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Friday, April 17, 2015


Our trip down Rock and Roll would not be complete without a look at the subject of today's A to Z Blog Challenge blog post. This singer/songwriter was painfully shy and did not put himself out there to be admired and was amazed that people held him in such high esteem. He also had a three or four octave vocal range, depending on who you were talking to. The point is the man could sing.

Who am I talking about? I am talking about the extraordinarily talented Roy Kelton Orbison! Roy was born on April 23, 1936, in Vernon, TX. Roy's dad, Orbie Lee, was an oil well driller and a car mechanic. Roy's mom, Nadine, was a nurse. When Roy was six his father bought him his first guitar. By the age of seven Roy knew that music would be his life.
If you've seen photographs of Roy Orbison you can't miss seeing the iconic thick black framed glasses. All the Orbison kids suffered from poor eyesight. Roy wore thick glasses from his youth. The tinted glasses of later years helped Roy contend with stage fright. Roy lacked confidence and presented himself to be a polite, shy and self effacing individual.
In Wink High School Roy formed a band with some classmates called "The Wink Westerners." They played country standards and Glenn Miller songs at local honky tonks. After high school Roy attended North Texas State College to study geology so he could get a job in the oil industry if the music thing didn't work out. In college he formed another band called the "Teen Kings." His geology grades began to fall because of the conflict between studying, working in the oil fields and playing music at night. He transferred to a community college to prepare to become a teacher.
The Teen Kings were eventually signed by Sun Records at the urging of Johnny Cash who heard the Teen Kings play as his opening act. Sun Records also had Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis as clients at the time. The Teen Kings first hit song was "Ooby Dooby." It's a song about a dance. Interesting factoid - a Sun Records record producer once told Roy that he would never make it as a singer of ballads. 
Roy married his girlfriend Claudette Frady in 1957. Roy wrote a song about Claudette called "Claudette" which was recorded by the Everly Brothers on the "B" side of "All I Have to do is Dream."
In the 60's Roy became a professional songwriter working for Acuf-Rose Music for a little while. He then met songwriter Joe Melson. Roy and Joe wrote several of the songs that made Roy's career.
Roy Orbison's music was able to tap into the angst of the frailty of young love. "Only the Lonely" proclaims that only a lonly person can relate to losing a girlfriend to someone new. "Running Scared" tells of how it might feel to be the new boyfriend afraid that the old boyfriend will return and win your now girlfriend's heart anew. It was while recording this song that Roy let his voice go and hit a high note that few singers today have been able to duplicate.
Roy Orbison and Joe Melson went their separate ways after a year or so. Roy connected with another songwriter, Rick Dees, who co-wrote several more songs with Roy. One notable song is "It's Over." The title tells the story of the song.  Roy shows his command of the higher octaves in this immensely popular song. 
        Orbison's greatest hit was written with Dees, "Oh Pretty Woman" which tells the story of a young man's attraction to a lovely lady walking by on the street. The conversation that goes on in his head is the song's lyrics. The guitar riff that begins the song is unique and readily identifiable as soon as you hear the first few notes.
Roy Orbison's career ebbed and flowed throughout the years. His career was having it's greatest resurgence at the time of his death in 1988 at the age of 52 years. Shortly before his death he had teamed up with George Harrison, Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, and Bob Dylan forming a band called The Traveling Wilbury's. Fortunately Roy lived long enough to experience being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. 

Roy Orbison's songs have been covered by other artists such as Van Halen, K.D. Lang, and Don McLean to name a few. His music is timeless! His singing is unique and unmatched to this day. Definitely one of my favorites.

1 comment:

  1. Who doesn't like "Pretty Woman"? You picked the perfect "O".