The Big O!
When Elvis moved on from Sam Phillips Sun Records in 1956, Roy Orbison moved in with his band The Teen Kings.
Being heavily influenced by Elvis, he would have an energetic performance style, going for a rockabilly sound. Far from what he would become known for which was standing completely still, wearing sunglasses.
After internal conflict grew in the band, Roy moved towards being a songwriter instead, pushing his compositions to other artists. Sam Phillips wasn’t actually that impressed with Roy’s voice, apparently, he preferred his guitar playing.
Once we enter the 60s, Roy moves away from Sun to try his luck with Monument Records instead. Here he’d release his debut in 1961 with two big tunes, I Can’t Stop Loving You (cover) and Only The Lonely (Know the Way I Feel), written by Roy.
Only The Lonely was a huge success, charting at #2 in the U.S., and #1 in the U.K. it made Roy Orbison a household name overnight.
Sam Phillips decided to capitalize on this and released all Roy’s old rockabilly recordings the same year, these were contracted to his label so there was nothing Roy could do about it.
Roy’s next album came in 1962. Entitled Crying, the title track was written by Roy and again charted well. A few years later, Don McLean covered it and charted even better. On this album, he also covered The Great Pretender and Love Hurts.
The next release came in 1963. Named In Dreams, the title track again did well and so did Blue Bayou which would go on to become Linda Ronstadt’s signature song when she released her version in 1977.
In 1964, Roy released his signature song, Oh, Pretty Woman as a single in mono and hit the #1 spot in the charts worldwide. On the album that followed, Orbisongs (1965), Oh, Pretty Woman came in a stereo version with slightly altered lyrics.
1967 saw an album of only Don Gibson tunes, aptly named Roy Orbison sings Don Gibson.
After many more albums without hits, he released a cover version of Unchained Melody on the album Roy Orbison’s Many Moods in 1969.
In 1970, Roy makes another album of just one singer’s tunes, Hank Williams, the Roy Orbison Way. Big tunes here were Hey Good Lookin’, Jambalaya (On the Bayou), Your Cheatin’ Heart, Cold, Cold Heart, and I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.
The same year, we get The Big O and more covers appear here in Help Me Rhonda (Beach Boys), Money (Barrett Strong), and Land Of A Thousand Dances (Wilson Pickett).
1972 and there are more covers, I Fought The Law and Danny Boy was included on his album Memphis.
1973 and Roy covers Words (Bee Gees), You Don’t Know Me (Ray Charles), and Sweet Caroline (Neil Diamond).
For the next ten years, Roy keeps releasing albums without having any huge tunes, although one can only imagine his gigs being packed with classics as he could include his own hits among all those massive covers.
In 1986, he takes part in his first supergroup, Class of ‘55 was Roy, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, and Carl Perkins. John Fogerty also featured and even wrote one tune for the album which was mainly an Elvis and Sun Records tribute.
In 1989, Roy had two massive tunes. You Got It, which came from his album Mystery Girl and End Of The Line, his second supergroup, Traveling Wilbury’s (George Harrison, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne). The connection goes deep here as Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne co-wrote You Got It.
Both these massive tunes were released after Roy Orbison had died in December 1988 from a heart attack, he was 52 years old.
Roy Orbison tunes | Related pages
End Of The Line
| D D/A | D | D A | G |
Well, it’s alright, ridin’ around in the breeze.
| D D/A | D | D A | D |
Well, it’s alright, if you live the life you please.
I Fought The Law
| D5 | G5 D5 | D5 | A5 D5 |
Breakin’ rocks in the hot sun, I fought the law and the law won.
| D5 | A5 D5 |
I fought the law and the law won.
Money (That’s What I Want)
| F N.C | N.C Bb C |
The best things in life are free,
| F N.C | N.C |
but you can give them to the birds and bees,
Money (That’s What I Want) chords.
Oh, Pretty Woman
| A | F#m |
Pretty woman, walkin’ down the street.
| A | F#m |
Pretty woman, the kind I like to meet.