Though the first use of what is known as power chord can be traced back to Willie Johnson’s playing on Howlin’ Wolf’s early 50’s Sun Records sides the person to take it and make a foundation of many rock-n-roll songs to follow was Frederick Lincoln “Link” Wray Jr.
In 1958 Link Wray and His Ray Men released “Rumble" on the Cadence record label. The song’s chord blast was slathered in reverb and was heavily distorted due to Wray taking a pencil and poking holes in his amplifier speaker to give the song a loud and nasty vibe that matched the band’s live sound.
Cadence’s producer Archie Bleyer hated the song. However, his stepdaughter loved it and Bleyer, sensing that it could be a hit because of that, let the record get released. When “Rumble” was originally recorded it didn’t have a title. It got it’s title from a suggestion by Phil Everly who said the song “sounds like streetfight.”
Though “Rumble” was a instrumental it was banned in several radio markets due to it’s title, as the term was slang for a gang fight, and programmers were concerned that it may promote juvenile delinquency. The controversy didn’t stop the song from being a hit. As a matter of fact the concerns from the uptight older generation may actually have help make the record more popular with the kids. “Rumble” went to #16 in the US charts and even reached ears in the UK inspiring people like Pete Townshend and Ray & Dave Davies to play their guitars louder, tougher and meaner.
Link Wray was born on this day, May 2nd, in North Carolina, in 1929. He continued to release records and perform all over the world up until his death from heart failure in Denmark in 2005.
Interestingly enough Link, for all his important influence on many a rock-n-roll sub genre, is still not in the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame.