Early rock guitarist Link Wray has the distinction of being one of the only—if not the only—guitarist to have been banned from the radio for an instrumental song. The ominous and gritty slow blues number "Rumble" (1958) scared the hell out of radio programmers who were convinced that Wray was glamorizing juvenile delinquency and anti-social behavior (someone tipped them off that "Rumble" is a street term for gang-fight that was popularized by the musical West Side Story). What DJs didn't realize was that Wray was breaking barriers for guitarists: He created his fuzzy reverb sound by stabbing the cone of his amp with a pencil, and amidst the slew of feedback, he just happened to invent the power chord.
On the receiving end of the music was a young Robert Gordon, then just a child, who was soaking up the sounds of Wray contemporaries like Elvis Presley and Gene Vincent. As a teenager, Gordon got his start early, recording with the Confidentials in 1964. He later found himself in New York, and when punk rock was born in the mid-'70s, Gordon became involved in the no wave scene.
Around 1970, Wray moved to a farm in Maryland with the intention of retiring from the music biz, but he couldn't resist setting up a studio in an old chicken coop and recorded two inventive folk records while he was holed up there.
By the end of the decade, rockabilly was seeing a resurgence, and Gordon, who abandoned his punk band the Tuff Darts to become a revivalist of the genre, tapped Link Wray as a sideman, as someone who could contributed rockabilly skills and the credibility of an elder statesman.
Link Wray died in 2005, but his music remains a touchstone of early rock. And know it or not, legions of filmgoers who were too young to catch Wray the first time around have been exposed to his unique sound through the soundtracks of counter-cultural directors like Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, Terry Gilliam, and John Waters.
Robert Gordon has continued to record, most recently putting out 2007's It's Now or Never with sideman Chris Spedding.