the ParadisoRCAPL-44012
1990 UKApache
1990 UKWild Side of the City Lights
1993 DEIndian ChildSony MusicEPC 473100 2
1997 USShadowman
1997 UKWalking Down a Street Called Love – live
2000 UKBarbed Wire

Compilation albums

Release dateTitleLabelCatalog Number
1969 USYesterday and TodayRecord FactoryLP 1929
1989Rumble ManAce RecordsCH 266
May 1993Rumble! The Best of Link WrayRhino Records
2002Mr. GuitarNorton Records
2003Hillbilly Wolf – Missing Links Volume 1Norton Records
2003Streets of Chicago – Missing Links Volume 4Norton Records
2006Big City After Dark – Missing Links Volume 2Norton Records
2006Some Kinda Nut – Missing Links Volume 3Norton Records
2007King of the Wild GuitarAce RecordsB000PATZPQ

With Robert Gordon

Release dateTitleLabelNumber
1977 UKRobert Gordon w/ Link Wray
1978 UKFresh Fish SpecialPrivate StockPS 7008