Alvino Rey’s Musical Legacy

As the father of the electric guitar and grandfather of two members of Arcade Fire, Rey was a major influence on rock for decades

Alvino Rey may not be a household name today, but Rey's genre-busting fretwork in electric music's nascent years helped set the stage for modern rock. (Courtesy of Lynn A Wheelwright-Alvino Rey Archive)

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“He was a very, very funny, very kind, very unselfish person,” Butler said. “He was a pilot, he loved to cook, he loved the ham radio. I hate the word humble, but it was not about him.”

But sometimes he rued what he helped create.

“He would say little smarty remarks about [rock] artists, but he would still respect them, and anyone who was successful,” said his son, Jon Rey, who lives in his parents’ old house. “I’m sure my dad would just be totally thrilled at what Win [Butler] is doing. I don’t know if he would like his music too much.”

At the time of his death, at age 95 in 2004, Alvino Rey was working on a new recording, his daughter said.

“He never felt he could retire,” she said. “It was this passion for doing more. His legacy was – tell our story, and make sure people hear these songs, and don’t let them die.”

Before the year ended, his grandsons’ band released its first album, Funeral, to critical acclaim.

“His funeral was really kind of amazing,” Will Butler said, describing how his great-aunts and other relatives performed. “It was just this really wonderful celebration that really circled around music and family. I don’t know if I’d been to any funerals at that point, and it was a powerful experience.”

“Alvino lived with his wife and ran a band, and now Win lives with his wife and runs a band,” Will Butler said. “They were musicians, and had a family, and had a larger musical family around them—it was a common cause. That’s very apropos to us.”

Will Butler, too, doubts his grandfather would have liked Arcade Fire’s music, but he says that laughing. His grandfather, Butler says, was a far better musician.


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