The travel gods are not being kind to me today. In fact, it seems they have collectively sharpened up their Freddie Krueger finger knives and taken a firm grasp on my scrotal sack. I’m not going to get into specifics but let’s just say I’m lucky to be on my way and boarding my first flight here in Buffalo so I’m going to try and calm my frazzled nerves with the first of my planned Texas-themed albums, the ‘Best of the Sun Years‘ by Roy Orbison.
Born Roy Kelton Orbison on April 23rd, 1936 in Vernon, Texas, Orbison was best known for his trademark sunglasses, distinctive powerful voice (in fact, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and even Elvis himself, hailed Orbison as the best voice they ever heard), complex compositions and dark emotional ballads. Most importantly, Orbison was a favorite of Uncle Lance‘s dearly departed pops.
Roy began singing in a rockabilly/country-western band in high school until he was signed by Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee, of which, the tracks her on this particular compilation are entirely based and they all have that trademark cooler-than-fuck driving Memphis rockabilly rhythm. Here are all the classic Orbison tracks of that era, including ‘Ooby Dooby‘, ‘This Kind of Love‘, ‘Domino‘, ‘Mean Little Mama‘ and ‘Problem Child‘ among other. While most male performers in rock and roll in the 1950’s and 60’s projected a defiant masculinity, many of Orbison’s songs instead conveyed a quiet, desperate vulnerability which, it must be said, is the perfect way to begin this trip given that I am currently traveling with someone else’s passport. But I digress…
Orbison’s family would eventually relocate a few times during the Great Depression to both Fort Worth and Wink, Texas looking for work; his father was a struggling mechanic and his mother a nurse. All the Orbison children were afflicted with poor eyesight and Roy himself would begin wearing thick corrective lenses at an early age which would add to the mystique he would develop later on in his adult life. He was given a guitar for his 16th birthday and would become moved by the way Lefty Frizzell sang in slurring tables. He also cites Hank Williams and Jimmie Rodgers as early influences. Orbison would become infatuated with what then known as “Sepia” music – a euphemism for what would become later known as “Rhythm and Blues”; Tex-Mex and Zydeco. At eight-years-old, Orbison began appearing on a local radio show but by the 1940’s he was the host.
Sadly, Orbison would die in 1988 from a heart attack , just shortly after joining the Traveling Wilbury’s super group along with Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne. He also had a new solo album out at the time too so, basically, he passed away at the zenith of his career. Orbison was indicted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 and Rolling Stone magazine named him #37 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time and #13 on their list of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time.
So for the remainder of this leg to Atlanta, I’m just going to kick back and try to relax to some old school rockabilly groove and pray that I make it safely to San Antonio without ending up in some TSA gulag somewhere for not having a passport.