Link Wray

Link Wray playing a guitar

Link Wray Credit Getty Images

Born in the picturesque town of Dunn, North Carolina on May 2, 1929, Fred Lincoln Wray, Jr. left an indelible mark on the world. But his journey was no smooth ride. A bout of measles during his early years left him hard of hearing – a challenge that might have deterred most aspiring musicians. Yet, this wasn't your run-of-the-mill musician; this was Link Wray.

After a brief stint in the army, touring through Germany and Korea from 1951 to 1953, Link returned home on a mission to let his music speak for itself. Armed with a shiny new Gibson Les Paul electric guitar, he set off on a musical odyssey that would rewrite history. Link had been bitten by the music bug from a young age, rubbing shoulders with traveling bluesmen and picking up a few tricks of the trade. However, it was the post-army years that saw his passion morph into an obsession. His first foray into the music scene was a band with his brothers, the unforgettable "Lucky Wray and the Palomino Ranch Hands." Alas, it was a short-lived escapade, as his siblings sought more predictable gigs in the dazzling lights of Washington D.C., leaving Link to pave his own path.

Link Wray performing with a guitar for a concert.

Link Wray in Seattle Credit Eric Frommer 

But Link wasn't just a pathfinder; he was a trailblazer. His approach to music was nothing short of revolutionary. This man had no time for the mundane. While most guitarists of his era stuck to strumming open chords, Link Wray threw the rulebook out the window. He masterfully wielded barred chords up and down the entire fretboard, birthing what we now revere as the almighty "power chord." And the cherry on top? He punctured holes in his guitar amplifier's speakers with pencils, crafting that raw, visceral, and unmistakable distorted sound that would become his sonic calling card. Link's music was a fearless voyage into uncharted territory, a sonic rebellion that spoke louder than words. It resonated like nothing else. So here's to the man who transformed adversity into art, who not only made music but sculpted the very essence of rock 'n' roll with his unwavering spirit and electrifying sound. Link Wray: the pioneer, the renegade, the legend.

Link Wray's historical marker