6 Reasons Why Every Rock Fan Should Know Who Link Wray Is

Even if you don't know his name, chances are you know of the late rock pioneer Link Wray, who was born 88 years ago today. He's the guy who recorded 'Rumble' - a 1958 instrumental that has been featured in movies like 'Pulp Fiction' and 'Independence Day' as well as TV shows like 'The Sopranos'. 

And that's not his only claim to fame. Here are six reasons why every rock fan should know who Link Wray is - based on the rock icons he influenced.

1. Pete Townshend

Pete Townshend

Fans of The Who owe a big debt of gratitude to Link Wray, who inspired Pete Townshend to try his hand at the guitar. "If it hadn't been for Link Wray and 'Rumble,' I would have never picked up a guitar," Townshend once said according to Rolling Stone, which listed Wray at #45 in their list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.

2. Keith Moon?

Link Wray also made quite an impression on Pete Townshend's bandmate Keith Moon, but we're not exactly sure if the legendary drummer was a fan. When the guitar legend visited The Who in the studio in the 70s, Moon mooned him and everyone else around, according to Townshend.

"Keith Moon promptly took off all his clothes [upon meeting Wray]," Townshend later wrote. "He stayed naked until people started to take notice, then when they became bored with his studio streak he dressed as a wasp and buzzed around the studio. This later inspired the [1972] B-side 'Waspman,' a tune we hereby dedicate to Link Wray." 

3. Jimmy Page

The Led Zeppelin legend looked up to Wray as a role model for playing guitar with attitude.

"I listened to anything with a guitar on it when I was a kid," Page said in the 2008 documentary It Might Get Loud. "But the first time I heard 'The Rumble,' it was like - that was something that has so much profound attitude to it. It really does."

Too much attitude according to the censors. When 'Rumble' was released in 1958, broadcasters banned it from the radio in fear that the distorted track "might incite gang violence," according to Rolling Stone. Instead, it inspired some of the best rock bands of the era.

Page also paid homage to Wray in the doc by playing air guitar while listening to 'Rumble' at home.

4. Iggy Pop

Iggy Pop is no softie. After all, The Godfather of Punk gained notoriety in the 70s for reckless stage diving and even cutting himself during performances. But when a young Iggy first heard 'Rumble' on campus, he got emotional. 

"I left school emotionally at that moment - the moment I heard 'Rumble'," Pop told Stephen Colbert on an April 2013 episode of The Colbert Report

And it's no surprise that Pop dug Wray's guitar licks. According to Rolling Stone, the guitarist created his distorted sound by "stabbing his amplifier speaker cone with a pencil" and thereby created "the distorted, overdriven sound that would reverberate through metal, punk and grunge."

5. Dan Auerbach

Iggy Pop wasn't the only rocker to react strongly to Wray's work. The late rocker also moved Dan Auerbach - one half of the Ohio rock duo The Black Keys.

"He was fucking insane," Auerbach once said of Wray. "I would listen to 'Some Kinda Nut,' over and over. It sounded like he was strangling the guitar – like it was screaming for help."

But in a good way, apparently. Auerbach has since lobbied for Wray to finally get inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. "I don't care about [who's not in] the Rock Hall, except for Link Wray," Auerbach said in April 2016 while he and bandmate Patrick Carney inducted Steve Miller into the Hall.


6. Bruce Springsteen

Following Wray's death in 2005, Bruce Springsteen paid tribute to the late guitar legend onstage with a haunting cover of 'Rumble' that doubles as both a fitting dirge and a distorted monument to its creator.


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