Link Wray

Rock’n’roll musician Link Wray reigns supreme as one of the best, most important, influential and innovative guitarists to emerge from the 50s. Wray was the creator of the power-chord and was one of the first musicians to experiment with both distortion and the burning fuzz-tone guitar sound in his instrumental recordings; his harsh and raw, yet potent and effective simple guitar style inspired such rock music genres as heavy metal, punk, thrash, and alternative rock. Link primarily recorded instrumentals during his peak years in the 50s and 60s, but also did some singing as well in his distinctively rough’n’growly voice.

He was born as Fred Lincoln Wray, Jr. on March 2, 1929 in Dunn, North Carolina. He was the second son of Fred and Lillian Mae and was three quarters Shawnee Indian. Wray was taught at age eight how to play guitar from a black man named Hambone. Link served as an Army medic during the Korean war and contracted tuberculosis during his tour of duty (he lost a lung to the disease in 1956). Wray played guitar in a band with his brothers Doug and Vernon following his stint in the Army. They performed country and western music at local clubs in Virginia. The entire Wray family moved to Washington, DC in 1955. In 1957 Wray formed a new rock’n’roll band called Link Wray and the Raymen. Link scored his greatest and most vital hit in 1958 with the extremely intense and moody instrumental classic “Rumble,” which went to #16 on the Billboard charts and sold over a million copies. Wray’s follow-up tunes “Rawhide” and “Jack the Ripper” likewise did well. Alas, such latter excellent and exciting hard-rocking instrumentals as “Dixie-Doodle,” “Run Chicken Run,” “Deuces Wild,” and “Ace of Spades” all failed to crack the pop charts. However, Wray nonetheless amassed a huge and loyal worldwide cult following.

In the late 70s Link recorded two albums for and toured with rockabilly revivalist Robert Gordon. His songs have been featured on the soundtracks to such films as “Riding Giants,” “Confessions of A Dangerous Mind,” “Independence Day,” “Desperado,” “Pulp Fiction,” “Breathless,” and “Pink Flamingos.” Link continued to record albums and perform at concerts all over the world right to the end. Link Wray died at age 76 from heart failure on November 5, 2005 at his home in Copenhagen, Denmark.

By Woody Anders

Kim Novak

Kim Novak was born in Chicago, Illinois on February 13, 1933 with the birth name of Marilyn Pauline Novak. She was the daughter of a former teacher turned transit clerk and his wife, also a former teacher. Throughout elementary and high school, Kim did not get along well with teachers. She even admitted that she didn’t like being told what to do and when to do it. Her first job, after high school, was modeling teen fashions for a local department store. Kim, later, won a scholarship in a modeling school and continued to model part-time. Kim later worked odd jobs as an elevator operator, sales clerk, and a dental assistant. The jobs never seemed to work out so she fell back on modeling, the one job she did well. After a stint on the road as a spokesperson for an appliance company, Kim decided to go to Los Angeles and try her luck at modeling there.
Ultimately, her modeling landed her an uncredited bit part in The French Line (1953). The role encompassed nothing more than being seen on a set of stairs. Later a talent agent arranged for a screen test with Columbia Pictures and won a small six month contract. In truth, some of the studio hierarchy thought that Kim was Columbia’s answer to Marilyn Monroe. Kim, who was still going by her own name of Marilyn, was originally going to be called “Kit Marlowe”. She wanted to at least keep her family name of Novak, so the young actress and studio personnel settled on Kim Novak. After taking some acting lessons, which the studio declined to pay for, Kim appeared in her first film opposite Fred MacMurray in Pushover (1954). Though her role as “Lona McLane” wasn’t exactly a great one, it was her classic beauty that seemed to capture the eyes of the critics. Later that year, Kim appeared in the film, Phffft (1954) with Jack Lemmon and Judy Holliday. Now more and more fans were eager to see this bright new star. These two films set the tone for her career with a lot of fan mail coming her way. Her next film was as “Kay Greylek” in 5 Against the House (1955). The film was well-received, but it was her next one for that year that was her best to date.

The film was Picnic (1955). Although Kim did a superb job of acting in the film as did her costars, the film did win two Oscars for editing and set decoration. Kim’s next film was with United Artists on a loan out in the controversial Otto Preminger film The Man with the Golden Arm (1955). Her performance was flawless, but it was Kim’s beauty that carried the day. The film was a big hit. In 1957, Kim played “Linda English” in the hit movie Pal Joey (1957) with Frank Sinatra and Rita Hayworth. The film did very well at the box-office, but was condemned by the critics. Kim really didn’t seem that interested in the role. She even said she couldn’t stand people such as her character. That same year, Novak risked her career when she embarked upon an affair with singer/actor Sammy Davis Jr.. The interracial affair alarmed studio executives, most notably Harry Cohn, and they ended the relationship in January of the following year. In 1958, Kim appeared in Alfred Hitchcock‘s, now classic, Vertigo (1958) with Jimmy Stewart. This film’s plot was one that thoroughly entertained the theater patrons wherever it played. The film was one in which Stewart’s character, a detective, is hired to tail a suicidal blonde half his age (Kim). He later finds out that Kim is actually a brunette shop girl who set him up as part of a murder scheme. Her next film was Bell Book and Candle (1958) which was only a modest success.

By the early 1960s, the 20-something Novak’s star was beginning to fade. Although she was still young, she was being overpowered by the rise of new stars or stars that were remodeling their status within the film community. With a few more nondescript films between 1960 and 1964, she landed the role of “Mildred Rogers” in the remake of Of Human Bondage (1964). The film debuted to good reviews. While filming The Amorous Adventures of Moll Flanders (1965), she had a romance with co-star Richard Johnson, whom she married, but the marriage failed the following year, although they remain friends. Kim stepped away from the cameras for a while, returning in 1968 to star in The Legend of Lylah Clare (1968). It was a resounding flop, perhaps the worst of her career. However, after that, Kim, basically, was able to pick what projects she wanted. After The Great Bank Robbery (1969) in 1969, Kim was away for another four years until returning in 1973. That year she starred in the British horror film Tales That Witness Madness (1973) with Joan Collins and was seen in a television movie called The Third Girl from the Left (1973) (TV), playing a veteran Las Vegas showgirl experiencing a midlife crisis. Again she took another hiatus before appearing in The White Buffalo (1977). She followed this up with the flop “Just a Gigolo” (1978), where she starred opposite David Bowie). However she did gain some attention in the mystery/thriller The Mirror Crack’d (1980), co-starring Elizabeth Taylor, Tony Curtis, Rock Hudson and Angela Lansbury. Five years later, she appeared in her third television movie, “Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Pilot ” (1985).
From 1986 to 1987, Kim played, of all people, “Kit Marlowe”, in the fourth season of the TV series “Falcon Crest” (1981). She played the lead in the little-seen movie The Children (1990), where she starred opposite Ben Kingsley and fellow Hitchcock actress Karen Black. Kim’s last film, on the silver screen to date, was Liebestraum (1991), in which she played a terminally ill woman with a past. Since then, she has rejected many offers to appear in films and on TV.

However, unlike many of her Hollywood peers, Kim has maintained stability in her personal life. Since 1976, she has been married to Dr. Robert Malloy (b. 1940), a veterinarian. She now lives on a ranch in Oregon and is an accomplished artist who expresses herself in oil paintings and sculptures. Kim and her husband now raise lamas and horses, and frequently ski and go canoeing.

Kim began writing an autobiography in 2000, but it was lost when her house caught on fire, destroying the computer that contained her only draft. In a rare 2007 interview, the still-stunning Novak said she would consider returning to acting “if the right thing came along”.

By Denny Jackson

Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps

Born:

Vincent Eugene Craddock, February 11, 1935, Norfolk, VA; died October 12, 1971 (Newhall, CA).

Early years:

Ironically, considering the fate of his peers, a traffic accident began Gene’s career. Although the young Eugene had been playing guitar since the age of 12, it was only after a stint in the Navy in 1955, where he was badly injured while riding his Triumph motorcycle, that he decided to pursue music full-time. Released from the service and recuperating, Vincent began hanging out at Norfolk, VA, country station WCMS, eventually getting on air to sing an original song called “Be-Bop-A-Lula.”
That song, allegedly written in the VA hospital along with a fellow patient, caught the attention of DJ Bill “Sheriff Tex” Davis, who began to manage Vincent. Soon Davis got the young singer a contract with Capitol, who wanted to groom him as their answer to Elvis Presley. With a new band, the Blue Caps, assembled from the core of his old country band, the Virginians, Gene and company were on their way. “Lula,” while originally the b-side of
another song, was an instant smash hit.
   Vincent managed to hit the Top Forty in ’57 with “Lotta Lovin’,” but he and the Caps simply rocked too hard for radio. It was those legendary ’56 sides, however, that kept Vincent viable as a performing  artist, both here and in Europe. By the late Sixties, Gene had fallen victim to changing times, financial mismanagement, and his own worsening addiction to alcohol. In October 1971, a sick Vincent went on a three-day bender that ruptured existing stomach ulcers; he died soon after.

Other facts:

  • Gene’s swaggering onstage presence was due to his leg brace
  • Recorded some sessions with Eddie Cochran in 1957; was in the car during Eddie’s fatal crash
  • The band was arrested in 1958 in connection with a nearby murder, but cleared
  • Was close friends with the Doors’ Jim Morrison; the band was slated to back him up at a revival show in ’69 but Alice Cooper’s band filled in instead
  • After hearing “Be-Bop-A-Lula,” Elvis’ bassist, Bill Black, accused the King of making the record in secret

Ava Gardner

Date of Birth 24 December 1922, Grabtown, North Carolina,

USA Date of Death 25 January 1990, Westminster, London, England, UK (bronchial pneumonia)

Birth Name: Ava Lavinia Gardner 

Born on a tobacco farm, where she got her lifelong love of earthy language and going barefoot, Ava grew up in the rural South. At age 18, her picture in the window of her brother-in- law’s New York photo studio brought her to the attention of MGM, leading quickly to Hollywood and a film contract based strictly on her beauty. With zero acting experience, her first 17 film roles, 1942-5, were one-line bits or little better. After her first starring role in B-grade ‘Whistle Stop’ (1946), MGM loaned her to Universal for her first outstanding film, ‘The Killers’ (1946).

Few of her best films were made at MGM which, keeping her under contract for 17 years, used her popularity to sell many mediocre films. Perhaps as a result, she never believed in her own acting ability, but her latent talent shone brightly when brought out by a superior director, as with John Ford in ‘Mogambo’ (1953) and George Cukor in ‘Bhowani Junction’ (1956).

After 3 failed marriages, dissatisfaction with Hollywood life prompted Ava to move to Spain in 1955; most of her subsequent films were made abroad. By this time, stardom had made the country girl a cosmopolitan, but she never overcame a deep insecurity about acting and life in the spotlight.

Her last quality starring film role was in ‘The Night of the Iguana’ (1964), her later work being (as she said) strictly “for the loot”. In 1968, tax trouble in Spain prompted a move to London, where she spent her last 22 years in reasonable comfort. Her film career did not bring her great fulfillment, but her looks may have made it inevitable; many fans still consider her the most beautiful actress in Hollywood history.

By Rod Crawford