Roy Orbison

In the 1960’s, Roy Orbison became one of the most popular singers of that generation. He was the greatest ballad singer in pop music: combining his country music roots with pop music sentimentality.

But he had not begun his career in this way. He had started out as a youngster in the town of Wink in Texas during the 1940’s, who wanted to get into the music business. In those days in Texas, the only way was through country music. That was the dominant style. Roy Orbison gained a TV show in Odessa, Texas in 1954 and it was then that he first came into contact with the name of Sun Records. This was when he met Elvis Presley, a young singer from Sun in Memphis who was starting to make country records with a rhythm and blues beat, Rockabilly records.

Orbison decided that the new style was the passport to success and he spent over a year practicing the style. He was a good guitarist and developed a very sharp, cutting style on the & electric guitar, based on Scotty Moore and Carl Perkins but having elements of his own ideas. Vocally, he had a higher, thinner voice than most rockabilly singers, but this was perhaps an advantage as it made him different.

In 1956, Orbison gained a record contract with Sun Records, and he had a lot of local success in the American South with his first release, Ooby Dooby. This was a song written by fellow Sun artists Wade Moore and Dick Penner who had spent some time at the University of Northern Texas with Orbison when he was a geology student.

Orbison was always aiming to be an entertainer, and he admits that his early days singing rockabilly in Memphis were most enjoyable and valuable for him when he later turned to ballads.

The three ballads on this album, Devil Doll, It’s Too Late, and Tryin’ To Get To You, show very much how Orbison’s style developed out of country music. The classic-style rockabilly songs like You’re My Baby and Rockhouse were developed from that, but with much stronger drum rhythms, and the addition of piano and vocal choruses on the later songs like Sweet And Easy To Love and This Kind Of Love complete the development into full-blooded rock ‘n’ roll.

Although Roy Orbison may not be famous for his early rockabilly recordings, there is no doubt that they stand comparison with anything he has recorded. He fitted well into the Sun format and contributed much with his songwriting and recorded performances to the immortal ‘Sun Sound’.

Martin Hawkins