Good morning, y’all. I’m having a real flashback to the movie, “Caddyshack”. Everyone remembers the damage being done to the golf course by the gopher. I’m getting damage to my bedding plants, and it’s not a gopher. It’s coming from the chipmunks. I may have to go “old school” on Chip and Dale here before long.
While I was Googling “best way to kill chipmunks”, I was listening to WNCW out of Spindale, N.C. It is the most eclectic radio station you’d ever hope to listen to. The airwaves have to be just right to pick it up between the cracks in the mountains between here and the campus of the Isothermal College. It’s always available over the internet, if you can command control over a computer. Their programming is well worth the effort to find them if you can. WNCW seems to take the “Public Radio” thing real seriously, and they try to provide something for everybody. They do lean heavy towards Bluegrass, as you would surmise, but they also go to areas you wouldn’t imagine. They do a segment every Friday called, “Frank on Friday”, which is devoted to the works of Frank Zappa. You know, Frank Zappa, “Mothers of Invention”, father of Moon Unit and Dweezil. It is one of their most popular segments, which is wild when you consider the listeners are mostly of the hillbilly persuasion. You just never know.
Anyway, I was listening to WNCW while trying to figure out the best method for mayhem for Chip and his Dales. A song came on that struck a chord (ha ha), deep within. It was an instrumental, heavy guitar and bass, and sounded very familiar. I just couldn’t name it. Admittedly, with my advanced state of dementia, that occurs more and more now. This song was so familiar, though, I felt I had to know it. I waited for it to be announced after the five song play, and deduced that it was a song called, “Rumble” by Link Wray. The announcer went on to give some footnotes about Link Wray, how he was from Dunn, North Carolina, etc.
Well, now Chip and Dale were safe for a while. I dug into Link Wray and found out that he was the basis for all of the music that I worshiped as an early teen. It was his arrangement for “Ghost Riders In The Sky” that was the first instrumental I learned to play. Back in the day, our little garage band, the “V.I.P.s”, played surf music to make a little money and build a lot of ego. We followed the Ventures, Dick Dale, and The Beach Boys like they were the Second Coming. As soon as a new album came out, we set about dissecting the songs until we felt confident enough to unleash our efforts on the public. We’d replay a track on the record over and over until we transposed our parts. I swear I thought the grooves on the record would disappear before we would get the licks right.
One of my favorites, “Apache”, took a particularly long time to learn. Turns out, “Apache” was one of three songs with Native American themes that Link Wray wrote. The other two were called, “Comanche”, and “Shawnee”. Link, himself, was a Shawnee. Maybe his Native American roots were the reason that radio stations banned his most famous work, “Rumble”, from the airwaves. The song was written in 1958, and it was felt that hearing the song would cause urban gangs to riot. I’ll have to research to see if any other instrumental has been banned before or since, but none come to mind. Maybe being banned was just another area where Link Wray was ahead of his time. Being the first Native American with a hit record was another. “Rumble” sold over a million copies when it was released in 1958.
Link Wray is credited with being the father of the power chord and distortion. His influence through out rock is legendary. Pete Townsend claims he would have never picked up a guitar had he not heard Link Wray play. I’ll put myself in that company. I just didn’t realize that Link Wray was the root of the tree, and that The Ventures, Dick Dale, and others were just the branches. My ignorance knows no bounds, but at least I’m willing to admit it. Not proud of it, but I am aware of it.