Vernon Wray “Wasted”

Born at Fort Bragg, NC in ’24, Vernon “Lucky” Wray is the much lesser known but no less talented older brother  of the original Shawnee rocker Link Wray of “Rumble” fame. Having learned to play guitar by the age of 11, Vernon played rhythm guitar and bass behind Link for the better part of Link’s career.

Vernon was a tortured innovator. He ran one of the country’s first DIY record labels called Rumble Records named after the family hit in 1958, and was host to an American Bandstand knock-off out of DC called “The Milt Grant Show”.  Around this time Vernon acting as manager and producer of the Ray Men, decided to set up a family recording studio, which had a number of temporary homes that included the family grocery store before coming to a temporary rest in a ramshackle shed on the family property in Accokeek, Maryland where it was famously dubbed “Wray’s Shack 3 Tracks”. This humble set-up produced a genuine musical treasure trove which included the classic Ray Men cuts on the Swan imprint, the spectacular Link Wray LP as well as a bevy of recordings from other local musicians.

Despite his success, life on the east coast was just a bit too hectic for Vernon. In the spring of ’72 he packed up the back wall of the recording shack and high-tailed it to Tuscon, AZ to “mellow out”. In Tuscon he rebuilt the recording studio renaming it Vernon Wray’s Record Factory after upgrading it to eight tracks from three. It was here that Vernon was able to put to tape his much mellower solo work released in two batches as “Superstar at My House” and “Wasted”. The former being released exclusively on cassette and 8-track tape, and the latter by Vermillion Records on vinyl in a run of about 400 copies sold only at shows in Tuscon. Both albums are extremely rare and prized.

Prized for good reason. “Wasted”, released in ’72 is rare in more ways than just its limited availability – as a lost classic it’s pure gold. Laced throughout with the sparkling guitar work of his brother Link, the tasteful drumming of his other brother Doug, Vernon’s understated piano and a host of interesting stereo production effects, the album has a lot to offer musically.

More countrified in its spirit and laid-back in tone than his earlier work with his brother at the front, “Wasted” is lyrically lonely and heartfelt while managing to not become mired in depression.  On songs like “Facing All the Same Tomorrows” and “Prison Song” Vernon’s smooth honey voice is balm to the world weariness that he speaks to. The heavy themes Vernon sings about are at the same time personal and universal as exemplified by the cut “Faces in the Crowd” in which Vernon confronts the isolation that he must have felt in the cities of the East coast and offers the hope of a salvation tendered by “Mother Nature out West”, as embodied by the lively flute playing in the background.

Even though there is a common thread of world weariness throughout, not all of it is expressed in a heavy musical manner. Vernon romps through the swampy floor stomper “Tailpipe” in which he likens the effect of his latest romance on his person to a dilapidated car – you can decipher the analogy in the title. The relatively upbeat country bar-room “tear in my beer” vibe of “When I Start Drinking” has just the right amount of twangy drunken camaraderie to make you smile.

The casual listener might find some of his lyrical themes dated or trite on songs such as “God is Color Blind”, however someone familiar with the other songwriting of the early 70’s Wray brothers can see the unabashed sincerity shine on in a way that is still relevant. Vernon wanted a better world. I hope he found it in 1979 after he passed away. Our world is about to get much better as “Wasted” has recently been licensed for a vinyl rerelease by Sebastian Speaks out of Nashville.

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:) Original Vinyl | 1972 | Vermillion | search ebay ]
:) Vinyl Reissue | 2011 | Sebastian Speaks | order here ]

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  • The record label Sebastian Speaks will be reissuing Wasted in early 2011 in vinyl format. As with the original, it is limited to 1000 copies only. The recordings have been remastered with new liner notes.

    Sebastian Speaks has licensed the rights to these recordings directly from Vernon’s family making this the first family authorized release since it was frost pressed in 1972. Keep an eye on for the latest info.

  • Len Liechti

    Great review, Thom, and great tunes. Love the “wasted” boogie sound on “Tailpipe”. A CD reissue is available on Big Pink from Korea, not sure whether this is legit or a boot.

  • Art Wray

    Wow…Vernon Wray’s Wasted album ! What a cool lp to review ! It took me years to find a copy and it’s the only one i’ ve ever seen . I’d never heard of the Superstar at My House cassette release , I hope it’s re reissued soon . It seems that around 1970 Link , Vernon ,Doug Wray and friends took a cue from Elvis’ ’68 comeback sessions , The Band’s Music From Big Pink and a dose of Harry Partch to create the blueprint for what came to be called “Americana”. Hell , That’s the way they started out years before. Pickin’ & singin’ in the round with whatever they had ! Check out the late John (Jack) Van Horn”s Mercury label release from “72 Out Back Music. It’s conceived in the spirit of the Accokeek Md. sessions although recorded in an urban studio . Jack Van Horn was the only guitarist I ever heard that could play like Link Wray ! You know, get that “tonal nuance”like Link . He and bassist Ed Cynar were Raymen from about 1964 on and studied at the foot of the master.They formed a band called The Pack in ’77 backing Link occasionally and releasing two singles and a cd. Johnny Van Horn Jr. rocks on today in his dad’s footsteps! Thanks , Art Wray

  • Thom

    Hey Art – glad to hear somebody appreciatin’ the material; it’s really an excellent album. I’ve seen a copy and heard a couple cuts off “Out Back Music” dating back to a friend’s radio show back in the early 90’s in Ann Arbor but since then zilch – I would LOVE to review that one too if i could get my hands on a copy but it remains in relative obscurity. Your last name has me curious about whether you are related to Vernon? Regards, Thom

  • Joe

    Hey, thanks for this gem. Im having trouble tracking down any more material recorded at “Wray’s Shack 3 Tracks” beyond Link Wray’s stuff. Any recommendations on other good stuff from there? I love the Wray bro’s and their production so much.

  • dividebytube

    Link Wray’s s/t (the first 3-Track Shack album) has skyrocketed to my top twenty list. It’s an album that blew me away the first time I ever heard it. I was expecting rockabilly twang, not the sheer Americana swamp-folk-rock album. I recommend this album to everyone I know, but I only get glassy stares.

  • Thom

    Hi Joe,

    There are a number of singles you can lay your hands on if your lucky, featuring Bobby Howard fronting “The Kid and the Ponies” and another group called Bunker Hill with David Walker singing. Most of these singles had one or more of the Wray brothers playing some instruments on them and were usually engineered by Vernon Wray under his studio pseudonym “Ray Vernon”. Another example is the rockabilly band the “Sting Rays” from Portsmouth, Virginia that recorded two 45s for Lawn and Vermillion. John Van Horn mentioned in Art’s comment above also recorded a lot of music with “Ray Vernon” backed by the “Fender Benders” and other bands often including Doug Wray on drums, and toured extensively with Link. JVH could certainly tell you about more recordings that happened there as he is still alive as far as I know — he even released a new album in 2000. Hope that helps – its a start at least. —- Thom

  • Just to follow up on a few questions posted here –

    The CD release of Wasted was not authorized by Vernon’s family, who still own the masters to the recordings. Have to admit, Big Pink did a nice job with it though.

    Plenty of recordings from the studios of Vernon are out there…from when he started in DC, to The Shack in Accokeek MD to Tucson. For a good overall review of stuff from Link, Vernon, Doug and Shorty as well as family, friends and more – plus the best listing of Vernon’s studio work with others, check out WangDangDula’s Wray pages at

    Thom – unfortunately, Link’s sideman John Van Horn passed several years ago. His son JVH Jr, Pat Greenwood (both whom have gigged with Link) as well as Ed Cynar (Rayman bass player after Shorty) carry on Link’s music as “Link Wray’s Raymen”. Important to note they play ALL eras of Link’s music, not just the classic guitar stuff. They can be found at

    And after being MIA for several decades, Bobbie “The Kid” Howard has been playing gigs around DC. Search for The British Walkers on Youtube.

    Stay tuned for more Link news…and there IS more coming this year…at and


  • Joe

    Thanks Thom and everyone else. I appreciate it man. Hopefully I can find mp3’s of some of that stuff though I’m sure they’re scarce if existent at all. If anyone knows of any particular websites hosting their material, I’d be indebted.

  • chris scovitch


  • Louder than Milk

    If Superstar at My House is ever made readily available please RS do a community service and let it be known. Wasted is 24 carat.

  • JAY

    Vernon was a personal friend of my in his Tucson days and he lived in my house for an extended period. He was a GREAT country singer and friend. I miss him very much….

  • Ellwood

    I have the original masters of Superstar at my House. And guess what, there was a Vol II. I also have live material from Mr. Henry’s. I’m thinking of releasing it on my label, Annecillo. I’ll keep you posted.

  • Another thing I might add is that Vernon and Milt Grant stoled LINK WRAY music. Vernon didn’t know how to duplicate it , so he and Milt Grant stole the rights for their own profit . but the only thing is that the conscience caught up with Vernon later down the road and drove him over the edge r I p the things we do for the MONEY. Is it really worth it ? scobieakalinkwray band laurel, md.

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