100 Greatest Guitarists

45

Link Wray

link wray
David Warner Ellis/Redferns

When Link Wray released the thrilling, ominous "Rumble" in 1958, it became one of the only instrumentals ever to be banned from radio play – for fear that it might incite gang violence. By stabbing his amplifier's speaker cone with a pencil, Wray created the distorted, overdriven sound that would reverberate through metal, punk and grunge. Wray, who proudly claimed Shawnee Indian ancestry and lost a lung to tuberculosis, was the archetypal leather-clad badass, and his song titles alone – "Slinky," "The Black Widow" – convey the force and menace of his playing. "He was fucking insane," said the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach. "I would listen to 'Some Kinda Nut,' over and over. It sounded like he was strangling the guitar – like it was screaming for help." When Wray died in 2005, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen both performed "Rumble" onstage in tribute. "If it hadn't been for Link Wray and 'Rumble,'" said Pete Townshend, "I would have never picked up a guitar."

Key Tracks: "Rumble," "Jack the Ripper," "Raw-Hide"

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