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"Rumble" is an instrumental by American group Link Wray & His Ray Men. Released in the United States on March 31, 1958, as a single (with "The Swag" as a B-side),[citation needed] "Rumble" utilized the techniques of distortion and feedback, then largely unexplored in rock and roll. The single is the only instrumental ever banned from radio in the United States.[2][3] It is also one of the first tunes to use the power chord,[4] the "major modus operandi of the modern rock guitarist".[5]

Rumble (instrumental).png
Single by Link Wray & His Ray Men
B-side"The Swag"
ReleasedMarch 31,1958[citation needed]
LabelCadence 1347
  • Milt Grant
  • Link Wray
Audio sample
30-second sample of "Rumble" by Link Wray & His Ray Men, 1958

In 2018, the song was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in a new category for singles.[6]


At a live gig in Fredericksburg, Virginia, in early 1958, attempting to work up a backing for The Diamonds' "The Stroll", Link Wray & His Ray Men came up with the instrumental "Rumble", which they originally called "Oddball".[7] It was an instant hit with the live audience, which demanded four repeats that night.

Eventually the instrumental came to the attention of record producer Archie Bleyer of Cadence Records, who hated it, particularly after Wray poked holes in his amplifier's speakers[8] to make the recording sound more like the live version. But Bleyer's stepdaughter loved it, so he released it despite his misgivings.[9] Phil Everly heard it and suggested the title "Rumble", as it had a rough sound and said it sounded like a street fight.

It was banned in several US radio markets because the term "rumble" was a slang term for a gang fight and it was feared that the piece's harsh sound glorified juvenile delinquency.[8] It became a hit in the United States, where it climbed to number 16 on the charts in the summer of 1958. Bob Dylan once referred to it as "the best instrumental ever".[10] The Dave Clark Five covered it in 1964 on their first album, A Session with The Dave Clark Five; it also appeared on their second American album, The Dave Clark Five Return!.

An updated version of the instrumental was released by Wray in 1969 as "Rumble '69" (Mr. G Records, G-820). In 2014 jazz guitarist Bill Frisell released a cover of "Rumble" on his album Guitar in the Space Age!.[11]


The 1980 Adam and the Ants song "Killer in the Home", from their Kings of the Wild Frontier album, is based on the same refrain that is featured in "Rumble" (Ants guitarist Marco Pirroni has cited Link Wray as a major influence).[9]

The piece is popular in various entertainment media. It has been used in movies, documentaries, television shows, and elsewhere, including Top Gear, The Warriors (in the deleted opening scene), Pulp Fiction,[12] Screaming Yellow Theater with host Svengoolie, Independence Day, SpongeBob SquarePants vs. The Big One, Blow, the pilot episode of the HBO series The Sopranos, Starcraft II, Riding Giants, Roadracers, and Wild Zero.

In an interview with Stephen Colbert on April 29, 2013, Iggy Pop stated that he "left school emotionally" at the moment he first heard "Rumble" at the student union, leading him to pursue music as a career.[13]

The title of the record serves as the title of the 2017 documentary film Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World which features, amongst others, the work of Wray and his impact on rock music as a man of Native American descent.


  1. ^ Richard Aquila (1989). That Old-time Rock & Roll: A Chronicle of an Era, 1954–1963. University of Illinois Press. p. 21. ISBN 978-0-252-06919-2.
  2. ^ Rodriguez, Robert A. (2005). The 1950s' Most Wanted: The Top 10 Book of Rock & Roll Rebels, Cold War Crises, and All-American Oddities. Potomac Books. p. 94. ISBN 978-1-57488-715-0. LCCN 2004013424.  'Rumble' has the distinction of being the only instrumental single banned from the radio airwaves. ... a song with such a provocative name and such menace to its power chords, could only spell trouble for impressionable listeners.
  3. ^ Tushnet, Mark V.; Chen, Alan K.; Blocher, Joseph (2017). "Instrumental Music and the First Amendment". Free Speech Beyond Words: The Surprising Reach of the First Amendment. NYU Press. p. 30. ISBN 978-1-4798-8028-7. LCCN 2016590840. OCLC 946161367. Nongovernmental institutions that control forums for musical expression have also played a censoring role. For example, in 1959, federally licensed American radio stations refused to broadcast the purely instrumental Link Wray song 'Rumble' on the basis of its title's association with street violence.
  4. ^ Zitz, Michael. Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star. Fredericksburg, VA. "Fredericksburg Offered up Fertile Spot for Rock's Roots" December 20, 2005.
  5. ^ AllMusic's Link Wray Biography
  6. ^ "Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inducts Songs for the First Time, Including 'Born to Be Wild' & 'Louie Louie'". Billboard. Retrieved April 15, 2018.
  7. ^ Jimmy McDonough, "The Link Wray Story", Perfect Sound Forever, 2006. Retrieved 13 September 2019
  8. ^ a b Sullivan, James (November 21, 2005). "Guitarist Link Wray Dies: Father of the power chord was seventy-six". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on April 2, 2019.
  9. ^ a b Doyle, Jack (May 10, 2010). "Rumble Riles Censors, 1958–59". Retrieved April 5, 2016.
  10. ^ Harrington, Richard (January 13, 2006). "Wray's 'Rumble' Still Reverberating". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on December 1, 2017. Bob Dylan ... who once called 'Rumble' 'the best instrumental ever', visited with [Link] Wray and [Robert] Gordon backstage after a 1978 London show.
  11. ^ Jurke, Thom. Bill Frisell – Guitar in the Space Age! > Review at AllMusic. Retrieved October 21, 2014.
  12. ^ Maury Dean, Rock 'n' Roll Gold Rush: A Singles Un-Cyclopedia (Algora Publishing, 2003), 438.
  13. ^ [1]

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