Singer, Songwriter, Guitarist (1936–1988)
Singer-songwriter Roy Orbison wrote romantic 1960s pop ballads like "Oh, Pretty Woman." In 1987, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.Synopsis
Born on April 23, 1936, in Vernon, Texas, Roy Orbison formed his first band at age 13. The singer-songwriter dropped out of college to pursue music. He signed with Monument Records and recorded such ballads as "Only the Lonely" and "It's Over." Orbison was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. Nearly one year later, in December 1988, he died of a heart attack.Early Life
Roy Kelton Orbison was born on April 23, 1936, in Vernon, Texas. A year before Beatlemania overtook the United States in 1964, the four lads from Liverpool invited Orbison to open for them on their English tour. On his first night, Orbison performed 14 encores before the Beatles even made it on stage.
Roy Orbison, who didn't have the Beatles' looks, Sinatra's swagger or Elvis's pelvis, was perhaps the most unlikely sex symbol of the 1960s. He dressed like an insurance salesman and was famously lifeless during his performances. "He never even twitched," recalled George Harrison, who was simultaneously awestruck and confounded by Orbison's stage presence. "He was like marble." What Orbison did have was one of the most distinctive, versatile and powerful voices in pop music. In the words of Elvis Presley, Orbison was simply "the greatest singer in the world."
Born to a working-class Texan family in 1936, Orbison grew up immersed in musical styles ranging from rockabilly and country to zydeco, Tex-Mex and the blues. His dad gave him a guitar for his sixth birthday and he wrote his first song, "A Vow of Love," when he was 8.
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. In addition to a highly collectible album called Roy Orbison at the Rockhouse, their collaboration yielded a re-recording of "Ooby Dooby" that became Orbison's first minor hit.Acclaimed Musical Career
After Orbison landed a record deal with the Nashville-based label Monument in 1960, he began perfecting the sound that would define his career. His big break came after he tried to pitch his composition "Only the Lonely" to both Elvis Presley and the Everly Brothers, and was turned down by both. Deciding to record the song himself, Orbison used his vibrato voice and operatic style to create a recording unlike anything Americans had heard at the time. Reaching as high the No. 2 spot on the Billboard singles chart, "Only the Lonely" has since been deemed a pivotal force in the development of rock music.
Between 1960 and 1965, Orbison recorded nine Top 10 hits and another ten that broke into the Top 40. These included "Running Scared," "Crying," "It's Over" and "Oh, Pretty Woman," none of which adheres to a conventional song structure. When it came to composition, Orbison called himself "blessed ... with not knowing what was wrong or what was right." As he put it, "the structure sometimes has the chorus at the end of the song, and sometimes there is no chorus, it just goes ... But that's always after the fact—as I'm writing, it all sounds natural and in sequence to me."
As distinctive as his three-octave voice and unorthodox songwriting technique was Orbison's unglamorous style, which some have described as "geek chic." Stricken with both jaundice and bad eyesight as a child, Orbison had sallow skin and thick corrective eyewear, not to mention a shy demeanor. On a fateful day during his 1963 tour with the Beatles, Orbison left his glasses on the plane before a show, which forced him to wear his unsightly prescription sunglasses for that night's show. Although he considered the incident "embarrassing," the look became an instant trademark.
Orbison's unhip underdog look suited his music well, as his lyrics were marked by incredible vulnerability. At a time when rock music went hand-in-hand with confidence and machismo, Orbison dared to sing about insecurity, heartache and fear. His stage persona, which has been described as borderline masochistic, went a long way toward challenging the traditional ideal of aggressive masculinity in rock 'n' roll.
Although the first half of the 1960s saw the rise of Orbison's star, the second half of the decade brought harder times. Tragedy struck when Orbison's wife, Claudette, was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1966, and again when his two oldest sons died in a house fire in 1968. Following those incidents, a devastated Orbison failed to generate many hits—and with the rise of the psychedelic movement in rock 'n' roll, the market for rockabilly had all but dried up anyway.
Peter Lehman, director of the Department of Interdisciplinary Humanities at Arizona State University, said about that period, "I was living in New York between 1968 and 1971, and even in Manhattan I could not find a record store that bothered to stock one copy of a newly released Orbison album; I had to special order them." By the mid-1970s, Orbison stopped recording music altogether.Last Years and Legacy
Orbison returned to his musical career in 1980, however, when the Eagles invited him to join them on their "Hotel California" tour. That same year, he rekindled his relationship with country music fans by performing a memorable duet with Emmylou Harris on "That Lovin' You Feeling Again," which went on to win a Grammy Award. When Van Halen covered "Oh, Pretty Woman" in 1982, rock fans were reminded that gratitude for the song was owed to Orbison. By the late 1980s, Orbison had staged a successful comeback, joined the all-star supergroup The Traveling Wilburys (alongside Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, George Harrison and Jeff Lynn) and been admitted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Orbison died of a heart attack on December 6, 1988. His posthumously released comeback album, Mystery Girl, reached No. 5 on the charts, becoming the highest-charting solo album of his career. Although he was only 52 when he died, Orbison lived to see his rightful place in music history restored.
Despite his sales, charts and accolades, Orbison is most remembered today as an improbable rock star who put his heart on his sleeve and moved people with his music. "When you were trying to make a girl fall in love with you," Tom Waits once recalled, "it took roses, the Ferris wheel and Roy Orbison."
About Buddy Holly
Buddy Holly was a singer/songwriter whose records, conveying a sense of the wide-open spaces of West Texas and unstoppable joie de vivre, remain vital today.Synopsis
Born on September 7, 1936, in Lubbock, Texas, Buddy Holly was an American singer/songwriter who produced some of the most distinctive and influential work in rock music. Already well versed in several music styles, he was a seasoned performer by age 16. With hits such as 'Peggy Sue' and 'That'll Be the Day,' Buddy Holly was a rising star when a tragic plane crash struck him down in 1959 at age 22.Early Life
Singer. Born Charles Hardin Holley on September 7, 1936, in Lubbock, Texas. As the fourth and youngest child in his family, Holly was nicknamed "Buddy" by his mother, who felt that his given name was too big for her little boy. "Holly," the altered form of his last name, would later result from a misspelling in his first recording contract.
Buddy Holly learned to play piano and fiddle at an early age, while his older brothers taught him the basics of guitar. A 1949 home recording of "My Two-Timin' Woman" showcases Holly's skilled, if prepubescent, singing voice. Holly's mother and father, a tailor by trade, both proved to be very supportive of their son's burgeoning musical talents, generating song ideas and even penning a letter to the editor of Lubbock's newspaper in defense of rock 'n' roll-loving teenagers lambasted in a conservative editorial. Despite his parents' support, Holly couldn't have become a founding father of rock 'n' roll without engaging in some degree of rebellion. Once a preacher at the local Tabernacle Baptist Church asked him, "What would you do if you had $10?" The young rocker reportedly muttered, "If I had $10, I wouldn't be here." Holly had clearly set his sights on something other than growing up to join his brothers in their tiling business.
After high school, Holly formed a band and played country and western songs regularly on a Lubbock radio station. He frequently opened for more prominent national acts that toured through town. Bandmate Sonny Curtis viewed Holly's opening for Elvis Presley in 1955 as a crucial turning point for the singer. "When Elvis came along," Curtis recalls, "Buddy fell in love with Elvis and we began to change. The next day we became Elvis clones." Although the bespectacled, bow-tied youth lacked Elvis's incendiary sex appeal, Holly's conversion from country to rock 'n' roll did not go unnoticed. A record company talent scout soon caught his act at a skating rink and signed him to a contract.
In early 1956, Holly and his band began recording demos and singles in Nashville under the name Buddy Holly and the Three Tunes, but the group's lineup was later revised and dubbed The Crickets. Holly wrote and recorded his breakthrough hit, "That'll Be the Day," with The Crickets in 1957. The song's title and refrain are a reference to a line uttered by John Wayne in the 1956 film The Searchers. Between August 1957 and August 1958, Holly and the Crickets charted seven different Top 40 singles. Coincidentally, "That'll Be the Day" topped the U.S. chart exactly 500 days before Holly's untimely death.Solo Career and Untimely Death
In October 1958, Holly split from The Crickets and moved to Greenwich Village in New York City. Due to legal and financial problems resulting from the band's breakup, Holly reluctantly agreed to tour through the Midwest in 1959 with The Winter Dance Party. Tired of enduring broken-down buses in subfreezing conditions, Holly chartered a private plane to take him from a show in Clear Lake, Iowa, to the tour's next stop in Moorhead, Minnesota. Holly was joined on the doomed flight by fellow performers Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper. The plane crashed within minutes of leaving the ground, killing all aboard. Buddy Holly was just 22 years old. His funeral was held at the Tabernacle Baptist Church back in Lubbock.
Buddy Holly proposed on his first date with Maria Elena Santiago, a receptionist four years his senior, and married her less than two months later in 1958. Maria Elena did not attend Holly's funeral, as she had also just suffered a miscarriage. She still owns the rights to Buddy Holly's name, image, trademarks and other intellectual property.
Holly's death was memorialized in Don McLean's iconic song "American Pie" as "the day the music died." Holly's music never really died, though, despite the singer's tragic and untimely death. Unissued recordings and compilations of Holly's work were released in a steady stream throughout the 1960s. Due to the continued popularity of his music and film adaptations of his life's story, Holly's hiccup and horn-rimmed glasses are easily recognizable today. Though his professional career spanned just two short years, Holly's recorded material has influenced the likes of Elvis Costello and Bob Dylan, who, at age 17, saw Holly perform on his final tour. The Rolling Stones had their first Top 10 single in 1964 with a cover of Holly's "Not Fade Away." The Beatles chose their name as a kind of homage to The Crickets, and Paul McCartney has since purchased Holly's publishing rights.
Buddy Holly's lasting impact on pop music was even larger. The Crickets pioneered the now-standard rock lineup of two guitars, bass, and drums. Holly was also among the first artists to use studio techniques such as double-tracking on his albums. Despite Holly's numerous contributions to rock 'n' roll, a 1957 interview with Canadian disc jockey Red Robinson suggests that the singer questioned the longevity of the genre. When asked whether rock 'n' roll music would still be around after six or seven months, Holly replied, "I rather doubt it."
Rock ’n’ Roll legends, Roy Orbison and Buddy Holly return to the stage on October 28th at the Taft Theatre. Accompanied by a live band and back-up singers, this cutting edge holographic performance with remastered audio will transport the audience back in time for an unforgettable evening of Roy & Buddy’s greatest hits onstage. Performing together for the first time, this once-in-a-lifetime show is sure to make your Rock ’N’ Roll Dreams come true!