The sound you are hearing is the sound of drums beating for Link Wray, a Shawnee guitarist whose menacing 1958 hit instrumental Rumble was a radical step in the history of modern rock guitar. The tune and the late Wray are a huge part of Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World, an award-winning Canadian documentary about the role Native Americans played in popular music history. Co-directed by Catherine Bainbridge and Alfonso Maiorana, the film premieres on HBO Canada on Nov. 5. The Globe talked to Stevie Salas, an Apache guitarist, adviser to the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian and one of the movie’s executive producers.

Link Wray is about the recent list of nominations for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Am I the only one who presumed that he was in there?

I have been working on becoming Link Wray nominated for numerous years. A whole lot of my friends are on the board, or with the Hall of Fame in some manner. A good deal of them were amazed, as you were, that he is not in the Hall. He did get on the nomination list a couple of years back, but without anybody calling and reminding people, it is hard. Everyone needs a winner.

This movie does a fairly good job of championing him. Can it help him get nominated?

It had a lot to do with it. I received telephone calls. I can not tell you {}. However, they were utilizing our movie for footage to lobby for Link. They realize it is crazy for him to not be in the Hall. I have a feeling he will get in — if not this year, then for sure next year. He’s on everybody’s radar now.

Although Link Wray’s signature tune Rumble is an instrumental, with no words, it had been prohibited on American radio, for fear it would stir up adolescent violence. Did his race have something to do with it?

No, I do not think it did. With Connect, I do not think people understood. Nobody really talked about it back then. You didn’t need to be a Native American in 1957 or ’58. Robbie Robertson’s mother, who was a Mohawk, told Robbie to be pleased he was an Indian, but to be careful who he advised.

What about today? Canada in recent years has celebrated Indigenous musicians like Tanya Tagaq, Buffy Sainte-Marie and A Tribe Called Red in a large way. Is the United States behind the curve in that regard?

Absolutely. In the States, nobody [cares] unless it can make money or it may draw a television audience. It’s ridiculous. What Tanya Tagaq has done is just what the people behind Rumble have done. Tanya is inspiring worldwide musicians like Bjork and the Kronos Quartet, where her civilization has become part of something that helps their audio. And Buffy Sainte-Marie, who’s among the celebrities of our movie, is extremely important too.

One can make a case for her to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame too.

Like I said, it requires some lobbying. And perhaps Buffy Sainte-Marie does not have the numbers, as a recording artist. She’d be in the Songwriters Hall of Fame for certain. She must be, if she is not.

She isn’t.

Well, I bet you there is 50 or 60 people who have recorded her songs. Not to mention that among these, Up Where We Belong, won an Academy Award and a Grammy Award.

If Link Wray makes it to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, there’ll be no shortage of people qualified to induct him. Pete Townshend said if it had not been for Link Wray and the tune Rumble, he would have never picked up a guitar.

That’s true. Jeff Beck explained, right to my head, that when he and Jimmy Page were 17 years old, they would play air guitar in his mother’s home. I used to play air guitar to Led Zeppelin. Slash used to, also. Consequently, if we were playing air guitar to Led Zeppelin, we are really feeling what stone ‘n’ roll is, through osmosis, through Link Wray. He really should be about the Mount Rushmore of stone ‘n’ roll.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

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