Roy Orbison – The Operatic Voice of Rock

Roy Orbison – A Pioneer of Rock

Roy Orbison – his voice was unique and different and when it came to his singing, very few could even come close. And by close I mean reaching his upper vocal range.

OK, maybe Slim Whitman when his singing kills the martians from Mars Attacks. But technically, he’s not rock but he too has a great vocal range but that’s for another blog down the road. 


Performing on Stage

Standing on a stage, in a black skinny suit, in horned rim glasses. His attire is referred to as “Geek Chic.” It becomes his trademark style. Hey, if Johnny Cash can dress in black, so can Orbison!

Just when you’re not  sure what to expect, he opens his mouth, and the most beautiful music comes out. Furthermore, his music makes you pay attention. The lyrics will intrigue anyone that’s really listening. At times, dark and moody and then uplifting and beautiful. No stage antics, just a guy, with his band singing hit after hit, moving only his lips and fingers while strumming his guitar.  

Roy Orbison – The Early Years 

By the time he is seven, he knew that music was his path in life and by age eight, he already wrote his first song. More so, he could always be found listening to the Texas radio stations and all the different genres they played. So obsessed with the radio he actually started memorizing the songs they played.

Also by age eight he starts singing on a local radio station and by the 1940s starts hosting the show. With genres from Country. Tex Mex, Zydeco, Rockabilly and rock. One particular artist that he was really inspired by is Lefty Frizzel. Also Hank Williams and Jimmy Rodgers. Ernest Tubb is his first live concert in Texas while he and his band performs on a truck.

Commercial Success With His Music Career

In high school, Orbison played the local circuit with a group called the Teen Kings. When their song “Ooby Dooby” came to the attention of Sam Phillips, the legendary producer at Sun Records, Orbison was invited to cut a few tracks. Their collaboration yields a re-recording of “Ooby Dooby” that becomes Orbison’s first minor hit. His musical career is taking off and during this time he begins perfecting the sound that would later define his career.  

The Traveling Wilburys Project

What starts out as a need for a b-side, ends up being so much more! George Harrison had just released his “Cloud Nine” album and needed a b-side track for his single, This is Love. During the “Cloud Nine” sessions, George along with co-writer Jeff Lynne discussed the idea of bringing in Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, and Roy Orbison to Dylan’s studio to collaborate on this track.

In April 1988, the magic happens. Furthermore, the musicians had such a great time, that they decide to create a full-album.  These musical geniuses came together, leaving their egos at the door, all outstanding in their own right, for a jam session. It’s also decided among the group to adopt tongue-in-cheek pseudonyms as half-brothers from a fictional Wilbury’s family of travelling musicians. Roy’s is Lefty Wilbury (after Lefty Frizell).

Vol. 1 is a critical and commercial success, helping to revitalize Dylan’s and Petty’s careers. In 1990, the album wins the Grammy for “Best Rock” Performance by a Duo or Group. 

Orbison’s Mystery Girl

Orbison was in high demand for concerts and interviews once again, and is seemingly ecstatic about it. He begins to write  songs again as well as collaborating with musicians from his past and newer fans. The result ends up being his album, Mystery Girl

Mystery Girl is co-produced by Jeff Lynne, whom Orbison considers the best producer he has ever collaborated with. Elvis Costello, Orbison’s son Wesley and others offered their songs to him. The biggest hit from the album was “You Got It”, written with Lynne and Tom Petty. It posthumously rose to No. 9 in the US and No. 3 in the UK.

Roy Orbison – His death and legacy

While Mystery Girl  is completed, and Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 is rising up the charts. Around this time, Orbison confides in Johnny Cash that he is having chest pains. He goes to Europe, and is presented with an award there, and plays a show in Antwerp, where footage for the video for “You Got It” is filmed.

He gives several interviews a day in a hectic schedule. A few days later, a manager at a club in Boston is concerned that he looks ill, but Orbison plays the show, to another standing ovation. Next, Orbison performs at the “Front Row Theater” in Highland Heights, Ohio, on December 4.

Exhausted, he returns to his home in Hendersonville to rest for several days before flying again to London to film two more videos for the Traveling Wilburys. On December 6, 1988, he spent the day flying model airplanes with his sons and ate dinner at his mother’s home in Hendersonville. Later that day, he dies of a heart attack, at the age of 52.

Roy Orbison Hologram Tour

Created by a company called Base Entertainment, “In Dreams” is Roy Orbison in concert that sees Orbison takes to the stage via hologram in 2018. Accompanied by live musicians. Audiences are able to see the Orbison hologram perform with his trademark three-octave voice.  This company also made Tupac appear at Coachella Festival.

While this sounds crazy, this hologram tour sold out most dates and those that attended, witnessed a part of music history – totally being rewritten. Maybe this is another way, for artists, labels and more to not only make money in the digital age, but also bring the legacies of musical icons to new generations of music fans.  While still supporting all the music stores, records stores and festivals around the world.

Fun Facts About Roy Orbison

In 1992, Roy Orbison collaborates with Glenn Danzig on a song “LIFE FADES AWAY” which Danzig and Orbison wrote for the movie, Less Than Zero.  Later it releases on Roy’s “KING OF HEARTS” album, 1992. 

Many people assumed Roy was going blind – nope. His trademark dark glasses he began wearing in 1963, just before a British tour with The Beatles. It happened by accident: when he misplaced his regular glasses, he wore the dark ones, which later becomes one of his trademarks.

Music scholars suggest that Orbison has a three-or four-octave range and his powerful, impassioned voice earns him the sobriquet “the Caruso of Rock.” In fact, The Big O and Enrico Caruso were the only 20th century tenors capable of hitting E over high C.

In 1963, he opens for The Beatles, even though he didn’t know who they were, The opening night, he did 14 encores before The Beatles even performed. No pressure for The Beatles…

While, trying to cover the vast career of Roy Orbison, it’s rather hard to do but at least it gets the ball rolling on how fantastic he was. So, explore away with this icon and many others while we’re currently dealing with the chaos all around us. Furthermore, it’s important to support your favorite artists during these trying times. Stay Tuned!

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