Les Lizama - bass
David Weber - drums
Link Wray - guitar, vocals
This recording from the KSAN-FM "Live At The Record Plant" series captures guitar legend Link Wray with the power trio lineup that he toured with in the mid-1970s. Best known for his three-chord instrumental rockers from the 1950s such as "Rumble" and "Rawhide," Wray had been through a long and winding career that included rockabilly, country, and classic rock 'n' roll.
After a stint in the Korean War where he lost the use of one lung, he began making records for indie labels in the '50s. It was decided he would focus on guitar playing and he let his brother Vern do the singing for his back-up band, the Wray Men. Though his songs were gritty and often left of center (as compared to what was on the charts at that time), he soon gained a reputation as one of the brightest in a class of hot rocker guitar heroes. It would be a class that also included Duane Eddy, among others.
In the end, he would be known for essentially creating the concept of the power chord. Rock superstars such as the Who's Pete Townsend and Zeppelin's Jimmy Page have both credited Wray with being their main inspiration, and the basis from which they built their riff-oriented rock personas. By the time guitar instrumentals changed courses and moved into surf music in the early 1960s with Dick Dale and the Ventures, Wray and his music had gone out of fashion. While Wray fell out of the spotlight, he continued to perform as a regional touring act until the mid-1970s, when he formed a new power trio and began recording new material.
Wray did this in-studio live broadcast in an effort to remind music fans of his music and its legacy, as well as reach out to new fans, many of whom were not even born when Link Wray cut his early sides for labels such as Swan and Cadence, in the late 1950s and early '60s.
Some of the material in this show works really well. The show comes alive when Wray and the band launch into a version of Ray Charles' "Unchain My Heat," and the raunch of "Rumble" sounds as good today as it did decades ago. Other highlights include "Backwoods Preacher Man," "It Was A Bad Scene," and "Good Time Joe." Between 1977 and 1979, Wray formed an alliance with rockabilly vocalist Robert Gordon. The two men recorded and toured together, and released Gordon's initial two albums, both of which went gold. In the 1990s, he moved to Copenhagen where he married and continued to write and record. Sadly, he died in November of 2005. Every time you hear a gritty and raunchy E power cord on a Who, Stones, or even a Metallica record, you should think of Link Wray and thank him for his contribution to modern rock 'n' roll.