The guy we’re gonna talk about today is one of those rare artists whose music crosses over from pop to country to rock and roll and back again. Roy Kelton Orbison was born in Vernon, Texas on April 23, 1936 and as a young child moved to Wink, where he grew up the son of an oil driller and car mechanic. Roy received a guitar on his sixth birthday, and by time he was seven, he knew he was going to be a musician. By the age of eight, Roy was singing on a local radio show and in no time at all he became the host. Destiny had called and Roy Orbison answered and little did he know that he was on his way to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

It was 1960 when Orbison caught a break. He pitched a song to Elvis and the Everly Brothers and both acts turned him down, so Roy decided to record it himself. The song? Only the Lonely . The song shot up the Billboard chart all the way to Number 2 and Orbison was noticed by everybody in the music business, namely Dick Clark, who, in wake of the success of Only the Lonely, invited Orbison to appear on American Bandstand. Other smash hits soon followed, Crying, Blue Bayou and others. Roy Orbison had come a long way from Wink, Texas and was now a star.

Orbison was very shy man who actually suffered from severe stage fright. Here’s where the dark sunglasses come in. the story from wikipedia, “He had no publicist in the early 1960s, no presence in fan magazines, and his single sleeves did not feature his picture. Life magazine called him an “anonymous celebrity”.[29] After leaving his thick eyeglasses on an airplane in 1962 or 1963, Orbison was forced to wear his Ray-Ban Wayfarer prescription sunglasses on stage and found that he preferred them. His biographers suggest that although he had a good sense of humor and was never morose, Orbison was very shy and suffered from severe stage fright; wearing sunglasses helped him hide somewhat from the attention. The black clothes and desperation in his songs led to an aura of mystery and introversion.[6][30][31] Years later, Orbison said “I wasn’t trying to be weird, you know? I didn’t have a manager who told me to dress or how to present myself or anything. But the image developed of a man of mystery and a quiet man in black somewhat of a recluse, although I never was, really.”[32] Read the rest of the bio, it reveals a lot about Orbison that few people at the time knew.

Here’s the obligatory List of  Roy Orbison hits:

  • Pretty Woman – People will still be listening to this song in a hundred years. Enuff said.
  • Crying – Listed above. Hauntingly beautiful.
  • It’s Over – Depressing as hell, but I want to listen to it again.
  • You Got It – One of his last hits and my favorite Roy Orbison tune.

I remember as kid that my parents had a stack of Roy Orbison records. The thing that caught my eye was his last name. I’m thinking at the time, “that’s an odd name”, so I played the records to see what an “Orbison” was. I soon found my answer. An Orbison was something that made even a small child “feel” the songs it sang. That’s a very rare talent, making a kid “feel” a song. I also recall going out to eat with my family at places that had the small “jukeboxes” at the booths, more like jukebox remotes actually, where you put in a dime and could play three songs. I spent a lot of dimes playing “Orbisons”. And that’s a good thing.

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