R.I.P. LINK WRAY by Brian Roper

Posted: October 22, 2005 in Best of file 23

The shock is just now closing in on me like a vise.

The man was in his seventies; why am I shocked? We’re all gonna die; I know that.

Maybe it’s because Link WRAY had a special place in my heart. When I saw the Who in 1976 here in Fort Worth, I wanted an electric guitar worse than anything on earth. Peter Townsend made it look so easy.

Years later when I did get one, I discovered it wasn’t. But he motivated me to at least try. Twenty years later, I had just about given up on rock and roll.

(c)Rap had taken over the music industry, and rock had been reduced to a pathetic lump of more-comical-than-they’ll-ever-know hair-metal bands and all that was left of the punk scene was a legion of forgettable sound-alike bands.

Then I saw a tiny ad in a local free paper for Link Wray at Trees over in Dallas. I rallied a couple of friends to join me, and eastward we went on I-30. He came out on stage many hours later, hit a chord and turned it UP. The noise. That wonderful, joyful noise. In a split-second, Link Wray had re-kindled my love of rock and roll. He played songs I had hoped never again to hear in my life like BORN TO BE WILD and I loved it.

That was ten years ago, and I haven’t had that feeling since. Except once. He came back a second time in 1998 and played the now-defunct Caravan Of Dreams club right here in Fort Worth. It was a cold, dark and miserable Febuary night.

We had a hail storm, followed by spotty fits of rain. I put on my black leather jacket and braved the elements and went anyway. There must have been no more than fifty people inside the club; pathetic!

How could this be?

It only re-enforced my perception of Fort Worth being a city of unappreciative morons. Pearls before swine, indeed.

If they had cancelled the show, I wouldn’t have been surprised. But he came out anyway, smiling behind those shades, and played loud and hard in spite of the sparse audience. And I was there, sitting at a table front and center and smiling back at him.

Got him to sign a couple of LPs after the show and shook his hand. And all was right with my world that night. And now…he’s gone. Even now as I type this, the shock is just now setting in.

It’s been seven years and it seems like yesterday. So much and so little has changed since then. We’ve lost three-fourths of the Ramones. The entertainment industry is still trying to cram (c)rap down our throats and I’m still not buying.

And there are VERY few rock acts I can get genuinely excited about. But I remember standing not once, but twice in the presence of greatness. I’m trying so hard to avoid all the cliches about Rock and Roll Heaven but if there is one, I hope God’s got earplugs. He’s gonna need ’em.

Rumble on, Link.

BR 11-22-2005

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