It’s true, Link Wray isn’t exactly a household name. Hit-wise, his biggest charter was “Rumble,” which was a hit before he signed on with Epic. Of the 46 songs (including alternate cuts and out-takes) here, only one charted – “Rawhide,” with its pounding beat and nasty double-stops, hit #23 in ’59.
But to guitarists, Wray represented a rebellious feel and sound. One listen to some of these cuts makes you want to poke holes in your speakers to get the sound. It’s perfect distortion. For an example, check out the amazing sound on the boogie of “Walkin’ With Link.” It also features some primitive tremolo!
Those less familiar with Link’s work might be surprised by a few things here. There’s some twang, a-la Duane Eddy, on cuts like “Caroline.” Or who would’ve thought Link would do a nice (and interesting) version of “Tenderly,” with some nice chordal work.
There are plenty of cuts to let you hear his signature sound. It’s rowdy, raw, and fun on cuts like “Ramble,” “Slinky,” and “Dance Contest.” “Dixie-Doodle” is a mix of two classic songs, with a drum intro that had my six-year-old dancing like a puppet on a string when he first heard it (that’s kind of what it’s all about, right?). His vocal style, as it turns out, can match his guitar tone. “Mary Ann,” and “Ain’t That Lovin’ You Baby” show him at his sneering and growling best.
There’s stuff here that’ll make you smile, wince, or just shake your head. “Goose Bumps,” and “School Girl” are odd vocal cuts, obviously aimed at the younger crowd as potential novelty hits. “Tijuana” is an obvious take on “Tequila.” It contains something I never thought I’d hear in a Link Wray song – flute solos! And there are some out-of-tune guitars and vocals throughout.
That said, this is one all guitar aficionados should have. A unique player who searched for that elusive hit record while keeping his guitar sound intact. And did I mention the cover? Great shirt, great guitar, great chair.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s June ’02 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.