July 15, 2024

AS one of the greatest all-time rock, pop and country singers, we’ll never forget The Big O.

It is 60 years since Roy Orbison went somewhat reluctantly into the famous Sun Studio in Memphis, to try a new version of Ooby Dooby.

Sam Phillips, the man who’d be at the start of so many rock ’n’ roll legends, reckoned Orbison and The Teen Kings could do a better version of the number, but Roy was tired of it.

Sam, it transpired, was right, and it broke into the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number 59, shifting 200,000 copies.

The man who would become The Big O would never look back!

Born in Texas in 1936, Roy Kelton Orbison would later say of the day he turned six and was given his first guitar: “I was finished, you know, for anything else.”

Orbison with his first wife Claudette and son Roy Jr (Moore/Fox Photos/Getty Images)

Music became his life and, though he’d be taken from us at just 52, Orbison became a living legend, with a voice like no other, and with Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan and others absolutely in awe of him.

Part of the reason was that ridiculously-good voice, that could soar to the heights even high-pitched girls couldn’t reach, and then go another octave higher.

As it could also swoop down to Johnny Cash, earth-shaking low levels, it was quite a trick.

The fact he was also a great songwriter, showman, guitarist and harmonica player didn’t hurt either.

Country was the thing that really got him going as a youngster, and the immortal Hank Williams was one of his heroes, along with Lefty Frizzell.

Lefty was the man who gave Country its distinctive singing style, slurring his syllables in the way we’d get used to with Roy, the Everly Brothers, Willie Nelson and many more.

Orbison, however, would add his own dramatics with his voice, earning him the nickname The Caruso of Rock.

You only have to listen to his songs Only The Lonely, Oh Pretty Woman and Crying to hear how Roy wanted his records to sound huge, and it was a style the whole world loved.

He must have got his money’s worth out of that sixth birthday guitar, because by the age of eight, he was singing on a local radio show!

It was almost as if Roy sensed that, like his heroes Frizzell and Williams, he wasn’t going to be on this Earth for very long, so he had to cram it all in.

In high school, he had a band, the Wink Westerners, playing a mix of Country standards and Glenn Miller tunes.Roy Orbison - Songs, Spouse & Death

They must have been good, as they were offered $400 for a local dance gig, an eyewatering sum back then for kids that age, and Roy realised this music thing could make him a living.

It was another concert that had an equally-monumental effect on him, though — while living in Odessa, Texas, he saw Elvis live, a guy just a year his senior.

He also saw Johnny Cash, but they say it was Elvis, and the way he was rocketing to stardom, that showed Orbison what was possible.

And Elvis couldn’t even write his own material!

The Man In Black had given Roy a tip, telling him to give Sam Phillips a call.

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