101 Facts About Roy Orbison


Roy Kelton Orbison was an American singer, songwriter, and musician known for his impassioned singing style, complex song structures, and dark, emotional ballads.


Roy Orbison's music was described by critics as operatic, earning him the nicknames "The Caruso of Rock" and "The Big O".


Roy Orbison performed while standing motionless and wearing black clothes to match his dyed black hair and dark sunglasses.


Roy Orbison was signed by Sam Phillips of Sun Records in 1956, but enjoyed his greatest success with Monument Records.


From 1960 to 1966,22 of Roy Orbison's singles reached the Billboard Top 40.


Roy Orbison experienced a resurgence in popularity in the 1980s, following the success of several cover versions of his songs.


Roy Orbison died of a heart attack in December 1988 at age 52.


Roy Orbison's honors include inductions into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1987, the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1989, and the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in 2014.


Roy Orbison received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and five other Grammy Awards.


Roy Orbison was born on April 23,1936, in Vernon, Texas.


Roy Orbison was the second of three sons born to Orbie Lee Orbison and Nadine Vesta Shults.


Roy Orbison attended Denver Avenue Elementary School there until a polio scare prompted the family to return to Vernon.


Roy Orbison's father gave him a guitar on his sixth birthday.


Roy Orbison recalled, "I was finished, you know, for anything else" by the time he was 7, and music became the focus of his life.


Roy Orbison was particularly moved by Lefty Frizzell's singing, with its slurred syllables, and he adopted the name "Lefty Wilbury" during his time with the Traveling Wilburys.


Roy Orbison enjoyed Hank Williams, Moon Mullican and Jimmie Rodgers.


Roy Orbison began singing on a local radio show at age 8, and he became the show's host by the late 1940s.


Roy Orbison described life in Wink as "football, oil fields, oil, grease, and sand" and expressed relief that he was able to leave the desolate town.


All the Orbison children had poor eyesight; Roy used thick corrective lenses from an early age.


Roy Orbison was self-conscious about his appearance and began dyeing his nearly-white hair black when he was still young.


Roy Orbison was quiet, self-effacing, and remarkably polite and obliging.


Roy Orbison was always keen to sing and considered his voice memorable, but not great.


Roy Orbison enrolled at North Texas State College in Denton, planning to study geology so that he could secure work in the oil fields if music did not pay.


Roy Orbison then heard that his schoolmate Pat Boone had signed a record deal, and it further strengthened his resolve to become a professional musician.


Much influenced by Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison performed frenetically, doing "everything we could to get applause because we had only one hit record".


The band ultimately split over disputed writing credits and royalties, but Orbison stayed in Memphis and asked his 16-year-old girlfriend, Claudette Frady, to join him there.


Roy Orbison was introduced to Elvis Presley's social circle, once going to pick up a date for Presley in his purple Cadillac.


The first, and perhaps only, royalties Orbison earned from Sun Records enabled him to make a down payment on his own Cadillac.


Roy Orbison toured music circuits around Texas and then quit performing for seven months in 1958.


Roy Orbison attempted to sell to RCA Victor his recordings of songs by other writers, working with and being in awe of Chet Atkins, who had played guitar with Presley.


The songwriter Joe Melson, an acquaintance of Roy Orbison's, tapped on his car window one day in Texas in 1958, and the two decided to write some songs together.


In three recording sessions in 1958 and 1959, Roy Orbison recorded seven songs for RCA Victor at their Nashville studios; only two singles were judged worthy of release by the label.


Roy Orbison was one of the first recording artists to popularise the "Nashville sound", with a group of session musicians known as The Nashville A-Team.


Roy Orbison requested a string section and with it, he recorded three new songs, the most notable of which was "Uptown", written with Joe Melson.


Melson and Roy Orbison followed it with the more complex "Blue Angel", which peaked at number nine in the US and number 11 in the UK.


Orbison was now able to move to Nashville permanently with his wife Claudette and son Roy DeWayne, born in 1958.


Roy Orbison encountered difficulty when he found himself unable to hit the song's highest note without his voice breaking.


Roy Orbison was backed by an orchestra in the studio, and Porter told him he would have to sing louder than his accompaniment because the orchestra was unable to be softer than his voice.


The composition of Roy Orbison's following hits reflected "Running Scared": a story about an emotionally vulnerable man facing loss or grief, with a crescendo culminating in a surprise climax that employed Roy Orbison's dynamic voice.


Roy Orbison's second son was born the same year, and Roy Orbison hit number four in the United States and number two in the UK with "Dream Baby ", an upbeat song by country songwriter Cindy Walker.


Roy Orbison enlisted The Webbs, from Dothan, Alabama, as his backing band.


Roy Orbison eventually developed an image that did not reflect his personality.


Roy Orbison had no publicist in the early 1960s, and therefore had little presence in fan magazines, and his single sleeves did not feature his picture.


Roy Orbison finished 1963 with a Christmas song written by Willie Nelson, "Pretty Paper".


The Beatles stood dumbfounded backstage as Roy Orbison simply played through 14 encores.


Roy Orbison was just standing there, not moving or anything.


Roy Orbison felt a kinship with Lennon, but it was George Harrison with whom he would later form a strong friendship.


When Roy Orbison toured Britain again in the autumn of 1963, she joined him.


Roy Orbison was immensely popular wherever he went, finishing the tour in Ireland and Canada.


Roy Orbison travelled to Australia again, this time with the Rolling Stones.


Roy Orbison began collaborating with Bill Dees, whom he had known in Texas.


When Claudette walked in the room where Dees and Roy Orbison were writing to say she was heading for Nashville, Roy Orbison asked if she had any money.


Roy Orbison did it twice, with 'It's Over' on June 25,1964, and 'Oh, Pretty Woman' on October 8,1964.


Claudette and Roy Orbison divorced in November 1964 over her infidelities, but reconciled 10 months later.


Roy Orbison was a film enthusiast, and when not touring, writing, or recording, he dedicated time to seeing up to three films a day.


Orbison's first collection at MGM, an album titled There Is Only One Roy Orbison, sold fewer than 200,000 copies.


Roy Orbison was known to follow a car that he liked and make the driver an offer on the spot.


Orbison and Claudette shared a love for motorcycles; she had grown up around them, but Roy claimed Elvis Presley had introduced him to motorcycles.


Roy Orbison's character was a spy who stole and had to protect and deliver a cache of gold to the Confederate Army during the American Civil War and was supplied with a guitar that turned into a rifle.


Roy Orbison was pleased with the film, although it proved to be a critical and box-office failure.


Roy Orbison recorded an album dedicated to the songs of Don Gibson and another of Hank Williams covers, but both sold poorly.


On March 25,1969, Roy Orbison married German woman Barbara Jakobs, whom he had met several weeks before his sons' deaths.


Roy Orbison continued recording albums in the 1970s, but none of them sold well.


Roy Orbison failed to produce any popular singles, except for a few in Australia.


Roy Orbison's fortunes sank so low that he began to doubt his own talents, and several of his 1970s albums were not released internationally due to low US sales.


Roy Orbison left MGM Records in 1973 and signed a one-album deal with Mercury Records.


Roy Orbison credited this cover in particular for reviving his memory in the popular mind, if not his career.


Roy Orbison signed again with Monument in 1976 and recorded Regeneration with Fred Foster, but it proved no more successful than before.


In late 1977, Roy Orbison was not feeling well and decided to spend the winter in Hawaii.


Roy Orbison checked in to a hospital there where testing discovered that he had severely obstructed coronary arteries.


Roy Orbison underwent a triple coronary bypass on January 18,1978.


Roy Orbison had suffered from duodenal ulcers since 1960 and had been a heavy smoker since adolescence.


Roy Orbison was all but forgotten in the US, yet he reached popularity in less likely places such as Bulgaria in 1982.


Roy Orbison was astonished to find that he was as popular there as he had been in 1964, and he was forced to stay in his hotel room because he was mobbed on the streets of Sofia.


In 1987, Roy Orbison released an album of re-recorded hits titled In Dreams: The Greatest Hits.


Lynne had just completed production work on George Harrison's Cloud Nine album, and all three ate lunch together one day when Roy Orbison accepted an invitation to sing on Harrison's new single.


Roy Orbison was given one solo track, "Not Alone Any More", on the album.


Roy Orbison completed a solo album, Mystery Girl, in November 1988.


Roy Orbison considered Lynne to be the best producer with whom he had ever collaborated.


Around November 1988, Roy Orbison confided in Johnny Cash that he was having chest pains.


Roy Orbison went to Europe, was presented with an award there, and played a show in Antwerp, where footage for the video for "You Got It" was filmed.


Roy Orbison gave several interviews a day in a hectic schedule.


Roy Orbison performed at the Front Row Theater in Highland Heights, Ohio, on December 4,1988.


Later that day, Roy Orbison died of a heart attack at the age of 52, at his mother's house.


Roy Orbison was buried at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in an unmarked grave.


Roy Orbison's sons contributed instrumentation on the track along with Roy Orbison's vocals; it was produced by John Carter Cash.


Music critic Dave Marsh wrote that Roy Orbison's compositions "define a world unto themselves more completely than any other body of work in pop music".


The only convention Roy Orbison followed in his most popular songs is the time limit for radio fare in pop songs.


Roy Orbison's "In Dreams" was a song in seven movements that can be represented as Intro-A-B-C-D-E-F; no sections are repeated.


Some musicians who worked with Roy Orbison were confounded by what he asked them to do.


In concert, Roy Orbison placed the uptempo songs between the ballads to keep from being too consistently dark or grim.


Roy Orbison admitted that he did not think his voice was put to appropriate use until "Only the Lonely" in 1960, when it was able, in his words, to allow its "flowering".


Dwight Yoakam stated that Roy Orbison's voice sounded like "the cry of an angel falling backward through an open window".


Roy Orbison sounded like he was singing from an Olympian mountaintop.


Roy Orbison's voice melted out of his mouth into the stratosphere and back.


Roy Orbison never seemed like he was trying to sing, he just did it.


Roy Orbison's voice ranged from baritone to tenor, and music scholars have suggested that he had a three- or four-octave range.


Roy Orbison noticed that he was unable to control the tremor in the late afternoon and evenings, and chose to record in the mornings when it was possible.


Roy Orbison often excused his motionless performances by saying that his songs did not allow instrumental sections so he could move or dance on stage, although songs like "Mean Woman Blues" did offer that.


Roy Orbison attributed his own passion during his performances to the period when he grew up in Fort Worth while the US was mobilising for World War II.


Roy Orbison's parents worked in a defence plant; his father brought out a guitar in the evenings, and their friends and relatives who had just joined the military gathered to drink and sing heartily.