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June 2013

True Grit: Link Wray La De Da

“La De Da.” A song I never tire of and a revelation the first time I heard the unheralded stunner. Link Wray’s “La De Da” from his sorely underheard 1971 album "Link Wray" was recorded in Wray’s chicken shack on his farm in Accokeek, Maryland and produced by the ingenious Steve Verroca (who also wrote "La De Da"). Boy does it scorch your heart. Soulful, raggedly beautiful vocals and true grit rock by one the great pioneers, the song sounds a lot like the Stone's "Exile" before "Exile" but the genuine article. This is authentic fire and brimstone, sincere swamp ("Black River Swamp"); music full of feeling by a man who had felt and experienced a whole hell of a lot. When compared to Elvis and his impoverished background, "Rumble" Wray said: "He grew up white-man poor. I was growing up Shawnee poor." 6a00d83451cb7469e2019102867e03970c-800wi

And Wray was creating this primo stuff in the 1960s. On the liner notes for "Wray's Three Track Shack," John Collins stated it beautifully: "In the late 1960s there was a studied attempt by such musicians as The Band, Neil Young, Guy Clark and David Ackles, all in their own way, to evoke a rock n roll version of Americana, of white clapboard chapels, dungareed farmers, dusty drifters and outlaws... It turned out that Link and his brothers had been playing the real thing all along, hidden away on the farm. The eponymous 1971 album grew out of the landscape, the struggles and the religious certainties of Link's own past. He didn't have to adopt the pose of a stubble-chinned homesteader. He was one."


Indeed he was. If you can get your hands on it, grab "Wray's Three Track Shack," a compilation containing three Wray albums: "Link Wray," "Beans and Fatback" and "Mordicai Jones." Do it.

I'm glad (and maybe even "so proud," as the Wray song goes) I got the chance to see brilliant legend Link perform live, before he passed away. Whenever I get down I remember that, during that show, Wray handed me his guitar in the middle of "Rumble" -- I held the man's guitar! It still feels like a dream. One of the greatest moments of my life. As I wrote rather effusively, but with sincerity, last year, Link Wray is God. Now join me in spray-painting that on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum where Link Wray has, ludicrously, not been inducted. Listen and believe.