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Remembering Roy Orbison

04/23/2012
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(Gibson) "Roy Orbison was the only act that The Beatles didn't want to follow," said Ringo Starr, recalling the 1963 tour the Beatles made with Roy Orbison in England.

Born in Texas on April 23, 1936, Orbison was a rock and roll original who became an international cross-over superstar thanks to his unique vocal powers and unusual songwriting style. He'd go on to win Grammys in pop, rock and roll and country categories with hits like "Ooby Dooby," "Oh Pretty Woman," "Only The Lonely," "Blue Bayou," "Crying, It's Over," "In Dreams," "You Got It" and "Handle with Care" (as a Traveling Wilbury with Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, George Harrison and Jeff Lynne). His early days, however, were tough and trying, which, perhaps, prepared him for the terrible personal tragedies that would darken the incredible highs his musical career would achieve.

Raised in the wilds of west Texas, Orbison had his own band when he was 13. He was eventually spotted by Buddy Holly producer, Norman Petty, who recorded some sides that, sadly, went nowhere. Undeterred, Orbison, whose style was already proving difficult to pigeon hole, headed to Memphis on the recommendation of Johnny Cash and impressed rock and roll icon Sam Phillips enough for him to sign Orbison to Sun Records. It all looked good when Orbison had a quick hit with "Ooby Dooby," in 1956. But Phillips didn't fully understand the music Orbison wanted to pay. He moved to RCA briefly, and then to Monument Records in 1960, where' he'd finally make it big after several years on the bread line.

Out of nowhere, in the summer of 1960, "Only the Lonely" announced Orbison as the ultimate tragic balladeer. The record made it to #2 in the U.S. and #1 in the U.K., where it stayed on the chart for over 6 months.

Sadly, life soon began to imitate art as the singer who expressed sadness and tragedy so powerfully was faced with his own personal horrors. more on this story

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