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LINK WRAY, THE NEARLY FORGOTTEN ROCK PIONEER

October 21, 2013

When the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced its 2014 nominees earlier this month, how many of you went through the long list of bands and artists and decided whether they were deserving or not of admittance?

Link Wray

Link Wray: 1929-2005
Photo by Anthony Pepitone

I did.

From now until December 10th, we the fans can vote on RollingStone.com for the 16 nominees we’d like to see inducted. The five acts who get the most votes will comprise a “fan’s ballot” that will help determine the Class of 2014.

Here are my thoughts on some of the 2014 nominees, at least the ones I am most familiar with:

Linda Ronstadt and Cat Stevens (Yusuf Islam): For certain, they both deserve to be in the Hall. (More on this in my next blog post).
Yes: Yes, they are Hall material, even if I never really embraced their music.
The Zombies: Not so sure a British Invasion band with a few hits deserves a Hall nod.
Deep Purple: As pioneers of modern hard rock, I would say, yes, they probably deserve the recognition.
Kiss:  Considering all the millions of records they sold, and their contributions to heavy metal face painting, I suppose so.
Hall and Oates: Once again, I’m not so sure this blue-eyed soul act who hit it big in the late 1970s should get in the Hall.
Link Wray: Who?

I admit it, I didn’t know anything about Link Wray and his music. But that was before I took the time to look up the guy and discover that he was a bona fide rock pioneer. His recording of “Rumble” in 1958 , which utilized then largely unexplored techniques like distortion and feedback, was way ahead of it time.

As the Link Wray website (click here) states: “Link Wray. Father of the POWER CHORD. Creator of Distortion. Punk, heavy metal, grunge, garage, real rock guitar…it all started here.”

Fred Lincoln “Link” Wray Jr., who passed away in 2006 at age 76, is a great, largely untold story. Born in Dunn, North Carolina, Wray served in the US Army during the Korean War, and contracted tuberculosis, which laid him up in a hospital for a year. When a lung was removed his doctors predicted he would never be able to sing again.

But Link didn’t need to sing. He played the guitar like no one had before. He was a rock innovator and the reason Rolling Stone placed him No. 45 of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time.

So I ask you to please join me in voting Link Wray into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Next I pay homage to Linda Ronstadt and Cat Stevens, two important stars from my formative rock listening years.

In the meantime, tell me who you think from the 2014 Rock Hall of Fame inductees most and least deserves to be inducted.

The full list of 16 nominees are:

  • Nirvana
  • Kiss
  • N.W.A.
  • Peter Gabriel
  • LL Cool
  • Linda Ronstadt
  • Cat Stevens
  • Hall and Oates
  • The Replacements
  • Deep Purple
  • Paul Butterfield Blues Band
  • Link Wray
  • The Meters
  • Chic
  • Yes
  • The Zombies
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One Comment
  1. Melissa Chesnut-Tangerman permalink

    I vote for Yes. Quirky though they were/are, they stretched all sorts of boundaries, and proved that complex meters and themes could sell rock albums and fill stadiums. Chris Squire is a truly great bass player and amazing musician who with Steve Howe still has the chops and energy. Maybe you have to be an alto or a tenor to sing along with Jon Anderson, but learning those lines and harmonies helped thousands become better musicians.

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