LINK WRAY

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's most glaring omission.

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The Pack
THE PACK - NOVEMBER 1977 (left to right) Bill Murrey, John Ossea, John (Jack) Van Horn, Ruth Webster (Newton) and Ed Cynar.
THE PACK served duty as Link's Ray Men in the late 70’s and early 80’s.  They released two 45’s on Slash Records.  Ed Cynar and John Van Horn served as part of Link's Ray Men in the 60’s, and Ruth Newton was part of the duo Ruth and Sherry (Wray, Vernon's daughter).  They released one 45 in 1969.  

If you made an inquiry on booking The Pack, below is a press release you would have received.

Hello,

                                                                On behalf of the band,
                                                                A.D. Wray


The Pack are available for bookings and at times as a package, splitting the bill with Link Wray.  For more information, feel free to write or call.

There was a period in the history of Rock and Roll not so long ago when the lines had yet to be drawn.  There were no Beatles, Stones, Mods, rockers, hippies or rednecks.  No punk rock, country rock, etc. and it was every man for himself in the music world as well as on the street.  Rock and Roll music was something you lived rather than labeled.  Few people analyzed it, collected it seriously or even cared if the records were scratched, just as long as it had that beat.

On any given night you might have found Ronnie Dove, Vernon Taylor or Link Wray and the Wraymen rockin' the joint (if some of the audience hadn't already rocked it!).  These were the "gunslingin'" days when if a stranger, you were razzed or in a brawl with the locals as soon as you entered the place!  You were on their turf and you best not be a Richie Cunningham type!

There's a story about a particular night when Link Wray and the band got a tip that he and the boys were going to "get theirs" some time during or after their set.  It seems that one of the Wraymen was dating a chick that a local "bad ass" claimed was his girl and he and his buddies were going to take it out on the whole band.  These guys lined up a dozen or so chairs in front of the stage and commenced to taunt and hassle the hell out of the Wraymen as Jack Van Horn performed part of the set.

This activity continued until Link walked on stage and at the same time each band member pulled out a hand gun in plain view of these jokers and laid them on their amps!  Link sneered something to the effect of "which one of you mothers wants to be first?" as he struck the chords to "Rumble", jumping off the stage brandishing his white Firebird in their faces.  The harassment abruptly ended and the punks went on their way.

That little story was long ago but not so far away as you'll see when you experience The Pack.  The Pack are Wraymen John Van Horn, lead guitar and vocals, Ed Cynar, bass and vocals and new members Ruth Webster (Newton), vocals (who also performed with Jack and Ed in the early sixties), Bill Murrey, piano and John Ossea, drums.  Jack and Ed have been with Link for some time now (Jack's guitar style is testimony to that) the band being basically Link's band when he's not collaborating with Robert Gordon.

The hardening influences of playing the 14th Street and New York Avenue circuit in the late fifties, early sixties, might account for their black leather stage presence but the band certainly claims no immediate association with the so called "punk" genre.

The Pack isn't so much a revival of any certain Rock and Roll theme or image, as it is an extension of that pre-Beatle "Blackboard Jungle" ambiance in which Van Horn and Cynar paid their dues.  You didn't ride shotgun with Link Wray in those days without getting a few powder burns.

The group's repertoire of originals and standards span three decades and not to come off as another Sha Na Na, their rendering of most "oldies" is executed in a rather heavy manner.  This gives drummer John Ossea room to move as he injects the high energy contemporary feel to the arrangements.  John has been drumming with rock bands since 1966 when he worked with the Haymarket Riot.  He's also had experience in the R and B vein playing drums for D.C.'s New Order.

Ex Overkill member Bill Murrey supplies the skilled keyboard work to cover the missing rhythm guitar as Jack handles the lead work as well as most of the singing.  Bill worked with Richmond bands, X-Roads and Single Bullet Theory and is currently employed as a recording engineer in a local studio as well as lending his talents to some of that studio's finished product.

Ruth Webster's involvement with the band goes back some years to live performances with Jack and Ed's group the Fender Benders, who saw chart action around 196 with an instrumental called "Drag Strip."  She also recorded for the Swan label with Link's niece as the duo Ruth and Sherrie.  Her sassy vocals are especially effective on The Pack's arrangement of the Jody Reynolds hit, "Endless Sleep."

The projects of Jack Van Horn and Ed Cynar are almost too numerous to mention.  Aside from working with Link as side men, they've recorded with other artists such as R and B singers Bunker Hill, Jimmy Velvet and D.C.'s own rocker Bobby Howard who later fronted The Sweet.  They worked under the same name, The Wray Brothers with Doug Wray, also backing such artists as Chris Kenner on local appearances and recorded as the Wraymen on the old Diamond label.

Jack and Ed have shared the stage with Brian Hyland, The Four Seasons, The Belmonts and Freddie Cannon to name a few, but their most notable work stands as the recordings for the Swan label with Link Wray.  Jack, Ed, Vernon Wray, Doug Wray and the late Shorty Horton all took part in recording the classic album "Jack The Ripper" for Swan in the early sixties, they can also be heard on many of Link's 45 releases such as "Turnpike USA", "Batman Theme", "The Shadow Knows" and the savage "I'm Branded."

In the early seventies, Jack and Ed fronted a band called Face Value which recorded a single on the Briarwood label called "These Times."  The tune, written by Van Horn, Cynar and lyricist Kevin Fitzmorris marked a change in style for the musicians as it might be called a message song.  

Van Horn took a more lyrical country route working with Doug Wray's band around the Maryland club circuit.  Around this time he recorded his "rockin' rustic" album "Outback Music" for the Mercury label.  The album, seemingly inspired by Link's first Polydor LP was favorably received by the critics.  A follow-up album was recorded with the aid of Ry Cooder but Mercury shelved the project.  So goes the record business.  The new band or members of, are slated for sessions on the upcoming Link Wray album, let's hope that doesn't change!

The Pack flirts with rock-a-Billy but they're hardly on an Eagles trip.  A typical set might include "Red Hot," "Flying Saucers Rock and Roll," "Handy Man" or "That'll Be The Day" as well as a segment of Wraymen instrumentals such as "Rumble," "Rawhide" and "Ace of Spades" which display a terrific cross play of guitar and bass by Van Horn and Cynar.  The original compositions exhibit the many influences and collective experiences of the band from the "Sun" sounding "Queenie" to the Bob Seger-ish "Get Off My Hog."  The Pack are about to play their debut gig and hopefully on their own turf rather than Richmond or Pennsylvania as rumored.  Wherever the band plays, the audience will be treated to the "real thing" by some guys who were there in the beginning!  They may even get to see some "switchblade comb" guitar playing or some Rock and Roll musicians who come on stage riding Harley Davidsons!

                                                                    Art Wray
In the Washington D.C. area if you weren't getting the "Big Beat" on WEAM or the Milt Grant TV show you were probably daring enough to go down town to The Famous, The Rocket Room, Benny's Rebel Room or smoke filled beer joints on the southeast side where the bands wailed the standards and the worlds of musicians and the street sometimes clashed.