Thursday, April 16, 2009

“Rumble”


c. 2009 Rod Ice
All rights reserved
(4-09)




Note to Readers: What follows here is a news feature written about the late Rock guitarist Link Wray. While his career proved to be unpredictable and visionary, perhaps most incredible of all was his unlikely ability to connect posthumously with Ohio, and Geauga County…

Writing professionally opens doors.

A side benefit of wordsmithing for a living is the ability to interact with people having many different backgrounds and philosophies. They contribute a richness of experiences that could not be discovered through any other profession.

Most recently, I thought of this truism when a message appeared from Eric Moore, who is the force behind a petition drive to get Link Wray recognized by the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of fame:

“Hi Rod, I have read some of your work and… am contacting you to see if you would have any interest in writing about a concert I have organized at the Beachland Ballroom. It is a tribute to Link Wray and I hope will stimulate interest and awareness about his not being a rock hall inductee and his being deserving as a key influence on rock as we currently know it…”

The invitation was one I accepted gratefully. Before long, my prospective newspaper feature had begun to take shape:

Fans ‘Rumble’ For Link Wray Induction

CLEVELAND – The recent 2009 Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremonies were a source of inspiration for residents of the northcoast, and beyond. Participants and fans literally came from around the world to celebrate this enduring art form on the shores of Lake Erie. Yet notable by his absence was one who offered much to the diverse tapestry of Rock music as an innovator, performer, and iconoclastic hero.

Fred Lincoln Wray, Jr. was the missing ‘link’ during the weekend of festivities.

Born in Dunn, North Carolina, this pioneer of electric guitar composition first played Country & Western music that was popular during his childhood. His vitality and creative vision were supercharged by a Native American bloodline connected to the Shawnee Tribe. But Link was stricken with tuberculosis while serving as a soldier during the Korean War. After losing a lung to this pervasive disease, he was told by physicians that singing would be out of the question.

For many, such a diagnosis would have foretold the end of life as a professional musician. Yet Link responded by focusing on instrumental work, with emphasis on rhythmic ‘power chording’ that would lay the foundation for much of modern Rock ‘n’ Roll. His classic 1958 recording of ‘Rumble’ defined the approach.

Link himself described the technique in basic terms. “Just raw guitar. Lots of amplifiers with the sound wide open, just playing as hard as I can. And just let it fly!”

This turn toward gritty, wordless anthems evoked a sort of cultural revolution that echoed for many years afterward. From the fuzztone of Davie Allan, to the exuberance of Sterling Morrison, to the raucous unpredictability of Ron Asheton, to the insane genius of Robert Quine, his legacy continued to inspire new generations.

Pete Townshend said it best. “If it hadn't been for Link Wray and 'Rumble,' I would have never picked up a guitar," he reflected.

Even after that initial period of chart-topping success, Link’s artistic epiphany percolated meaningfully for many years. He wandered through the minimalist elements of music like a stealthy brave hunting wild game. Though out of the spotlight, he was perpetually active. Those who continued to follow his career were rewarded with flashes of otherworldly brilliance and deep breaths of reverb-stoked oblivion.

Tracks cut in the 1970’s with vocalist Robert Gordon were particularly inspirational. A new generation of admirers took energy from these vital recordings. They helped fortify his position as a six-string wizard of great distinction.

His place as an iconic ‘guitarista’ was secure.

But despite the grandeur of this legendary career, Link remained raw and agile. He eschewed pretentiousness in favor of purity. His sound and image remained indelibly ‘basic black.’

A pair of comeback releases plugged him directly into the modern age. ‘Shadowman’ appeared in 1997, and “Barbed Wire’ followed in 2000. Both were recorded with musicians from Europe, where he had lived since the 1980’s.

Link’s terrestrial journey ended in 2005. This native son of the American south was buried in Denmark, where he had previously lived with his fourth wife, Olive. He was survived by nine children.

When it became clear that the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame had somehow overlooked this incredible artist, a petition drive began to promote his induction. Worded with passion, it expressed the zeal with which Link has been viewed since the dawn of his tuneful journey.

“As of 2008, Link Wray is not an inductee into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,” it read. “I believe he belongs there and hope that you join me in getting him inducted. Countless musicians have named him as an influence on their music. Among them Pete Townshend, Neil Young and Jimi Hendrix. I ask that you join me in doing our part to correct this oversight by the corporate music establishment and sign my petition which will be sent to (the) Rock & Roll HOF every time 500 online signatures are collected. Please tell your friends to join us as we ‘Rumble’ the Rock Halls' walls and get Link Wray inducted.”

Musicians were quick to support this noble cause, like Cleveland veteran Bobby Latina.

“I have had the honor and privilege to not only meet Link but play with him on stage numerous times with my old band The Cowslingers. He was a very kind and gracious man. We did a two tribute records to Link and gave them to him at the show and he was amazed that other bands were covering his songs. He had no clue how much impact he had on rock and roll, just goes to show you how humble he really was."

King of the Fuzz Davie Allan agreed with this assessment.

“This is a no brainer,” he observed. “Of course he should be in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame! I say this even though I did not get to meet him when I opened for him at the House of Blues in ‘97.”

Organizer Eric Moore put together a concert to help spur interest in the petition drive, to be held at Cleveland’s historic Beachland Ballroom. The venue has been well known for offering shows not typically seen at other nightspots in the area.

“I have organized a tribute to Link Wray on May 9th,” he said. “I hope it will stimulate interest and awareness about his not being a Rock Hall inductee and his being deserving as a key influence on Rock as we currently know it. Performing will be Link Wray's Raymen, Webb Wilder, Stuck In Gear w/ Link's grandson Chris, Wraygun and The Topcats.”

The Hall of Fame petition is accessible online at: www.inductlinkwray.com.
For Information, contact the Beachland Ballroom at 216-383-1124.

With my work concluded, I looked ahead to the concert itself. It seemed likely to be a raucous, all night affair. One filled with adulation and exuberance. But afterward, I would be glad to return to my home office…

To begin the next writing project!

Comments about Thoughts At Large may be sent to: icewritesforyou@gmail.com
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