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Fredericksburg offered up fertile spot for rock's roots
Get ready for a shock: Fredericksburg was a birthplace of punk rock, heavy metal

 Link Wray pioneered the power chord at a Fredericksburg dance.
FILE/CHERYL GERBER/ASSOCIATED PRESS
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Date published: 12/20/2005

By MICHAEL ZITZ

It may come as a shock to teens bored by the local music scene, but punk rock and heavy metal have their roots in Fredericksburg.

Few remember that guitar legend Link Wray, who died Nov. 5 at 76, was inspired to record his seminal instrumental 1958 song "Rumble" by a request during a dance in Fredericksburg.

The primal sound called the power chord was introduced by "Rumble," and it has echoed for 47 years, influencing generations of rock guitarists.

The Who, The Rolling Stones and The Beatles probably would never have been heard from if it were not for that night in Fredericksburg, said Dan Del Fiorentino, historian for the Museum of Making Music in Carlsbad, Calif.

"Without the power chord, punk rock and heavy metal would not exist," he told The Free Lance-Star.

Wray lived in Accokeek, Md., at the time, and the Fredericksburg "record hop" was a paying gig for his band.

"And I don't think there's any doubt that night in Fredericksburg has an awful lot to do with the popularity of what later became the power chord," Del Fiorentino said. "Many historians who follow Wray's career believe the song was the direct result of that night. And that record became an influential part of American music."

Del Fiorentino said there's no doubt the power chord launched a different sort of style within rock 'n' roll.

"Punk music, and certainly heavy metal, has been tied directly to that power chord," he said.

In 1958, Wray wrote and recorded the instrumental "Rumble," which became a rock classic, even though in the beginning the song was banned by many American radio stations because of fears it might lead to gang violence.

But when the song took off, it spawned the playing style embraced by virtually all guitarists who play heavy rock.

In an interview with Guitar Player magazine in June, Wray described a scene reminiscent of the one in the film "Back to the Future" in which a time-traveling Michael J. Fox played guitar at a 1950s high school dance.


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