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.