THE HISTORY OF ROCK ‘N’ ROLL – 1960 – PART FOUR

Posted: September 12, 2015 in Music, Rock n Roll Music 1960 Part 4
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JOHNNY BURNETTE – MAURICE WILLIAMS AND THE ZODIACS – THE VENTURES – ROY ORBISON – THE EVERLY BROTHERS

By Robert Seoane

ONE HIT WONDERS

YOU’RE SIXTEEN – JOHNNY BURNETTE

“Well, you come on like a dream, peaches and cream, lips like strawberry wine, you’re sixteen, you’re beautiful and you’re mine” You’re Sixteen – Johnny Burnette

“You’re Sixteen” is a rock ‘n’ roll classic written by two brothers known for composing Walt Disney songs. Richard and Robert Sherman began their career together in the early Fifties, They struggled to get heard until 1958 when they sold a song called “Tall Paul” to then-Mouseketeer of the TV show “The Mickey Mouse Club”, Annette Funicello. Annette was the most popular Mouseketeer on the show, particularly because she was the only pre-pubescent on the show sprouting boobs, much to the delight of fellow pre-pubescent male viewers.

The song was brought to the attention to the father of Mickey Mouse himself, Walt Disney. Disney wanted to develop Funicello as a star because of her popularity and was delighted to see the record climb into the Top Ten in 1958.

The doors opened up for the Sherman Brothers after the success of “Tall Paul”. Walt Disney started to hire them, but they were also able to write rock ‘n’ roll songs. In 1960, they sold one of their biggest hits, “You’re Sixteen” to rockabilly musician Johnny Burnette.

Johnny Burnette was a rockabilly musician who had a group with his brother Dorsey and a friend named Paul Burlison called the Rock ‘n’ Roll Trio. The group ultimately broke up but, just like the Sherman Brothers, the Dorsey Brothers also wrote songs that they peddled to the stars. Their first success at that arrived when they literally parked themselves in front of then mega pop star Ricky Nelson’s mansion and waited for him to come home so they could play him their songs. It worked. Nelson liked what he heard and wound up recording many of their songs. But it was a song written by another pair of brothers that would give Johnny Burnette a permanent footnote in rock ’n’ roll history.

You’re my baby, you’re my pet, we fell in love on the night we met, you touched my hand, my heart went pop, ooh, when we kissed, I could not stop.” You’re Sixteen – Johnny Burnette

It was the perfect song because it addressed the very market that listened to rock ‘n’ roll, the teenage girl and the teenage boy with a crush.

“You’re Sixteen” was Burnette’s seventh attempt at a hit single once he went solo. The record was released on October 8, 1960, and climbed to Number Eight on the Billboard Pop Chart and Number Three in the UK, earning him a gold record.

The authors of “YS”, Robert and Richard Sherman, went on to write classic movie songs for Walt Disney’s most acclaimed films of the Sixties and Seventies, including “Mary Poppins” (for which they won two Academy Awards), “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”, “The Jungle Book”, “Charlotte’s Web” and “The Aristocats”. Johnny Burnette on the other hand, faded into obscurity, recording music that essentially went nowhere on the charts.

On August 14, 1964, Johnny Burnette drowned after his unlit fishing boat was struck in the middle of the night by a cabin cruiser that hadn’t seen it. He was 30 years old.

“You’re Sixteen” had a revival in the Seventies when George Lucas included the song on the soundtrack to his classic film, “American Graffiti” (1973). Ringo Starr also recorded it that year and took it to Number One in February of 1974. That’s Paul McCartney on that recording assisting with a vocal solo mixed with what sounds like a kazoo.

“You walked out of my dreams, into my car, now you’re my angel divine. You’re sixteen, you’re beautiful, and you’re mine.” “You’re Sixteen” – Ringo Starr

 

STAY – MAURICE WILLIAMS & THE ZODIACS

The doo-wop genre was still popular in 1960, even though it was destined to be fading into the mist of time within the next two years. When rock ‘n’ roll first exploded in 1956, doo-wop glommed itself onto the new musical movement and dominated the charts throughout much of the rest of the Fifties.

Maurice Williams is one of the earliest songwriters to blend doo-wop into rock ‘n’ roll when he wrote “Little Darlin’” in 1957. Although Williams recorded it with his group at the time, the Gladiolas, the single went nowhere. It was the version recorded by the Diamonds that cracked the Top Ten and made it up to Number Two that same year. Although it was the usual practice of the music industry at the time to have white musical artists record songs by African American talent, in this case, the Diamonds’ version is the better one, due largely to its production and arrangement in comparison to the Gladiolas’ version.

Williams and his band changed their name to the Zodiacs after coming across a car bearing that name. During a recording session of new releases, he dug up a song he wrote in 1953 at age 15. It was based on a time when he didn’t want a girl to go home one night. Maurice and the band never took the song seriously until a ten-year-old girl reacted to it positively when she heard their demo of the tune. The band’s producers played the demo to Al Silver of Herald Records, who wanted to re-record it with the group to improve the quality but also to replace the phrase “let’s have another smoke” to “have another dance”.

“Stay just a little bit longer… please, please tell me you’re going to… well, if your daddy don’t mind, and if your mommy don’t mind if we have another dance, yeah one more time…” Stay- Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs

The song’s instant appeal is what’s made it endure. Zodiac tenor Shane Gaston’s falsetto lifts the song to grand heights of melodic beauty. “Stay” is the shortest rock ‘n’ roll song ever to have reached the Number One Position on the Billboard Pop chart, clocking in just under two minutes. It stayed at Number One during the week of November 21, 1960, just two weeks after the United States had elected John F. Kennedy to the Presidency.

“Stay” was remade several times. It was one of the Hollies’ first singles, released in the UK in December of ’63 and was also redone by the Four Seasons and the Dave Clark Five the following year. A different version of “Stay” was recorded in 1977 by Jackson Browne when he closed his classic album “Running On Empty” with a live medley that started with Browne’s own “The Load Out” and segued into “Stay”, turning the song into a long farewell.

“Now the promoter don’t mind, and the roadies don’t mind, if we take a little time and we leave it all behind and sing one more song…” Stay – Jackson Browne

Aside from other covers by the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Cyndi Lauper up to its latest recorded incarnation by Dreamhaus in 2014, it was also showcased in 1987’s” Dirty Dancing”, giving it a new boost on its popularity at the time.

 

WALK, DON’T RUN – THE VENTURES

The future of guitar based rock ‘n’ roll groups was in its infancy still, particularly after the death of Buddy Holly the year before. The Ventures was an instrumental rock ‘n’ roll guitar group who recorded one of the most familiar guitar licks in rock ‘n’ roll history, originally written by Jazz guitarist Johnny Smith In 1954. This guitar lick felt indicative of its time, besides happening to also be catchy as hell.

The Ventures certainly were successful, still holding the record today in 2015 as the best-selling instrumental band of all time, with over 100 million records sold. Their guitar twang was so distinctive of many rock songs that were yet to be written, that the Ventures has earned the nickname “The Band that Launched a Thousand Bands”. Curiously, they’re still revered in Japan, where they continue to perform regularly.

“Walk, Don’t Run” is essentially a contrafact, which is a jazz term that means laying an original melody on a familiar harmonic structure. In this case, the harmonic structure was that of a jazz standard called “Softly, As In A Morning Sunrise”, a composition written by Sigmund Romberg and Oscar Hammerstein II and recorded by many of the jazz greats of the 20th century. Upon listening to the two compositions one after the other, you can pick up the sound of that structure, yet still, the melodies of the two songs are really nothing alike.

The Ventures heard the Chet Atkins’ version of “Walk, Don’t Run”, released on his “Hi-Fi In Focus” (1957) album, and they knew they could turn that composition into a killer rock ‘n’ roll instrumental. And so they did. The resulting sound emanating from The Ventures’ electric guitars sounded so perfect and tailor made for those souped up musical instruments, that it practically weaponized the melody, thereby turning it into a rock ‘n’ roll classic overnight, as well as a springboard to literally thousands of rock ‘n’ roll songs to follow.

 

ROY ORBISON

“(Roy Orbison was) …a timid, shy kid who seemed to be rather befuddled by the whole music scene. I remember the way he sang then — softly, prettily but almost bashfully, as if someone might be disturbed by his efforts and reprimand him. – Boudleaux Bryant, songwriter; “Bye Bye Love”

Roy Kelton Orbison was a gentleman. Besides having an amazing voice, he was rock ‘n’ roll’s nicest guy, a true Southern gentleman in every sense of the word. He was never known to curse. When recording with the Traveling Wilburys in 1988 after repeatedly flubbing a lyric, the worst obscenity he could muster was “mercy”.

What set Roy Orbison apart from the rest of his rock ‘n’ roll peers was his vocal range. He could go from baritone to tenor, with musical scholars suggesting that he had up to a three- or four-octave range. His songs, unlike the rock ‘n’ rollers of the day, weren’t as much testosterone-laden screamfests as much as they were operatic vulnerability. His nicknames, “The Big O” and “The Caruso of Rock” didn’t really encompass his overall talents as a guitarist and songwriter. But his legacy loomed large, so much so that he became good friends with all the Beatles during their mutual 1964 tour and 14 years later, joined George Harrison in their 1988 supergroup with Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne called The Travelling Wilburys.

Orbison was born in Vernon, Texas to two hard working parents who struggled mightily to put food on their table during the Great Depression. Although little Roy wanted a harmonica, his father, Orbie Lee Orbison, gave him a guitar when he was only six years old because he saw in his son a burgeoning musical talent. Little Roy learned quickly, picking up the classic country standards like “You Are My Sunshine”. He sang it to his parents’ friends during social gatherings at night so he could hang with the adults and not go to bed early.

Orbison’s biggest musical influence was country music. Within a few years, he was entering and winning amateur musical contests. By 1951, when the family moved to Wink, Texas, young Roy formed his own country band called the Wink Westerners. The WW’s were musically ambitious, and integrated big band music with their country fare, including classic Big Band standards such as Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood” into their repertoire to great success. By the end of 1954, the Wink Westerners had become a proper band with steady gigs, even though Roy was still in high school.

It all changed for Roy Orbison, like so many other musical legends of the rock ‘n’ roll era before him, when he saw Elvis for the first time on stage in 1955. Soon after, the Wink Westerners had their own local thirty-minute TV show every Saturday at 4:30 PM on KOSA-TV in Odessa, Texas. Two of their guests on one show were none other than Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley. Cash and Orbison became friendly and suggested to the young kid to go see Sam Phillips, owner of Sun Records and the man who discovered Presley and Cash along with Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins. among others. When Orbison contacted Phillips however, he was met with some disappointment.

“Johnny Cash doesn’t run my record company.” – Sam Phillips

Orbison and his fellow band mates decided to change the band’s name to “The Teen Kings” after seeing Elvis. It was their new direction towards playing rock ‘n’ roll music and away from country music standards.

OOBY DOOBY – ROY ORBISON AND THE TEEN KINGS

Local entrepreneur Weldon Rogers approached Roy to record him and his group for Rogers’ new record label Je-Wel, owned with Chester “C.C.” Oliver. Roy had two friends, Dick Penner and Wade Moore, who had written a song called “Ooby Dooby”. On March 4, 1956, Roy Orbison and the Teen Kings recorded this composition as well as the Clovers’ “Trying To Get To You” and released them as their first single on March 19.

Roy took a copy of the record that very first day to a well-known record dealer in Odessa he knew called Cecil “Poppa” Hollifield. Poppa liked the song and took it from him. A few days later he phoned Roy to tell him that he had played the song to his associate Sam Phillips and Sam indicated that he wanted The Teen Kings to come to Memphis and record for Sun Records.

On March 26, 1956, Orbison and the group arrived at Sun Records and recorded a handful of songs, including a new version of “Ooby Dooby”. “Ooby Dooby” is a by-the-numbers typical rock ‘n’ roll song. Phillips was a demanding sort and made many retakes until he was satisfied, much to Orbison’s annoyance.

“Ooby Dooby” made it to Number 59 on Billboard’s Hot 100 in the summer of 1956. Roy and his group had soon acquired a manager and was booked on a short tour of movie drive-ins around the South where they played before the feature attraction.

TRYING TO GET TO YOU – ROY ORBISON/ELVIS PRESLEY

When listening to both versions of this song back to back, you realize the supremacy of Elvis Presley’s voice. Roy Orbison was still years away from reaching his creative peak, but Elvis had it on the first song he recorded.

ROY:

ELVIS:

“Trying To Get To You” was Ooby Dooby’s b-side, which was re-recorded at Sun Records under the direction of Sam Phillips. The following single didn’t chart however and Roy started to try his hand at songwriting. By the end of 1956, the Teen Kings will have broken up, leaving Orbison to stay in Memphis to launch his career as a solo artist. Just turned 21, Roy asked his 16-year-old girlfriend, Claudette Frady, to stay with him in Memphis. Her parents agreed under the condition that she have her own bedroom while they stayed together. I’m sure that worked out real well.

CLAUDETTE – THE EVERLY BROTHERS


Roy and Claudette Frady Orbison

Roy Orbison married Claudette Frady the following year in 1957. A beautiful girl, nobody believed that a shy, average-looking “Joe” like Roy could land such a woman. One of the first songs he ever wrote was a rockabilly love song named after his wife.

Roy left Sun Records in 1958. He spent eight months not recording for Sun prior to his leaving the label, and started to explore his songwriting abilities. His songwriting partner appeared to him one day when Joe Melson, an acquaintance of Orbison’s, tapped on his car window. Soon, Orbison and Melson began to write music together.

As Orbison’s reputation grew with Melson’s contribution as co-songwriter, they began to work for Acuff-Rose, a songwriting firm that focused on selling country music to recording artists. They were able to sell Orbison’s song “Claudette” to one of the biggest rock ‘n’ roll acts of the time, The Everly Brothers. It was released as the b-side to the Brothers’ classic “All I Have to Do Is Dream” in the Spring of 1958. The A-Side made it to Billboard’s Hot 100 Top spot for three weeks and “Claudette” managed to get to Number 30. Orbison continued to churn out compositions for Acuff-Rose and was able to sell them to the likes of Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis and Rick Nelson.

Orbison’s own recordings weren’t faring too well during the Fifties. None of the other three released singles from Sun charted. Wesley Rose of the songwriting firm Roy worked for introduced Orbison to Fred Foster, a record producer who had just opened his own label called Monument Records. It was Fred Foster who would mold the Roy Orbison sound and simultaneously invent the rock ballad genre with him.

Roy Orbison’s his first three singles with them also went nowhere fast. His fourth single, “Uptown” finally managed to crack the Hot 100 at Number 72, which was interesting because the recording employed strings, as Orbison preferred, instead of the usual fiddle instrumentation that Nashville was used to.

It wasn’t until the dawn of the new decade when Roy Orbison finally recorded his first classic and shot up to the top echelons of rock ‘n’ roll.

ONLY THE LONELY – ROY ORBISON

“I liked the sound of [my voice]. I liked making it sing, making the voice ring, and I just kept doing it. And I think that somewhere between the time of ‘Ooby Dooby’ and ‘Only the Lonely’, it kind of turned into a good voice.” Roy Orbison

“Only The Lonely” was the first hit that came out of the songwriting collaboration between Roy Orbison and Joe Melson. It’s in this song where Roy Orbison first displays his incredibly unique vocal talent, a talent that immediately set him apart from all the other rock ‘n’ roll stars of the day. The composition was originally given to Elvis Presley to refuse, and when he did, Orbison and his producer went to work. Fred Foster’s production quality with its spare guitar, delicate piano and steady drum beat guiding it, sounds good still today, but it’s Orbison’s ability to reach those high notes that tug at your heartstrings, with background vocals that softly sing nonsense with a sweet, melancholy air. Orbison’s recording engineer Bill Porter tried a new approach to the recording and close-miked the background vocals, leaving them front and center with Orbison’s lead while the suave instrumentation faded into the background. It worked.

“Only the lonely (Dum dum dum, dumby doo wah) Know the way I feel tonight
(Ooh yay, yay, yay, yeah) Only the lonely (Dum dum dum, dumby doo wah)
Know this feeling ain’t right (Dum dum dum, dumby doo wah)” Only the Lonely – Roy Orbison

The song’s operatic style was unheard of for rock ‘n’ roll in 1960. Only Elvis Presley’s “It’s Now Or Never” released the same year rivaled it. But “Only The Lonely’s” laid-back rockabilly style and Orbison’s voice marks it as a milestone for being the first rock ballad ever recorded. The most operatic point of the song, when Orbison’s voice reaches a high point that delivers the hopeful hurt of the lyrics, comes in towards the last thirty seconds.

“Maybe tomorrow, a new romance, no more sorrow but that’s the chance, you’ve got to take, if your lonely heart breaks, only the lonely…” Only The Lonely – Roy Orbison

“Only The Lonely” shot up to Number Two in The Billboard’s Hot 100 chart in the late Spring of 1960 and also entered Billboard’s R&B chart at Number 14, a feat that only a handful of rock ‘n’ roll artists have accomplished, Elvis Presley being the first to do it. It did manage to hit Number One across the pond in the United Kingdom in October of 1960 where it stayed there for two weeks.

Bruce Springsteen pays tribute to Orbison in the lyrics of his 1975 classic, “Thunder Road”.

“The screen door slams, Mary’s dress sways, like a vision she dances across the porch as the radio plays Roy Orbison singin’ for the lonely, hey that’s me and I want you only, don’t turn me home again I just can’t face myself alone again…” Thunder Road – Bruce Springsteen

Orbison’s next two singles after “…Lonely” were less successful, probably because they mimicked the “OTL” style with similar operatic highs and lows and a different set of nonsense lyrics for the background vocals. It wouldn’t be until the following year, in the Spring of 1961, when Orbison would have his first Number One song. He continued to experiment with other rhythms and styles in his music but there was one constant: Orbison sang of longing and emotional pain.

RUNNING SCARED/LOVE HURTS – ROY ORBISON

“Running Scared” was Roy Orbison’s first Number One and the first of a steady string of Top Forty hits through 1964. He turned rock ‘n’ roll on its nose by using Ravel’s “Bolero” as the rhythm for his song, written by him and songwriting partner Melson. The song had no chorus. It slowly builds and centers around Orbison’s vocal abilities as his voice rises with the drama of the song, cementing his place as the pioneer in operatic ballads. From then on, Orbison’s compositions with Melson were to continue to be innovative compositions with a style that didn’t exist until they developed it.

“Just runnin’ scared, feelin’ low, runnin’ scared, you love him so, just runnin’ scared, afraid to lose, if he came back which one would you choose?” Running Scared – Roy Orbison

Orbison had trouble with the final high note of the song. Normally a soft-voiced singer, he was forced to deliver the ending louder than the booming orchestra behind him. He abandoned the attempt to end the song in a falsetto and delivered the ending in A instead, stunning those in the studio so much that even the orchestra stopped playing.

“Some fools dream of happiness, blissfulness, togetherness, some fools, fool themselves I guess but they’re not fooling me, I know it isn’t true, know it isn’t true, love is just a lie, made to make you blue, love hurts…” Love Hurts – Roy Orbison

Its b-side “Love Hurts” was written by Boudleaux Bryant and first recorded by the Everly Brothers in 1960. Roy Orbison’s version was released as a single in 1961. The song gained an entirely new popularity when it was recorded in 1975 by one hit wonder Nazareth, who took it to Number Eight in the Billboard charts. Nazareth’s was clearly the better version of the composition.

CRYING – ROY ORBISON

“(‘Crying’ is) …a rock bolero [with] blaring strings, hammered tympani, a ghostly chorus, the gentle strum of a guitar, [and] a hint of marimba.” –Rock critic Dave Marsh

“Crying” is easily one of the most beautiful and heartfelt rock ballads ever recorded. Orbison’s voice makes you feel the pain of the protagonist’s love with his soft, plaintive singing that steadily rises as the instrumentation builds and surrounds Orbison’s powerful final delivery until the entire song comes to a sudden halt with an echo that seals the experience forever in your heart.

“I was all right for a while, I could smile for a while, but I saw you last night, you held my hand so tight as you stopped to say hello, aww you wished me well, you couldn’t tell that I’d been cry-i-i-i-ng over you, cry-i-i-i-ng over you…” Crying – Roy Orbison

By now, Orbison and Melson were learning how to write tunes that would showcase Roy’s voice, and Fred Foster’s production had quickly become formula, while still allowing Orbison to push the boundaries of rock ‘n’ roll by continuing to record singles that were essentially mini-arias. “Crying” was released in the summer of 1961 and climbed to Number Two in the Billboard Hot 100 in October. Billboard Magazine listed “Crying” as the Number Four song of 1961.

In 1987, Orbison re-recorded “Crying” with k.d. lang for a motion picture titled “Hiding Out”. Its resulting music video captures a pair of well-matched singers delivering a beautiful song soulfully.

DREAM BABY – ROY ORBISON

Orbison returns to his rockabilly roots with “Dream Baby”. Although the musical style changed, its theme was along the same vein that ran through all his songs, the theme of unrequited love. A catchy classic, it made it to Number Four on Billboard’s Pop chart in 1962 and expanded his repertoire to remind fans that, despite his operatic style, he was still a rock ‘n’ roller at heart.

“I love you and I’m dreaming of you but that won’t do, dream baby, make me stop my dreamin’, you can make my dreams come true… sweet dream baby, how long must I dream…” Dream Baby – Roy Orbison

Orbison went through a few important milestones in his life in 1962 as he enjoyed the peak of his success. His second son was born that year. At the same time, his songwriting relationship with Joe Melson was beginning to deteriorate, primarily due to Melson’s chomping-at-the-bit desire to carve out a solo career of his own. Orbison toured Australia in 1962 as well. An Australian DJ introduced Orbison onstage calling him “The Big O”, referring to not only his last name but his grandiose musical finales. The nickname stuck for the rest of his career.

IN DREAMS – ROY ORBISON

“When you were trying to make a girl fall in love with you, it took roses, the Ferris wheel, and Roy Orbison.” -Tom Waits

By 1963, Roy Orbison was an international success. He released seven more singles after “Dream Baby”, five of them which entered the Top Forty and one, “In Dreams” that made it to Number Seven in Billboard’s Pop chart in February of 1963.

“In Dreams” would prove to be Orbison’s most personally important song because its success gave him an opportunity to tour England. Wesley Rose accepted an invitation for Roy to tour throughout the UK in 1963 with a then-unknown group who had suddenly become very popular across the pond called The Beatles. Orbison accepted the invitation and when he arrived in England, was stunned to see how popular this British group was. Once backstage, Orbison rhetorically asked, “What’s a Beatle, anyway?” John Lennon, who happened to be standing behind him, tapped his shoulder and said, “I am.”

Orbison and The Beatles got along extremely well, particularly with George Harrison, particularly because they greatly admired the southern gentleman’s musical abilities. Roy Orbison was so popular back then that, on the first night on the sold out tour, he had to perform fourteen encores before the Beatles were even allowed on stage. The four marveled at how Orbison could elicit such thunderous applause without having budged an inch on stage since he went on. Later that year he would go on to tour Australia with the Beach Boys and the still unknown Rolling Stones.

While the international acclaim turned him into a pop sensation, his marriage suffered. His wife Claudette had stayed behind in the tour through the UK and as a result had an affair with the contractor who built their home in Hendersonville, Tennessee. Orbison remedied that soon enough by bringing her along for the rest of the tour.

It was also at about this time that Roy Orbison began to develop his own look. His style continued the tradition of Buddy Holly’s bespectacled hipness with thick corrective glasses that can only be labeled today as “geek chic”. This helped him to come out from the dark as his physical presence wasn’t anywhere to be seen in music pop fan magazines or even on his own singles. Besides the fact that Roy Orbison was not particularly photogenic, his shyness and the fact that he had no publicist, kept him away from the limelight. Then one night while on tour, Roy forgot his thick, black-rimmed glasses on an airplane and was forced to wear his prescription sunglasses onstage instead. Orbison liked wearing the sunglasses because it shaded him from the glaring lights and hid his shyness from the audience as well. At the same time, it gave him a persona in the sense that his nerdiness fit the woes of his music as the lonely outsider who nobody loves. His penchant for wearing sunglasses on stage made some people mistake him for blind. Soon, he also began to wear dark clothing onstage. This, along with his songs of desperation gave him a mysterious edge that ultimately became his image.

In 1986, “In Dreams” was included in the soundtrack of David Lynch’s macabre film “Blue Velvet”. In the movie, the song is lip-synced by actor Dean Stockwell as he holds a light shaped like a microphone to his face, giving him a sick glow that’s accentuated by the song’s surreal orchestral feel. The song’s inclusion in the film reignited Orbison’s career. He re-released “In Dreams’ in 1987. A few months later, old friend George Harrison asked Roy if he would like to become a member of a little group George was forming with Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne called The Traveling Wilburys.

MEAN WOMAN BLUES/BLUE BAYOU – ROY ORBISON

“Mean Woman Blues” is a rock ‘n’ roll classic written by Claude Demetrius and first recorded by Elvis Presley in 1957 for his film, “Loving You”. It was also recorded by Jerry Lee Lewis and appeared on the flipside of his 1957 “Great Balls Of Fire”. Orbison delivers it well, in his own style, which is very much unlike the aforementioned two. Besides the fact that Orbison may have just wanted to record it, his ballads were becoming his standard fare. “Mean Woman Blues” did manage to make it all the way to Number Five in the summer of 1963, but the real gem was on the flipside.

“Blue Bayou” only made it to Number 29 in 1963, but its lack of popularity has nothing to do with its beauty. Soft and plaintive, he sang of a longing that only he could convey with his voice so well. “Blue Bayou” was the final songwriting collaboration between Roy Orbison and Joe Melson. Melson left for a solo career that would ultimately prove disappointing.

“I’m going back someday, come what may to blue bayou, where the folks are fun and the world is mine on blue bayou, where those fishing boats with their sails afloat if I could only see that familiar sunrise through sleepy eyes, how happy I’d be.” Blue Bayou – Roy Orbison

Linda Ronstadt remade the song and released it in 1977, where it climbed to Number Three in the Billboard Hot 100. It would become her signature song..

PRETTY PAPER – ROY ORBISON

Pretty Paper was a song written by Willie Nelson and recorded by Roy Orbison in 1963 as a Christmas release. Nelson had been signed to the same record label as Orbison in 1963, Monument Records. When he played his song to Fred Foster, Foster immediately thought of Roy. The song, about a street vendor who sold pencils and paper for the holidays, came about after Willie saw an actual vendor whose legs had been amputated, hawking the same wares as the song to the passers-by, continually repeating ‘pretty paper’. In 2013, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram identified the inspiration for that song to be a man by the name of Frank Brierton.

Orbison’s version of the song made it to Number 15 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Willie Nelson recorded his own version a year later.

IT’S OVER – ROY ORBISON

Roy Orbison released his umpteenth rock ballad in the Spring of 1964 with “It’s Over”, written by Roy Orbison and his new songwriting partner, Rick Dees. Although it reached Number Nine on the Billboard Pop chart, it was not a good song, certainly not matching up with the classics he had already recorded. Still, he knew his formula and he had developed a niche in the rock ‘n’ roll legend with his operatic style, a style that would grow into the legendary ballads of rock from Led Zeppelin to the heavy metal hair bands of the 80s and their pumped-up power ballads.

OH, PRETTY WOMAN – ROY ORBISON

Despite a not very large portfolio of work, Roy Orbison’s early music has been covered by other artists to great success, sometimes to even greater success than the originals. Soit’s no wonder that Orbison’s biggest hit by far was also the breakout hit of a legendary rock band.

As legend has it, Orbison and Dees were working on a song together when Orbison’s wife Claudette walked in to announce that she was driving over to Nashville to do some shopping. Rpy asked her if she had enough money, to which Dees responded:

“Pretty woman never needs any money.”

The phrase ‘pretty woman’ stuck, and it happened to fit lyrically into a wicked little guitar lick they were developing. In less than an hour, “Oh, Pretty Woman” was recorded. The song made it to Number One in the August of 1964 for three weeks, in the midst of Beatlemania where every other tune on the radio was by a British band. In fact, Roy Orbison was the only American artist to have a Number One song during twenty-two month period from August 1963 through June 1964, not once but twice, with “It’s Over” and “Oh, Pretty Woman”.

“Pretty woman, walkin’ down the street, pretty woman the kind I like to meet, pretty woman… I don’t believe you, you’re not the truth, no one could look as good as you… mercy…” “Oh, Pretty Woman” – Roy Orbison

The word mercy in the song was a nod to Roy’s everyday way of speaking, as it was the worst curse word he ever uttered. The ad-libbed growl in the recording was taken from recalling a Bob Hope movie where he had heard the comic do it. But the driving source of the song and the thing that makes it such a great fucking record is, quite simply, the guitar lick.

The song got a massive rejuvenating jolt in 1982 with Van Halen’s version from their “Diver Down” album. Although their version just missed the Top Ten at Number 12, it cemented the reputation of the group, showcasing Eddie Van Halen’s incredible guitar, a sound that hadn’t been heard since Hendrix at the time, brother Alex Van Halen’s incessant spot-on drumming and David Lee Roth’s charmingly abrasive personality. The music video for Van Halen’s “(Oh) Pretty Woman” was one of the first music videos to get airplay on the one-year-old MTV. It was a very cheaply made looking video involving a tied up woman and two dwarves, and the fledgling music television channel played it incessantly as it was only just a few of the music videos available at the time.

Orbison’s song was further cemented into global pop culture in 1990 with the release of the mutli-million dollar box office comedy “Pretty Woman” with Julia Roberts and Richard Gere. Orbison’s song was showcased in the film as its centerpiece as well as title. Directed by Garry Marshall of “Happy Days” and “Laverne & Shirley”, “Pretty Woman” is one of the most financially successful romantic comedies of all time, having made up to $463 million.

DIFFICULT YEARS

Roy Orbison’s “Oh, Pretty Woman” sold seven million records and would be not only the biggest hit of Orbison’s career but also his last. Just like that, none of his singles would ever make it to the top again, with his highest charting single not even able to crack the Top Twenty just a year later.

Personal misfortune dogged Orbison throughout the Sixties. He and Claudette divorced in 1964 due to her infidelity, only to remarry a few months later. However, on June 6, 1966, Claudette Orbison was killed in a motorcycle accident as she and Roy were riding back home in Bristol, Tennessee. It was a devastating blow to have lost his beautiful wife at only twenty-four years of age. Then, two years later in 1968, his home in Hendersonville burned down while he was on tour. His two eldest sons, aged ten and six, perished in the fire. Only his three-year-old survived after Orbison’s parents managed to take the infant out of the house.

32-year-old Orbison remarried on March 25, 1969, to another beautiful young German girl, 18-year-old Barbara Jakobs. They remained married the rest of his life and they had two children together.

Throughout the Seventies and Eighties, Orbison dedicated himself to touring and releasing unsuccessful recordings. On January 18, 1978, 42-year-old Roy Orbison underwent open heart surgery due to years of heavy smoking. After his recovery, his career seemed to come full circle by collaborating with current artists of the day. He was invited to play “Hotel California” onstage one night with the Eagles in 1980. Later that same year, he recorded the unmemorable “That Loving You Feeling Again” with Emmylou Harris. Despite its mediocrity and the poor showing on the charts, “That Loving You Feeling Again” went on to win a Grammy in 1981. Other than those two instances, Orbison’s career remained under the radar until the release of David Lynch’s “Blue Velvet”.

 

THE TRAVELING WILBURYS

When ex-Beatle George Harrison was producing his 1987 comeback album “Cloud Nine” with Jeff Lynne, former leader of Seventies pop group ELO, the two had come up with a catchphrase for every time they hit a sour note, saying “we’ll bury that in the mix.” Soon, just the term ‘we’ll bury’ turned to referring to every musical error a willbury.

One particular night, Harrison and Lynne were having dinner with George’s old friend from their early Beatle touring days, Orbison. They were discussing the idea of recording a song to use as a b-side for George’s forthcoming single off “Cloud Nine”.

“I had dinner with Roy Orbison and Jeff (Lynne of ELO) and I said to Jeff, ‘look tomorrow I’m just going to go in the studio and make up a tune, do you want to come down?’ He said, ‘Sure.’ Bob (Dylan) we knew had this little studio. I phoned Bob up and sometimes you can call him and not get through for years but he picked up first ring and he said ‘Sure, come on over’. My guitar was a Tom Petty’s house so Tom, Jeff picked me up (with Roy), we went over to Bob’s.” –George Harrison

HANDLE WITH CARE – THE TRAVELING WILBURYS

That night, they recorded the song “Handle With Care”. When George delivered it to his record label the next day, the executives quickly realized that the song was too good to be relegated to a b-side. When they were informed of who recorded the song along with George, it took all their willpower not to pee themselves. They quickly asked if there was any chance that George and the other four record an entire album worth of original songs.

Many of the best Beatle songs were created in the moment through happenstance or thrown away lines. One of the most legendary occurred when the four walked outside after a long day of recording and nobody had noticed it had gotten dark. Ringo, tired, said ‘it’s been a hard day’s…” then looked up at the sky and uttered “…night.”

That seemed to be the way a Beatle got inspired; through an everyday occurrence. The style was still alive and evident in the way George picked the song for the group’s first recording.

“I got the first line.. ‘been beat up and battered around’ and… wham, they just kept coming with all these lines, and there’s Bob saying ‘um… what’s it called? What’s it about?’ I finally saw beyond the door this big box with a sticker on it saying ‘Handle With Care’. ‘Handle with care?” I said. ‘Oh, yeah. Good.’” – George Harrison

Trembling Wilburys was the name George and Jeff originally came up with for the group before they ultimately changed it.

George opens the album with this song as his familiar Beatle voice enters, singing the first verse with recitations of things endured over a wash of strumming guitars. Roy then comes in with his beautiful dulcet vocal and sets the tone for the heart of the song when he expresses his desire for a new love in his lonely life. Then, Petty and Dylan come in together for the next line with their own craggy, similar voices to inject the joy of love reminiscent of the hope of the songs of the Sixties. Caressed by Harrison’s unmistakable guitar throughout and Jeff Lynne’s crisp production and tight musicianship.

George: “Been stuck in airports, terrorized, sent to meetings, hypnotized, overexposed, commercialized, handle me with care…

Roy: I’m so tired of being lonely, I still have some love to give, won’t you tell me that you really care…

Bob and Tom: Everybody’s got somebody to lean on, put your body next to mine and dream on…”
Handle With Care – The Traveling Wilburys

“The Traveling Wilburys, Vol 1”, recorded in the home of Dave Stewart, the male half of Eurythmics, was nominated for a Grammy as Album of the Year in 1989. Because Stewart’s home studio was so small, they couldn’t fit the five in his tiny vocal booth with their guitars as well, so they set up another makeshift studio in the kitchen and took advantage of the room’s acoustics.

“We put five chairs around the kitchen and put the microphones up and that was it, so all them guitar parts, all them acoustic guitars were just in this kitchen.” –George Harrison

Today, the first Traveling Wilburys album is considered to be one of the greatest rock masterpieces of all time. For one brief moment, five musical geniuses got together to record a handful of great rock songs. Most of them were written by either Harrison, Petty or Dylan, with Lynne filling in here and there as he oversaw its production and Orbison lending his golden voice. Still, all the songs were listed as written by the Traveling Wilburys, feeling that it would be too boastful to point out who wrote who.

“There wasn’t a lot of deciding what to do. Not a lot of time spent planning out anything. So we just wrote the best songs that we could write and sing ‘em as best we could.” –Roy Orbison

The album also had a passing resemblance to an album from George’s old band called “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, where the Beatles pretended to be a fictional group. In the Wilburys’ case, none of their names can be found on the album, calling themselves Nelson (Harrison), Otis (Lynne), Charley (Petty), Lefty (Orbison) and Lucky (Dylan) Wilbury.

DIRTY WORLD – THE TRAVELING WILBURYS

He loves your…electric dumplings
He loves your… red bell peppers
He loves your… fuel injection
He loves your… service charge
He loves your… five-speed gearbox
He loves your… long endurance
He loves your… quest for junk food
He loves your… big refrigerator
He loves your… trembling wilbury
He loves your… marble earrings
He loves your… porky curtains
He loves your… power steering
He loves your… bottled water
He loves your… parts and service
-“Dirty World” – The Traveling Wilburys

“I love that track, it’s just so funny really. I don’t know how other people write songs but that bit… I just picked up a bunch of magazines and gave everybody a magazine. I had some copies of ‘Auto Sport’ and I would just start reading out little things like ‘five speed gearbox’ and stuff like that. We just wrote this random list and had it on the microphone and then we just did the take.” –George Harrison

Beatle touches abound in the album. In “Dirty World”, they all come in together to sing the title in a typical John, Paul and George harmony, and it works to distraction.

“Every time it came ‘round to Roy Orbison, he always got the ’trembling wilbury’ (line). And it was just the funniest thing. Roy… with the big voice, the big operatic… ‘trembling wilbury’. And we all would just collapse every time, and no matter how we rearranged it, he always ended up with trembling wilbury.” –Jeff Lynne

The album was released in October 1988 and sold two million copies within six months. Talks were already underway for a second album, to be facetiously called “The Traveling Wilburys, Vol 3”, having skipped over a non-existent Vol. 2, but Orbison died of a sudden heart attack two months after the first album’s release on December 6 at age 52, ten years after his open heart surgery operation. When the Wilbury’s recorded their subsequent music video “End of the Line” after Orbison’s death, Roy was poignantly recalled during his solo with a photograph of him and his guitar gently swaying on a rocking chair.

The remaining Wilburys recorded their contractually obligated follow-up, but the songs paled in comparison to those from the first album. Orbison had managed to record his last album just before he died and his final single, “You Got It”, was released posthumously the following year in 1989. It would enter Billboard’s Top Ten at Number Nine, becoming his first Top Ten single since 1964 and “Oh, Pretty Woman”. It’s a tender, sweet song fitting of a gentle man who introduced rock ‘n’ roll to the dramatic style of opera and produced beautiful music that would sprout scores of imitators through the genre he carved out called the rock ballad.

“People often ask me how would I like to be remembered and I answer that I would simply like to be remembered.” – Roy Orbison

 

THE EVERLY BROTHERS

“When Phil and I started out, everyone hated rock & roll. The record companies didn’t like it at all – felt it was an unnecessary evil. And the press: interviewers were always older than us, and they let you know they didn’t like your music, they were just doing the interview because it was their job. Then along came the Sixties, and everyone suddenly got real young, and if you were over thirty, they didn’t trust you.” –Don Everly; The Rolling Stone Interview (1986)

Phil and Don Everly began their first ever tour through the United Kingdom on April 3rd, 1960 at the New Victoria Theater in London. The Everly Brothers’ backing group was the late Buddy Holly’s band, the Crickets. Half a dozen acts opened for the Brothers during the UK tour that ended on April 26, 1960, at the Odeon in Birmingham. The tour was not a pleasant experience, however, due to the fact that Don was addicted to painkillers by this time. Don’s addictions were just part of the Everly Brothers’ lifelong feud. Despite the fact that the two could not be more different, the UK tour was the first indication that there was trouble within one of the top rock ‘n’ roll acts of the day. Where Don was a carouser who liked to go out and be with beautiful women, Phil preferred staying home and shunning the limelight. They two didn’t even see eye to eye politically. Halfway through their UK 1960 tour, Don Everly had a nervous breakdown and couldn’t complete it, leaving his brother Phil to shoulder the rest of the gigs alone.

“The tensions between Don and I … well, we’re just a family that is like that, I guess. Everything that was happening then contributed to it. But you could just as easily say that the tension between us existed from day one, from birth. And will go on forever.” –Phil Everly; The Rolling Stone Interview (1986)

The Everly Brothers in 1960 were on top of the pop heap. Since their debut in 1957 with “Bye Bye Love”, they had released ten singles, six of them which climbed up to the Top Ten, four of them were certified Gold records and two of them made it to Number One of the Billboard Pop chart.

LET IT BE ME – THE EVERLY BROTHERS

By the time the Everly Brothers had embarked on their British tour they had collected their seventh Top Ten single two months earlier. “Let it Be Me” was released on January 11, 1960 and peaked at Number 7 on February 22nd. Originally written in French in 1955 as “Je t’appartiens“ (“I Belong To You”) by Pierre Deleanoe (lyrics) and Gilbert Becaud (music)

As beautiful as the original melody, it was the Everly Brothers’ English language cover that became a worldwide hit, and for good reason. The Everly Brothers’ harmonies are nothing short of angelic, and the accompanying guitar and soft strings turn the melody into a simple, sweet love song for the ages. The lyrics, written by veteran behind-the-scenes rock ‘n’ roll songwriter Manny Curtis, were admittedly sappy, but the way the brothers handle the melody, they could be singing the words on the back of a soup can and it would sound beautiful.

“Each time we meet love, I find complete love, without your sweet love, what would life be?” Let It Be Me – The Everly Brothers

“Let It Be Me” would be the last single released by the Everly Brothers on the Cadence label. They were to start recording for Warner Brothers Records.

Although the British tour exposed a growing rupture in the Everly Brothers’ future, it was only part of their ever-growing feud. Sibling rivalry stemmed from their mutual attachment to their father Ike, who nurtured their career since they were kids when he had them singing on his radio show. Arguments about whether “Daddy said this” or “Daddy said that” many times resulted in yelling and downright sobbing.

It was during the British tour that the Everly Brothers scored the biggest hit of their career.

CATHY’S CLOWN – THE EVERLY BROTHERS

Written by the brothers themselves and their first single release through their new record label, Warner Brothers, “Cathy’s Clown” is about a man who breaks up with his girl for lying to him since everyone seems to consider him a fool for being with her.

“Don’t want your love anymore, don’t want your kisses, that’s for sure, I die each time I hear this sound, here he comes, that’s Cathy’s clown” Cathy’s Clown – The Everly Brothers

Admittedly a wonderfully catchy song made even better with the duo’s pitch-perfect vocals and accompanying themselves with their trademark black-faced acoustic guitars, “Cathy’s Clown” spent five weeks in the Number One position on Billboard’s Pop chart during the Spring of 1960 and ended up selling eight million copies, making it one of the most popular singles ever recorded in rock ‘n’ roll history. It also spent seven weeks at Number One in the UK in May and June of 1960 and even a week at Number One in Billboard’s R&B chart.

The Everlys were inspired to write the song because of Ferde Grofe’s “Grand Canyon Suite” a 33-minute classical piece that contains the elements that inspired the single, simply by playing it on two acoustics and add drums for the rock ‘n’ roll beat.

The Beatles were profoundly inspired by the Everly Brothers, once half-jokingly suggesting they call themselves the Foreverly Brothers as a band name. John, Paul and George’s harmonies were directly influenced by the Everly Brothers’ vocals. One song in particular, “Please Please Me” even borrows the same vocal arrangement from “Cathy’s Clown”. Also, “Please please me oh yea, like I please you” is sung similarly to “Here he comes, that’s Cathy’s clown”.

1960 was a paradox for the duo, who were at the top of their game by that time. They had reached the peak of their fame with “Cathy’s Clown”. It was to be the last Number One song they’d ever have. It was also the year Don Everly’s addictions took hold and threatened to break them apart, not just as one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll duos who ever existed, but as brothers as well.

WHEN WILL I BE LOVED – THE EVERLY BROTHERS

Despite the fact that “When Will I Be Loved” only made it up to Number Eight on the Billboard Pop chart in the summer of 1960, the single stands head to head with their biggest seller, “Cathy’s Clown” in the timelessness of melody and universality of lyrics. In fact, most of their songs have those qualities, and this gem is no exception.

“When I meet a new girl that I want for mine, she always breaks my heart in two, it happens every time, I’ve been cheated, been mistreated, when will I be loved?” When Will I Be Loved – The Everly Brothers

This song had been recorded previously at their original record label, Cadence. It was released to cash in on their career peak with “Cathy’s Clown” having exploded on the music charts just a few months back and still lingering in the pop charts. This single was a welcome gift to the fans of the Everly Brothers’ original rockabilly sound, as their music would take on a more rock ‘n’ roll/pop sheen with their new record label.

Fifteen years later, in 1975, Linda Ronstadt had an even bigger hit with her version of the song. Climbing to Number Two on the Billboard Pop chart. Ronstadt does the song justice, as it fits her vocal range well, and bringing out its country roots through her delivery.

IT’S EVERLY TIME – THE EVERLY BROTHERS

The Everly Brothers’ third studio album and first on the Warner Bros. label is an overlooked rock ‘n’ roll classic. You’d be in good company once you give it a listen, as John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson, Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel and many other well-known Sixties musicians who ever had to harmonize a tune can thank Phil and Don for teaching them how. The aforementioned musicians all loved the Everly Brothers, particularly Simon & Garfunkel. Simon has even invited Phil and Don Everly on stage many times to sing with them.

Every track on “It’s Everly” are early examples of future soft rock styles that would dominate throughout the Sixties and the first half of the Seventies. The crisp production and the unique sound of the duo’s vocals harmonizing together, accompanied by their own strumming on their black-faced guitars, have since become a staple sound in the rock ‘n’ roll genre.

“It’s Everly” was released in May 1960 at the same time as “Cathy’s Clown” started to climb the charts to become the song of the summer. The album, which did not include “Cathy’s Clown”, made it to Number Eight on Billboard’s Top Pop Albums.

(SO SAD) TO WATCH GOOD LOVE GO BAD – THE EVERLY BROTHERS

The single that was released from the album is “(So Sad) To Watch Good Love Go Bad”.. Written by Don Everly, it follows the Everly Brothers’ style of simple, sweet love ballads. It was a style not to be lost on the two Pauls: McCartney and Simon, who with the Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel respectively wrote and performed many beautiful melodies reminiscent of the Everlys’ music.

“(So Sad)…” made it to Number Seven Pop in the Fall of 1960.

“We used to have good times together but now I feel them slip away, It makes me cry to see love die, so sad to watch good love go bad…” So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad) – The Everly Brothers

JUST IN CASE – THE EVERLY BROTHERS

The second track starts the album cooking with a catchy ditty called “Just In Case”, written by Boudleaux Bryant.

Felice and Boudleaux Bryant wrote several songs for this album, including the sleepy ballad “Sleepless Nights”, the bluesy “Oh True Love”, the mid-tempo “Some Sweet Day”, “Nashville Blues”, a title that describes the song perfectly, and one of the prettiest songs on the album “You Thrill Me (Through and Through)”.

The other tracks include a cover of the song “Memories Are Made of This”, not an extraordinarily memorable song. Dean Martin had already recorded it and took it to Number One Pop in 1956.

“That’s What You Do To Me” was written by Bob Montgomery and Earl Sinks. Montgomery was Buddy Holly’s songwriting partner when the two called themselves “Buddy & Bob”.

“What Kind Of Girl Are You” is a Ray Charles composition given the Everly Brothers treatment. Charles’ music has always complemented the brothers’ voices as both song and vocalists can slip in and out of rock ‘n’ roll’ country and R&B seamlessly.

“Carol Jane”, written by Dave Rich, follows the rockabilly/country vein, a style that the Brothers’ began their career playing.

“It’s Everly” closes with Fats Domino’s “I Want You To Know” which Domino recorded in 1957. It’s got the Domino style and sung confidently by the Everlys, although it fades out much too suddenly at two minutes, closing the album rather abruptly.

A DATE WITH THE EVERLY BROTHERS (ALBUM)

In October 1960, the Brothers released their second album for Warner Brothers, “A Date With The Everly Brothers” that would prove to be the last pop album they’d ever record to make it into the Billboard Top Ten Pop Album chart.

Although not as consistent as their previous album release “It’s Everly”, “ADWTEB” was a continuation of the surefire formula that had made them one of the biggest rock and roll acts of the time. Unlike the dangerous outlaw rock ‘n’ roller that ignited the rock ‘n’ roll era, the Everly Brothers had become a palatable alternative to Elvis. They were the two brothers next door who didn’t swivel their hips. They were setting an acceptable example, following the path of decency the Establishment was bent on subverting rock ‘n’ roll.

The very thing that made the brothers acceptable to 1960 society is what makes the album today a tad boring. When they sang about waking up little Suzie in 1957 because they fell asleep at the movies, you’d think by now Suzie would have gotten laid by one or both of these two gentlemen. But judging by the innocence of the songs contained in this collection, it sounded as though they still hadn’t made a move. The songs are pleasant enough to merit more than one listen but there’s nothing adventurous about the compositions or their production. The lone standouts include “Cathy’s Clown”, the monster hit of the year that was added to this Long Playing (LP) record as an afterthought, and “Love Hurts”, one of five contributions from the songwriting team of Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, the Brothers’ favorite composers.

LOVE HURTS – THE EVERLY BROTHERS

“Love Hurts” appears for the first time on this album, then Roy Orbison released it as a single the following year in 1961. It was remade in 1975 by a group called Nazareth. Even though both Orbison and the Everlys give it their distinctive touch, Nazareth turns it into a rock stadium anthem.

All of the other tracks on the album were written by the Everlys except for “Stick With Me Baby” by Mel Tillis and Jimmy Reed’s “Baby What You want Me To Do”, besides the five Bryant tunes. The entire album, except for “Cathy’s Clown”, was recorded in four sessions in July of 1960.

The demise of the Everly Brothers began in 1961. It was essentially over a song.

WALK RIGHT BACK – THE EVERLY BROTHERS

The first single of that year, “Walk Right Back” did well enough. The Everlys had heard it sung to them by its composer, Sonny Curtis. His meeting with the Everlys was purely by chance.

“I wrote most of that one Sunday afternoon, while I was doing my basic training in California, just after I went in the army, although I had the guitar riff for a while. And then Lady Luck stepped in. They gave me a three-day pass, and I went straight down to Hollywood, and the Crickets were there, and so were Don and Phil, who were doing some acting classes for movies – they had just signed for Warner Brothers. So J.I. (Jerry Allison of the Crickets) told me to sing the song for Don – actually I had only one verse written – and Don called Phil down, and they worked out a gorgeous harmony part.“ –Sonny Curtis

“Walk Right Back” made it to Number Seven Pop and Number One in the UK. It was produced, like most Every Brothers recordings, by Wesley Rose, he of Acuff-Rose music. Acuff-Rose and the Everlys had a deal that involved the duo recording songs published by that company, so when Phil and Don brought the song “Temptation” to record, Wesley Rose had a fit.

“Temptation” is an old 1930s song, originally crooned by Bing Crosby in the 1933 movie Going Hollywood. It was also used in the musical film, Singin’ In the Rain (1952). The Everly’s version had a stunning rock ‘n’ roll feel that gave the brothers a harder edge, and as such, correct in making the decision to record it. Although Rose still produced the Everly’s recording of that single, their relationship changed drastically because of that one song. But “Temptation” was not published by Acuff-Rose, so they would not receive publishing royalties, which Rose regarded as an affront to their business relationship. The Everly Brothers however, were defiant and insisted on recording the song. As a result, the Everlys were shut off from using Acuff-Rose writers, including not only the duo that gave them their most chart hits, Felice and Boudleau Bryant, but even their own selves, who were also contractually bound to the music publishing company. For the next three years, until 1964, the Everlys stubbornly recorded compositions by artists not associated with Acuff-Rose.

“Temptation” had only made it to Number 27 on the Billboard Pop chart, but their next two singles released in 1962, the beautiful “Crying In The Rain” and “That’s Old Fashioned (That’s the Way Love Should Be”) both made it to the Top Ten at Numbers Six and Nine, respectively. After those two singles, however, the Everly Brothers never made it into the Top Ten again.

Their highest chart occurred in 1964 at Number 31 with the aptly titled “Gone, Gone Gone”. Most everything else for the remainder of their career hovered under the Hot 100, with many singles not charting at all.

Milestones in their lives during these years included an attempt to start their own label, called Calliope Records, but that barely lasted over a year. Enlisting in the United States Marine Corps Reserve for two years also took the brothers away from the spotlight. In 1964, they finally resolved their dispute with Wesley Rose and Roy Acuff and resumed working with their songwriting team, the Bryants. But by 1964, Beatlemania had invaded the airwaves and the Everly Brothers never got back the success in American that they once so casually had.

Drug addiction was further complicating the Everly Brothers’ daily lives, with both of them addicted to speed by 1964. Don Everly was worse off, adding a Ritalin addiction to the mix. Still having a fan base in places like Canada and the UK, Don Everly finally dropped out of one of their tours to be hospitalized.

“People didn’t understand drugs that well then. They didn’t know what they were messing with. It wasn’t against the law: But it got out of hand, naturally. It was a real disaster for a lot of people, and it was a disaster for me. Ritalin made you feel energized. You could stay up for days. It just got me strung out. I got so far out there, I didn’t know what I was doing.” –Don Everly; The Rolling Stone Interview (1986)

The rest of the Sixties and early Seventies was a struggle for the Everly Brothers. Their popularity had dwindled even in the UK by 1970. At one point they had a summer replacement show on ABC that same year for Johnny Cash. The end came abruptly. The Everly Brothers were scheduled to play at Knotts Berry Farm in California on July 14, 1973. There, Don Everly was unable to play his guitar because he was so drunk. Having had enough of his brother’s undisciplined behavior, Phil smashed his guitar onstage and walked off the show, ending the Everly Brothers as a musical entity. Reportedly, the two did not speak to each other for almost a decade, except for their father’s funeral in 1975.

“The only time I’ve ever been drunk onstage in my life. I knew it was the last night, and on the way out I drank some tequila, drank some champagne – started celebrating the demise. It was really a funeral. People thought that night was just some brouhaha between Phil and me. They didn’t realize we had been working our buns off for years. We had never been anywhere without working; had never known any freedom. We were just strapped together like a team of horses. It’s funny, the press hadn’t paid any attention to us in ten years, but they jumped on that. It was one of the saddest days of my life.” –Don Everly; The Rolling Stone Interview (1986)

 

COMEBACK

The Everly Brothers’ reunion concert occurred at the Royal Albert Hall in London on September 23, 1983. They quickly recorded a comeback album titled “EB ‘84” produced by rock guitarist and record producer Dave Edmunds. The first single release off the album was a song written by their friend and fan Paul McCartney called “On The Wings Of A Nightingale”. It peaked at Number 50 on Billboard Pop but entered the Top Ten at Number Nine in the Adult Contemporary charts in both the US and Canada.

“Dave (Edmunds) said it was the hardest phone call he ever made because McCartney is always being asked for something. Paul said if he could come up with anything, he’d give a call. Dave forgot about it, but about six weeks later, the phone rang, and it was McCartney. He said, ‘I think I’ve got one.’” –Don Everly; The Rolling Stone Interview (1986)

In the Eighties, Nineties and beyond, the Everly Brothers’ stature as Rock ‘n’ Roll Elder Statesmen grew, and they participated in various recordings and performances that gave their legacy weight and acknowledging their enormous contribution to the sound of Sixties Rock ‘n’ Roll. In 2003 and 2004, they joined superfans Simon & Garfunkel, probably the duo most influenced by Don and Phil, on their “Old Friends’ tour. The two had also sung backup vocals on Paul Simon’s landmark album “Graceland” (1986).

On January 3, 2014, Phil Everly died of lung disease, 16 days before his 75th birthday. It was reported that brother Don was devastated and remorseful of their longtime feud. In fact, it seemed that the only connection these two brothers had together was through their music.

“It’s almost like we could read each other’s minds when we sang…. I always thought about him every day, even when we were not speaking to each other. It still just shocks me that he’s gone.” –Don Everly; The Rolling Stone Interview (1986)

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