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Legendary rock star Link Wray is headed to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Legendary rock star Link Wray is finally headed to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Link Wray
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Link Wray. Photo Courtesy of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Link Wray. Photo Courtesy of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Legendary rock star Link Wray is finally headed to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. After many decades of oversight, this glaring omission has been rectified. The late guitar and rock trailblazer is getting his due from the hallowed institution.

Link Wray: A 2023 ‘Musical Influence’ Rock Hall inductee

Wray was just announced as a posthumous inductee of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2023, in the “Musical Influence” category, which was previously known as the “Early Influence” category.

DJ Kool Herc will also be recognized as a “Musical Influence” as well, in the upcoming Rock and Roll induction ceremony, which will take place on Friday, November 3rd at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York

By definition, the Rock Hall’s prestigious “Musical Influence Award” is bestowed to artists whose music and performance style have directly influenced, inspired, and evolved rock and roll, and music impacting youth culture. Link Wray embodied this description.

A lasting musical impact

Wray is known for the profound influence he had over all rock guitarists from the late ’50s, to the early ’60s British rock, to the ’70s punk music scene to 80s hard rock to ’90s grunge. He kicked so many doors and molded rock and roll into what it is today.

While he passed away on November 5, 2005, at the age of 76, his music lives on forever.

‘Rumble’ made quite a revolution

His signature song “Rumble,” which was released on March 31, 1958, is known for being the only instrumental in music history that was banned from radio, in fear that would incite juvenile violence at the time.

Fast forward to 2018, 60 years after its initial release, and “Rumble” was celebrated in New York City at Generation Records with many fans and rock stars, including Steven Van Zandt, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee in his own right.

Speaking of “Rumble,” it was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame back in 2018 as a “single” in that inaugural category that year.

A year later, on February 10, 2019, “Rumble” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Steven Van Zandt talks about Link Wray

When asked about the musical significance of Link Wray, Steven Van Zandt told this journalist: “People really underrate Link Wray. They think he’s a one-hit wonder but he is not. He is a lot more than that. I love the man and his legacy.”

Steven Van Zandt continued, “Link was a big influence on punk music and he carried that rockabilly consciousness right into the punk scene. He really did create the first heavy metal riffs.”

“Link should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame just based on the fact that he had an instrumental banned from radio. Most records that get banned are because of the lyrics. Link had an instrumental banned and that is quite an accomplishment,” Van Zandt explained.

To this day, every young rebel who has donned a leather jacket and slashed away at an electric guitar with loud, distorted abandon owes a significant debt to Wray.

Wray was one of the musical subjects of the critically-acclaimed documentary, “Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World,” which pays tribute to musicians of Native American heritage that both changed and impacted the musical landscape.

Honorific names and titles for Link Wray

His honorific names include the “Grandfather of Rock and Roll,” the “Beethoven of Rock and Roll,” and in simpler terms, the “DNA of Rock and Roll.”

Wray was also known for being the “Father of the Power Chord,” before they even had pedals, and the “Father of Distortion.”

He has also been hailed as the “trunk of the rock and roll tree,” where the “branches of heavy metal, punk and hip hop and all of that, just branched right off from him.” It is safe to say that many musical genres would not exist today if it weren’t for Wray.

Following his groundbreaking hit “Rumble,” Wray cut many more iconic instrumental classics, all of which exuded a tense, primitive energy that perfectly captured the essence of adolescence and changed rock and roll forever.  

Above all, Link Wray was a humble and genuine man and musician to anybody that knew him, and that spoke volumes of his talent and personality.

Link Wray: An influence to many generations of artists

Link Wray has influenced such artists as The Who, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Neil Young, and Iggy Pop, among countless others.

A guitar icon, Wray was honored as one of Rolling Stone’s “100 Greatest Guitarists,” and his impact can be heard in generations of British and American guitarists who followed his footsteps, which included the late Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, and Bruce Springsteen.

Pete Townshend of The Who famously said, “If it hadn’t been for Link Wray and ‘Rumble,’ I would never have picked up a guitar.” 

Beth Wray Webb reacts to this ultimate honor

Upon hearing the exciting news of the upcoming Rock Hall induction, the older daughter of Link Wray told this journalist, “Wow, he finally made it in. Daddy is finally going into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,” she said, fighting back tears of joy.

“Thank you to everyone for the support of my father,” she said. “I am so honored that my father is now in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Daddy would be so proud. So honored, and I am proud to be his daughter. Thank you so much, looking forward to November.”

Markos Papadatos
Written By

Markos Papadatos is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for Music News. Papadatos is a Greek-American journalist and educator that has authored over 21,000 original articles over the past 18 years. He has interviewed some of the biggest names in music, entertainment, lifestyle, magic, and sports. He is a 16-time "Best of Long Island" winner, where for three consecutive years (2020, 2021, and 2022), he was honored as the "Best Long Island Personality" in Arts & Entertainment, an honor that has gone to Billy Joel six times.

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