Roy Orbison

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Roy Orbison
Roy Orbison
Orbison in 1965
Background info
Full name Roy Kelton Orbison
Birthday/Birthplace (1936-04-23)April 23, 1936
Vernon, Texas, US
Deceased December 6, 1988(1988-12-06)
Hendersonville, Tennessee, US
  • Rock and roll
  • rock
  • rockabilly
  • country
  • pop
  • Singer-songwriter
  • musician
  • Vocals
  • guitar
  • harmonica
Active Years 1953–1988
Record Labels
  • Sun
  • RCA
  • Monument
  • London
  • Tonette
  • MGM
  • Mercury/PolyGram
  • Asylum
  • Virgin
Worked with
  • Traveling Wilburys
  • Teen Kings
  • The Wink Westerners
  • Class of ’55
  • Jimmy Buffett
  • k.d. lang
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • Emmylou Harris
Official Website

Roy Kelton Orbison (Vernon, Texas, United States, April 23, 1936-Hendersonville, Tennessee, December 6, 1988), nicknamed “The Big O” and known as “Lefty Wilbury” »During his participation in the Traveling Wilburys supergroup, he was an American rock and roll singer and songwriter whose career spanned 32 years.

In the mid-sixties, Orbison was internationally recognized for his ballads about lost loves, for his rhythmically advanced melodies, his three-octave vocal range, his characteristic dark glasses and an occasional use of falsetto, typified in songs like “Only the Lonely “,” Oh, Pretty Woman “and” Crying “. In 1988 he was posthumously placed in the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Regarding his appearance, Orbison was neither albino nor almost blind, although due to the childhood illness of a combination of hyperopia, severe astigmatism, anisometropia and strabismus, he had to wear special glasses. In any case, the use of his peculiar sunglasses was the result of an accident at the beginning of his career: after forgetting his usual glasses on a plane, he was forced to use the sun, which also had graduated, to handle with ease on the stage where he had to act. He wore those glasses during his tour with The Beatles and then adopt them forever. In fact, he did not take them off even to sleep and sometimes he got up with the mark on his face.

Roy Orbison’s Biography

First years

Orbison was born in Vernon, Texas, as the second child of Nadine and Orbie Lee. After moving to Fort Worth around 1943 to find work in the ammunition factories and air assets at full capacity by World War II, the family moved again towards the end of 1946 to a small city dedicated to oil, Wink. Music was an important part of his family life.

In 1949, at the age of 13, she organized her first musical group, The Wink Westerners, and when she was not singing she played the guitar and wrote songs. The group appeared every week on a radio station, KERB, in Kermit, Texas. Orbison graduated from Wink High School in 1954. He studied at North Texas State College in Denton, Texas for a year, and enrolled at Odessa Junior College in 1955 to study history and English. The Wink Westerners were quite successful on local television, they performed thirty minutes a week at KMID and then at KOSA. One of the guests to his performance was Johnny Cash, who would facilitate the signing of a contract with his producer, Sam Phillips, Sun Records. They renamed the group The Teen Kings and Orbison left the faculty in 1956, determined to make music a serious occupation.

Many of the first songs he recorded were produced by Sam Phillips, who in addition to Cash produced Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley. Orbison got his first commercial success in July 1956 with “Ooby Dooby”, a song written by friends of Orbison at the university. His song “Claudette” (named after his first wife) was recorded by the Everly Brothers as the face of his first number one, “AllHave To Do Is Dream”. However, the rockabilly and blues sounds of Sun’s artists did not provide Orbison with much success and his career seemed to stagnate, even though rockabilly fans consider these recordings the best written in this genre. For a time, he worked at Acuff-Rose Music in Nashville, Tennessee as a composer, and then got a contract with the RCA, but soon Chet Atkins sent him to Fred Foster, owner of Monument Records, with whom he signed after finalizing his contract with RCA. in 1959.

Rise and decline

At Monument, Foster encouraged him to break with his established style. Under his guidance, he began to write his own songs alone or in collaboration with Joe Melson and, later, with Bill Dees, developing his characteristic operatic voice, and creating an unprecedented sound in the rock and roll of the time. His first recording, “Uptown”, was a moderate success. With the performance of “Only the Lonely” and his immediate arrival at the top of the charts ((# 2 in the United States, # 1 in the United Kingdom), he became an international star. “Running Scared” became number 1 in the US During his stay at Monument Records, his instrumentalists were a group of exceptional studio musicians led by Bob Moore, the combination of Orbison’s voice with the dynamic and The harmonious sound of the band gave Orbison’s recordings a unique and perfectly identifiable sound.

Orbison was a powerful influence on contemporaries like The Rolling Stones. In 1963, he headed a European tour with The Beatles, becoming a friend of the band, in particular John Lennon and George Harrison. Orbison would later record with Harrison as part of the Traveling Wilburys. During that European tour, an impressed Orbison encouraged the Beatles to go to the United States. When they finally decided on it, they asked Orbison to direct the tour, but their own commitments prevented it.

Unlike many artists, Orbison maintained its success when the British invasion took place in the United States in 1964. Its simple “Oh, Pretty Woman” broke the hegemony of the Beatles in the top 10, reaching the number 1 in the lists Billboard The recording sold more copies in its first ten days of sale than any other disk of 45 rpm until then and would continue selling until reaching more than seven million copies. Years later, the song would be part of the soundtrack of the movie Pretty Woman, which launched the actress Julia Roberts to fame.

He toured with The Beach Boys in 1964, and with The Rolling Stones in Australia in 1965. He had great success in England, getting three numbers 1 and being voted several times as the best male singer of the year.

Orbison signed a contract with MGM Records in 1965, and participated in the Metro movie The Fastest Guitar Alive, a mixture of musical and western film, in which he performed several songs from the album of the same name. Due to the changes in musical taste he did not achieve any success in the United States after 1967. He remained popular, but he would not return to the top until the eighties.

He had problems in his personal life: death of his first wife Claudette (Frady) in a motorcycle accident on June 6, 1966. In September 1968 the family home on Old Hickory Lake in Hendersonville (Tennessee) was razed by a fire while Orbison was on tour in England. Two of his three sons, Roy DeWayne (1958-1968) and Anthony King (1962-1968), died as a result of the fire. His youngest son, Wesley, aged three, was saved by his paternal grandparents. He met his second wife Barbara Orbison in August 1968 in Batley, England. They were married in Nashville on May 25, 1969.

Songs that had limited success in North America, such as “Penny Arcade” and “Working for the Man,” would be number 1 on the Australian charts, and “Too Soon to Know” was number 3 in England. His popularity spread to Germany, and he recorded his great hit “Mama” in German. Their recordings were very demanded in the black market of the zones separated by the Steel Curtain. In France, he was recognized as the master of the ballad of lost loves in the line of his most popular singer, Édith Piaf. A version of “Blue Bayou” sung in French by Mireille Mathieu reached the top of the French charts. His fans in the Netherlands formed his most important fan club in the world. He continued to act in Ireland, despite constant terrorism. A version of the popular ballad “Danny Boy” on his 1972 Memphis album is considered one of the best made of this song.

His contract with MGM ended in 1973 and he signed with Mercury Records. In 1976 he did it with Monument, but his career languished until the end of the eighties.

A new opportunity and death

At the end of the 80s there was a sudden and unexpected return to fame in the career of Roy Orbison, largely due to the success of the supergroup The Traveling Wilburys, which was incorporated in 1988 by personal invitation by Jeff Lynne. The album Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 was a great sales success. It is possible that the use of his song “In dreams” in the David Lynch film Blue velvet (1986), will also influence. He lost some weight to be able to adapt to his new image and to the constant request for interviews, performances and videos.

Orbison was excited; He started writing again and collaborating with old friends and new fans, working on a new album, Mystery Girl, which would be produced by Lynne, whom Orbison considered the best producer he had worked with. On November 19, 1988, Orbison went to Europe where he was awarded an award at the Diamond Awards in Antwerp, Belgium. In that show the shots were made for the video of “You Got It”, the last one that he made. The song reached a remarkable number 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was number 1 in dozens of countries around the world. That same day he granted several interviews in a busy schedule. A few days later, and despite the reluctance of the manager of the club in Boston where he was going to play, Orbison gave a great concert, for which he received a great ovation from the public. On December 4 he played in Highland Heights, Ohio; It was his last concert. Exhausted, he returned to his home in Henderson to rest for a few days before flying back to London to record two videos of The Traveling Wilburys. On December 6, 1988, he spent the day playing with modeling aircraft with his children; later, after dining at his mother’s house in Hendersonville, Tennessee, Orbison died of a heart attack; He was 52 years old.

Orbison’s death grabbed the pages and news from around the world. Author Peter Lehman suggests that if he had died in the 1970s when his career was in the doldrums, there would have been only one mention in the obituary section of the newspapers. However, the response to his death reflected how popular Orbison had become again. It was the first page of the New York Times. The National Enquirer suggested on its cover that Orbison would have killed himself by working. At his death two memorials were erected: one in Nashville, Tennesse, and another in Los Angeles, California. He was buried in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery (Los Angeles).

In January 1989, Orbison became the first musician since Elvis Presley to have two albums in the Top Five at the same time, with Mystery Girl and Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1.

More Facts about Roy Orbison

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