While there’s no doubt that 1958 was a good year for music, many of the hitmakers at that time were making love songs in the old style. Acts like Dean Martin, Perry Como, and Nat King Cole were all crooners whose music inspired polite waltzes around the dance floor and quiet evenings by the fire. But, a new genre of music of was making its way to the top of the charts: rock ‘n roll. Alongside the likes of Elvis Presley and The Champs was an unknown artist whose music shook things up- so much that one song in particular was banned from the radio.

Via: Flickr/Daniel Hartwig

Link Wray had a hit with his 1958 song, “Rumble”. Despite having no words, the song was deemed too controversial for radio play. In a 1984 interview Wray recalled that at the time the song was written it was only young people who seemed to be able to enjoy it, with older folks calling it garbage.

The song was written in an off-the-cuff way. Wray had been playing a live event when a fight broke out in the audience. Instead of ignoring it or playing as if nothing was happening, he sought to make his music conform to the atmosphere of the fight: moody, angsty, harsh. He said he was making fun of the fight more than anything, but people who heard it later asked him to play it again and that’s when he knew he had something great.

Via: Wiki Commons/Rundvald

He named the song “Rumble” since that was the term at the time for fights and gang brawls. But, the song was to usher in a new way of using electric guitars to create new sounds that were heavy, fuzzy, distorted, or otherwise unique. Some have called him the godfather of fuzz or the inventor of the power chord. But, he’s also been credited with forming the musical basis for heavy metal, punk, thrash, and other genres as well. And, that is part of why the song was deemed so controversial at the time- those kinds of music didn’t exist yet and it was thought that if young people heard these types of sounds it would lead to chaos, violence, and complete disregard for the rules.

Wray had a follow up hit the next year with “Rawhide” a song that was got its fair share of airtime, but “Rumble” remains a classic that sold more than a million copies- all without being played on the radio. It was the only instrumental to be denied airtime on American radio!

You can listen to “Rumble” below and hear for yourself what was too racy to play on air in 1958.

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