Album: Rumble (1958)
Charted: 16
  • songfacts ®
  • Wray came up with this when he was asked to play a stroll at one of his shows. The song was radically different from other popular instrumentals, as it introduced gritty guitar distortion and power chords to the world of rock.
  • Wray was with Archie Bleyer's Cadence label and he wanted to record this as a single. Bleyer was ready to pass on it until his step daughter said she liked it and that it reminded her of the rumble scenes in West Side Story. Bleyer named the song "Rumble" and decided to release it. The title made the song somewhat controversial because it implied gang violence - some radio stations refused to play it. It might be the only instrumental song ever banned on the radio.
  • Wray was drafted in 1951 and fought in the Korean War where he caught Tuberculosis. As a result, he had a lung removed in 1957 and couldn't sing. After returning from Korea, he joined his family band the Palomino Ranch Gang, and went on to record as "Lucky" Wray in 1956.
  • Wray used a 1953 Gibson Les Paul guitar run through a Premier amp to produce this song.
  • Pete Townshend once declared about Wray, "He is the King; if it hadn't been for 'Rumble,' I would have never picked up a guitar."
  • This was used in a 2017 commercial for the Ford Focus where a cat rides in the backseat and closes the window to drown out the sound of a barking dog.
  • The song was honored at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018 when they announced a category for "singles." Five other songs were selected along with it:

    "The Twist" - Chubby Checker
    "Rocket 88" - Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats
    "Louie Louie" - The Kingsmen
    "A Whiter Shade Of Pale" - Procol Harum
    "Born To Be Wild" - Steppenwolf
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Comments: 9

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn November 17, 1963, Jack Nitzsche's covered version of "Rumble" entered Billboard's Top 100 chart at position #91, the following week it remained at #91 and that was also it's second and last week on the Top 100...
    He had one other Top 100 record, "The Lonely Surfer", it peaked at #39 earlier in 1963 on September 8th...
    In 1983 he won the Academy Award for 'Best Original Song', he was co-composer of "Up Where We Belong" from the movie 'An Officer and A Gentleman'...
    Mr. Nitzsche, born Bernard Alfred Nitzsche, passed away at the age of 63 on August 25th, 2000...
    May he R.I.P.
    And from the 'For What It's Worth' department, there was another 'Rumble' on the Top 100 in 1963, this one was the group, the Rumblers, their instrumental "Boss" entered the Top 100 on Feb. 10th, 1963 at position #87, it then was off the chart for two weeks, it en-entered for one more week at position #100.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn February 10th 1959, Link Wray and His Wraymen also performed "Rumble" on the ABC-TV program 'American Bandstand' {See next post below}...
    Ten months earlier on April 13th, 1958 it entered Billboard's Top 100 chart at position #81*; seven weeks later on June 15th it would peak at #16 {for 1 week} and it stayed on the chart for 14 weeks...
    It was featured in the 1994 movie 'Pulp Fiction' and the pilot episode of HBO's 'The Sopranos'...
    In tribute to Link Wray, sixteen days after his death Bruce Springsteen opened his Trenton, NJ concert by playing "Rumble"...
    * According to Billboard, "Rumble" was actually tied at #81 with "A Very Precious Love" by the Ames Brothers.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn February 10th 1959, Link Wray and his Ray Men performed "Raw-hide" on the ABC-TV program 'American Bandstand'...
    At the time the song was at #72 on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; and five weeks later on March 23rd, 1959 it peaked at #23 {for one week} and spent 13 weeks on the Top 100...
    The group had two other records make the Top 100 chart; "Rumble" {#16 in 1958} and "Jack the Ripper" {#64 in 1963}...
    In 1977 "Red Hot" by Robert Gordon, with Link Wray on guitar, entered the Top 100 for a three week stay, peaking at #83...
    Fred Lincoln Wray Jr. passed away on November 5, 2005 at the age of 76...
    May he R.I.P.
  • Marcel from Barcelona, SpainI suppose the anecdote is true but I find an anachronism, Rumble was recorded in 1958 and West Side Story is from 1961, how is it possible?
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyBruce Springsteen opened his 11-21-2005 concert in New Jersey with this song. He did the song in tribute to Link Wray who died a few weeks earlier on 11-05-2005!!!
  • Paul from Cincinnati, Ohagreed, this is the business...and Link is awesome for being the first to use distortion..although you know that the reason why he did it was simply because he needed it to hear what he was playing due to prior hearing damage.
  • Sam from Shanghai, ChinaI don't think people really appreciate the value of this song. I mean, it was directly influential in getting Pete Townshend to pick up a guitar and strum some power chords. I'm not sure what kind of guitar he used, but this website seems to think it was a Les Paul:
    http://home3.inet.tele.dk/sba/bio.htm
  • Brendan from Colts Neck, United StatesAccording to Rolling Stone, this is the first song ever recorded with what could be called distortion.


    Cool stuff.
  • Craig from Dunedin, New ZealandThis song is the business! Who needs words. I know that Link is probably using a Fender amp with reverb and tremelo. Does anyone know what sort of guitar he used?
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