Dan Auerbach: ‘There Would Be None of Us Without Link Wray’
In an effort to help Link Wary get elected into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach has just released the guitar pioneer's never-before-heard track "Son of Rumble" via his Easy Eye Sound label.
"I just know that if a place is calling itself the rock and roll anything, it should include Link Wray," Auerbach explains in a new interview with Ultimate Classic Rock. "He sort of invented rock and roll, and he's the link between the Native American and the rock and roll drumbeats - which is where the rock and roll drumbeat comes from. That's been misreported for decades. I think there's just a lot of things that need to be straightened up, and Link Wray is part of that."
As you might guess by the song's name,"Son of Rumble" was originally intended to be the follow-up single to Wray's career-defining and genre-altering 1958 hit "Rumble." It came to Auerbach's attention in a pretty cool way. "In an interview that I did a couple of years ago, I said something [about how] I just thought it was crazy that he wasn't in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The Wray family read what I had said, and decided to get in touch with me and offer me this song."
Auerbach is only the most recent of a long line of rock stars - including Jimmy Page, Robbie Robertson and Pete Townshend - who have praised Wray's music and cited his influence on their own work. "I don't remember exactly where I first heard him. But as soon as I started to hear it, I was trying to buy everything I could. I bought all the Norton recordings and all the b-sides," he explains. "Then I got the chance to go to see him in Cleveland at the Grog Shop. I must have been 19 or 20 or something, but he was so awesome. It was so great, he didn't say one word to the audience, he played 45 minutes, then just left and never came back. The audience was going apes---."
While he's not concerned about someday being inducted into the Hall of Fame himself ("I don't really think about that kind of thing, to be honest"), Auerbach seems determined to help Wray get his proper place in rock history. "He was the first to ever have aggression in guitar music. Nobody had ever been menacing before, they were all frilly and melodic and he was just menacing... it was a whole new thing. There would be none of us without Link Wray. When any great form of art starts, there has to be some visionaries, and he and his family were visionaries."
With just two days left before this year's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame fan vote closes on Tuesday, Dec. 5, Wray currently stands far below more modern acts such as Bon Jovi and the Moody Blues in the polls. However, that combined fan vote counts as just one ballot, with the same weight as those sent out to more than 900 historians, members of the music industry and artists - including every living Rock Hall nominee. So perhaps Auerbach's wishes for Wray can still come true.