So what happened next?



Photo by Justin BeahmIn 1966, I moved away from the Washington, D.C. area, never to return.  I was a kid so I didn't have much choice when my parents packed it up and moved to Michigan.  I'm not going to talk about Michigan.  I'm going to make an effort to stay on topic. 
I left D.C. a rabid Link Wray fan and even though it seemed I would never hear of him again, I remembered him fondly and often took out my Peavey Falcon (that's a guitar, okay?) and whacked off a few crunchy power chords in remembrance.  A couple of D's and an E was all it took and I would be transported back to the old days of acne and sexual frustration. 
Photo by Justin BeahmI would not realize that Link was still around and recording until the 80's when a friend of mine revealed to me that he had been a Link Wray fan for years (4 to be exact).  He had discovered him in a import bin at some record store and had become a fan, searching through cut-out bins and at record shows for anything he could find. 
He informed me that Link had made something of a comeback while touring with retro-rocker Robert Gordon (of whom I had never heard), was living somewhere in Europe (Denmark, I found out later with his young Danish wife) and was still out there touring the U.S. and Europe and rocking people's socks off everywhere he went.  That's when I started building my collection of recordings by Link Wray in an effort to satisfy a never-quite-dormant obsession. 
Photo by Justin BeahmLink hits the big time?
Now just about everybody has heard of Link Wray.  While appearances of his music in such popular films as Pulp Fiction (one of my favorites), Desperado (Robert Rodriguez is a mensch!) and Independence Day (a film that is not quite bad enough to be interesting) have not made Link quite a household name, they have alert quite a few extra people to his music. 
It pleases me that Link Wray is finally getting credit for the legendary rock 'n' roll guitarist he is.  It's about damn time. 
But here's the deal:  The Link Wray story is not just about hits from the late 50's or his attempt to flourish in the local D.C. scene in the 60's.  Link at 62 or 67 (depending on who you believe) is not only still alive, he is still playing the loudest, raunchiest, crunchiest rock 'n' roll in existence. 
Which brings us conveniently enough to the denouement of my story. 
Oh God I can't believe Link Wray is playing in Kalamazoo!
Thanks to the fact that I don't follow the media at all, I very nearly missed the fact that Link's latest tour (I didn't even know he was on tour in the States) would bring him to within 100 miles of me (80 miles actually).  Thanks to a dear friend who had the temerity to wake me out of much needed nap, I would make it to Club Soda in Kalamazoo, Michigan on November 1, 1997 to see and hear Link in person for the first time in over 30 years. 
Photo by Justin BeahmLink wears the years well.  His maturity has served to accentuate his lankiness and with hair down to the middle of his back, to look like the Cherokee warrior he is.  He looks much more distinguished than the old rockabilly punk I remember from the Glen Echo days.  The sneer is still there, in his face and in the way he plays the guitar. 
It is not really possible to describe what it was like to hear him in that small club in Kalamazoo.  He has some live albums out that might give you a taste but there is no way a canned product can communicate the excitement of one of his shows. 
Photo by Justin BeahmHe plays loud, he plays fast, and he can't be bothered by taking long breaks between songs.  The pace is supersonic and the volume punishing as  Link feeds off the excitement of the crowd to keep himself and everybody else going.  It's an intense feedback loop that produces energy levels that no modern rocker I know of can achieve.   He started the set with a deafening rendition of Rumble played with such force and energy that he broke two strings before the end of the song.
He played all the songs we wanted to hear: Rumble (of course), Raw Hide, Ace of Spades, The Swag, Comanche, and the insane Run Chicken Run that used to cause riots back when it was first performed.  He even managed to get through a couple of ballads (a bad habit with these old rockabilly cats) without allowing the energy level to dip a single erg.   The set ended with an extended version of Rumble, with Link jamming with the bassist and drummer and showing no signs of fatique.  Afterwards, he signed autographs and CD's like the hero he is!
There is no one on the planet like Link Wray.  I believe in God and Link Wray is one of Her finest creations. 

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