30 Sep 2003
Herb Fame was born Herbert Feemster on October 1, 1942, but his name and fame will be forever linked to Peaches as half of Peaches and Herb, known as the Sweethearts of Soul. Herb began singing in church when he was seven years old, and in D.C. neighborhood groups through high school. After high school, he worked in a record store. Herb signed with Van McCoy (who would produce “The Hustle”) and Date Records in 1965 as a solo artist. Another DC group, The Sweet Things, also signed with Date Records. McCoy used some leftover recording time to pair Herb with Sweet Things’ Francine “Peaches” Barker. The A-side, “We’re in This Thing Together,” didn’t do much, but the B-side, “Let’s Fall in Love,” became Peaches and Herb’s first hit single, going to number 11 on the R&B; chart in December 1966. The song had been a number one pop hit for Eddy Duchin in 1934.
The duo’s follow-up, “Close your Eyes,” written by Chuck Willis, went to number four on the R&B chart and number eight on the pop chart in 1967. Peaches and Herb had more hits in 1967 including “For Your Love,” a remake of Mickey and Sylvia’s “Love is Strange,” “Close Your Eyes,” and “Two Little Kids.” Their two hit albums in 1967 were “For Your Love” and “Let’s Fall in Love.”
Francine Barker left the duo in 1967 and was replaced by a series of “Peaches.” The hits continued over the next few years, including “The Ten Commandments of Love,” “United,” “When He Touches Me (Nothing Else Matters),” and “It’s Just a Game, Love.”
Herb decided to quit singing in 1970 and joined the Washington, D.C. police department, from which he is now retired. He released a few singles on his own BS label, but it wasn’t until 1977 that he made a comeback, this time with Linda Greene as the new Peaches. They charted that year with the Van McCoy- produced “We’re Still Together” on MCA Records. The next year, the duo signed with Polydor Records and Herb’s old friend Freddie Perren. Herb and Perrin, had been friends when they both worked in DC record stores. Perren had gone on to produce and write for the Jackson 5 and the Miracles, among others. Peaches and Herb’s first single, “Shake Your Groove Thing,” went gold in 1978. That same year their biggest hit, “Reunited,” went platinum, hitting the number one spot for four weeks on both the R&B; and pop charts. Both songs were on the 1979 platinum album “2 Hot.” Other hit songs that followed included “We’ve Got Love,” “Roller Skate Mate (Part 1) and “I Pledge My Love.”
(May 1929 – November 2005)
Born Frederick Lincoln Wray on May 2, 1929, in Dunn, North Carolina, Link Wray is considered by some to be the grandfather of the power chord, referring to his seminal 1958 recording, “Rumble,” with its menacing, raw, and distorted opening chords. Link Wray became one of the most influential rock and roll guitarists of the 1950s with his pioneering use of distortion and fuzztone.
Link started his first band in Portsmouth, Virginia in the 1940s with his brothers Doug and Vernon. Calling themselves Lucky Wray and the Lazy Pine Wranglers and, later, Lucky Wray and the Palomino Ranch Hands, they played western swing. Link’s musical career was interrupted when he had to serve two years in the US Army during the Korean War. While in the service, he contracted tuberculosis, which wasn’t discovered until he had returned to the US and moved to the DC area with his family in 1955. The illness cost him a lung and doctors told Link that he’d never sing again.
Link decided to concentrate on his guitar work, and he became the anchor of the brothers’ newly renamed band “The Raymen,” with Doug playing drums and Vernon producing. The band became regulars on the DC circuit, playing at clubs such as Strick’s, Rendezvous, Quonset Hut, The Crossroads, Ben’s Bar and Grill, Ozarks, and Vinnie’s.
One of their fans was Milt Grant, who hosted the “Milt Grant Show,” a popular daily rock and roll television program. The Raymen made frequent appearances on the show and local Grant-produced “record hops,” backing many national rock and roll artists of the day, including Fats Domino and Ricky Nelson. Vernon quit the band in order to start a recording company, produce, and manage artists. The Raymen (interchangeably spelled with a W and an R) now consisted of Link, brother Doug on drums, and Shorty Horton on bass.
The story goes that The Raymen were backing up The Diamonds for one of Grant’s Record Hops, in Fredericksburg Arena, in Fredericksburg, VA. According to Link, when the band was on stage, Grant asked them to play a stroll (“The Stroll” was one of The Diamonds’ hits) Link said, “I don’t know no stroll,” but his brother started playing the beat on the drums. According to Link, it was at that moment that “Jesus God” zapped the “Rumble” into his head. The crowd went wild and the band played the instrumental four times that night.
Realizing they were on to something, Vernon had the Raymen try to put the song, originally named “Oddball,” on tape. Link lore has it that when the frustrated Link couldn’t get the dirty sound he’d gotten on stage, he punched holes in his amps’ tweeters with a pencil, and the Fuzztone was born.
Grant took the demo tape to Archie Bleyer, of Cadence Records, who hated it. However, Bleyer’s teenaged daughter loved it, saying it reminded her of “West Side Story.” Bleyer renamed the song “Rumble.” The instrumental was banned in some cities, including New York, for being too suggestive of gang warfare. Eventually, the band was asked to appear on American Bandstand and four million ‘45s of “Rumble” were sold.
Link and his Raymen wrote many other instrumental hits, including The Swag and Rawhide (released locally in 1960 and again on Epic in 1963), which led to a second American Bandstand appearance. Other classics such as Ace of Spaces, Run Chicken Run, and Jack the Ripper followed, but none was as popular or commercially successful as “Rumble.”
He lives in Denmark with Olive and son Oliver, and continues to record and occasionally tour overseas. His last US tour was in 2003; he played 18 dates at the age of 75.
During the 1990s new fans discovered Link Wray as his music was featured in movies including Breathless, Desperado, Independence Day, 12 Monkeys; This Boy’s Life, Pulp Fiction, Blow, and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.
Content courtesy of Washington Area Music Association.
Featured image photo credit: David Warner Ellis/Redferns