LINK WRAY REMEMBERED
It's almost impossible to believe Link Wray is gone. I met Link in 1958 just after Rumble had turned radio stations upside down from the teenagers calling in wanting to hear the song again. I'd drive down to Wash.D.C. in my 1948 chevy to where ever he was playing Link and his brothers played
all over the Washington area any place to make a buck.
"Lucky," as Vernon Wray was called in those days and the Palmetto Ranch Boys. Later Vernon changed his name to Ray Vernon so he wouldn't be confused with Link Wray. Little good that did - everyone knew Ray was Link's brother and it made no difference to those of us who knew them. On lots of Saturday nights the brothers three and Shorty would perform at Turners arena on the "Saturday Night jamboree" produced by Connie B.Gay. Performers all over Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia worked the Saturday night show including Patsy Cline, Jimmy Dean, Roy Clark, Clint Miller, Vernon Taylor, Jimmy Case, The Stringdusters and the list goes on... this was 1958. Patsy Cline was still trying to get known even though she had a hit with " Walking After Midnight ". Jimmy Dean was playing at the "Famous" nightclub on New York Avenue and Roy Clark was working at the Dixie Pig in Bladensburg,Md just outside of Washington DC.
Link Wray was working at The Ozarks Club in D.C. with Ray, Doug and Shorty. Barry Darvell was trying to get a hit and get going in the music business and Sammy Goins, who had just recorded "Kissing At The Drive In" on the United Artist label, was working at a small honky tonk on the Rockville Pike in Rockville, Maryland. Ronnie Dove was just forty-five miles away in Baltimore and was trying to get something going at the clubs there. Clint Miller was getting air play with "Bertha Lou" on ABC-Paramount and George Hamilton IV had a hit on ABC-Paramount with "A Rose And A Baby Ruth" He was attending college at American University in downtown Washington DC and was getting a little TV exposure on WMAL with a morning country music show.
It was a very good time to be around the Washington DC area. I got to know Link, Ray, Doug and Shorty and we became good friends all five of us. I went to their apartment on Orange Avenue in the Anacostia section of DC, near the Anacostia Naval Air Station. Link would show me songs he had written and play them for me. Link loved Elvis and really wanted to be able to sing like Elvis he was a big fan of Elvis. I never understood why Link liked Elvis so much when he had such talents of his own. Link could play anything on his guitar and everything he played sounded good - he just rolled instrumentals out one after the other. I loved for him to play "Walkin With Link". Link had no amp at home so he'd play that ole Dan-o-electric of his without an amp - the same Dan-o-electric thats on the cover of his first Epic album. He played "Rawhide" in the clubs long before he ever recorded it, along with "Slinky", "Dixie-Doodle", "Ramble", and "Lillian". He'd play and sing "Walking Down A Street Called Love," and sometimes Ray would sing something he had written such as "My Sugar Plum".
There is a lot more to this story than what I have written, it's only seconds when I think about those golden days when life was so uncomplicated in a time when rock n roll was young and country music was the classic of it's time. It was a long time ago everyone was young and looking out the window of life and believing one day everyone would find the "pot of gold" at the end of the rainbow.
On November 5th 2005 it ended. Link was the last of a group of fine men who were with us for just a short time when we compare our lives to an oak tree. It was in New Orleans at the Shim Sham Club in 2001 when Link and I spoke at any length... Link said to me "Bobby they are all gone, Ray, Doug and Shorty." My friends, they are all gone now - passed on into the twilight of yesteryear. The recordings they left behind will remind us they were once with us as a part of us - but the real truth is they will never be with us in this life again.
I’m glad we had those early years as friends I still see the smiles and hear the laughter and the quality conversations we had when there was time to have them. Remember it's time we always seem to run out of, try to spend more of it with the folks you care about because one day they will be gone. May the memory of Link Wray live with us as long as we have people in the Universe who love his music.