Rock ‘n’ Rumble

Link Wray and the birth of the first heavy metal song.

Photo courtesy of Bazillion Points

The 1958 rock ‘n’ roll hit “Rumble” by Link Wray and the Ray Men still has the ability to summon up instant menace and danger—it’s the sound of old-school juvenile delinquency—and remains the only instrumental to ever be banned on American radio stations.  

In the new biography Link Wray: The First Man in Black, author Dana Raidt tells the story of how that trailblazing song was birthed—by accident during a performance at a Fredericksburg sock hop in 1957—and profiles its quixotic creator. Wray was born in Dunn, North Carolina, but spent his formative years in Portsmouth, performing in country and western groups with brothers Vernon and Doug. “It was really in Virginia they formed the family band,” Raidt says. 

“Rumble,” which has been cited as the first heavy metal song and which Bob Dylan once proclaimed the best rock instrumental ever, was always Wray’s calling card, but the songwriter would master other musical genres in a wide-ranging, 50-year career before passing away in 2005. BazillionPoints.com


This article originally appeared in our June 2019 issue.

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