This episode is The Authorized Roy Orbison. The Authorized Roy Orbison is the book that my brothers Alex, Wesley and I, and a great author named Jess Slate have written on my dad Roy Orbison. I’ve been calling it the first book on Roy Orbison because it’s the only one that real and true. It’s the best one and we’re proud it. This rock bio and Elvis-By the Presley’s are my two favorites and there are a lot of good bios out there.
What I like about this book is that it has pictures. One of my goals for this book was that you could sit and listen to music and read it at the same time. I just wanted to be able to hit Roy Orbison repeat and then start flipping through the pages. That’s the way I read most books, I listen to music or I listen to the book on tape while I’m reading it. While I’m on that topic, there’s also an audiobook that corresponds with the book (I’ll get back to that a little bit later at the end and tell you about how we did that). Don’t forget the audiobook is available on iTunes, or in CD form. I’m holding a copy of it right now, this is the first one. It’s about the size of a CD and it has a beautiful picture of Roy Orbison on the front with the guitar neck. Roy Orbison Unabridged read by Roy Orbison Jr., Wesley Orbison, and Alex Orbison. This includes PDFs of photos. Alex read the introduction and then I read the book on tape. Which is a lot of reason why I am doing these podcasts now, I did so much reading on this book that I started to like it and so I’m just continuing on my own with this. I’ve been telling the press I had to hold my breath for three days to read this book. I would have to keep the lines consistent, so I would take a deep breath and then read all the way to the end of the sentence and they would edit out the breaths in between. It’s beautiful, my brother Alex read the introduction, I read the bulk of the material and Wesley read the quotations.
My brother Wesley (who sounds like most my dad and has the Orbison accent), never really moved from Tennessee and Texas. Alex and I went to California, so we got a little bit more California. I grew up in the back of a tour bus and in London, England and I also spent decades in Sweden, so I have a little bit of a European kind of marbled English accent. Wesley was raised by our grandparents Orbi Lee and Nadine who we call Mawmaw and Pawpaw. He has an accent that even people in Texas don’t have today. He has a kind of the Roy Orbison type accent. When he reads those lines, he read all the quotations of my dad. It makes the book more three dimensional and much more interesting. I listen to a lot of books on tape and I kind of don’t like it when it’s just one person and they act all the voices. There’s not so much acting in this, it’s us three brothers reading it. We have the rights to the music so the company that we worked with, Hashet, they did a great job putting the music underneath the text. They played it before the text or after the text, in between the text or underneath while I was talking. Those were really the only options you have but they were creative and clever in the way they did that. With the music there, it gives it breadth and dimension, it’s like a three-dimensional audiobook. We even got the new album Roy Orbison with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the title of the album is The Love So Beautiful. We were fortunate to be able to use that music on this project, so it all lined up well. It’s about seven hours long so if you aren’t getting enough with these podcasts and want to listen to me all the way to Florida, New York, Chicago, or San Francisco. It’s about perfect for a drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles. If you’re out there driving around, you can get this on CD like the box that I’m holding or on iTunes. I have it on my iPhone so I’m taking it around everywhere I go. I also have the book on my iPhone and I have a physical copy as well, so I’ve got four copies of this thing.
Let me read the back of the audiobook just to give you the press announcement and the information off the back, it says:
“Roy Orbison is a rock and roll icon almost without peer. He came of age as an artist on the venerable son records label, toured with the Beetles had massive hits in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.”
A footnote here in these, we also had a hit in 2017 with the song I Drove All Night which has these great girls war Thomas singing on it with Roy as a duet and that’s on the charts in Britain right now. Please check the blog that goes along with this Authorized Roy Orbison episode for a link to watch that video.
“He invented the black clad sunglasses wearing image of the rock star and reinvented the art of songwriting many times over. He’s a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Songwriters Hall of Fame and recipient Hall of Fame’s inaugural iconic riff award, and the winner of multiple Grammy awards. He’s known the world over for hits like Blue Bayou, You Got It, and Oh Pretty Woman and was a member of the band that inspired the term “supergroup” the Traveling Wilburys with Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty. Despite these and countless other accolades, the story of Roy Orbison’s life is virtually unknown to the millions of his fans around the world. Now, for the first time ever, the Orbison Estate headed by Roy’s sons, Roy Orbison Jr., Wesley and Alex Orbison, has set out to set the record straight. The Authorized Roy Orbison tells the epic tale of a West Texas boy drawn to the guitar at the age of six whose monumental global carrier successes were matched at nearly every turn by extraordinary personal tragedies including the loss of the first wife in a motorcycle accident and his two oldest sons in a fire. It’s a story of the intense highs and severe lows that make up the mountain range of Roy Orbison’s career. One that touched four decades and ended abruptly at perhaps its highest peak when he passed at the age of 52 on December 4th, 1988. Guaranteed to bring a smile to listeners faces some of Orbison’s classics are woven throughout this audio book.”
It then continues with a little bio material about Wesley, Alex, and I:
“Wesley Orbison, Roy Orbison Jr., and Alex Orbison worked tirelessly to protect their father’s legacy. Wesley the eldest is a seasoned song writer and guitar player, his song The Only One co-written with Craig Wiseman appears on Roy Orbison’s multi-platinum album Mystery Girl. Roy Orbison Jr. is a singer and guitar play who works out of his own professional recording studio, Pretty Woman Studio. He enjoys spending time with his beautiful bride and their son Roy Orbison III. Alex, a drummer by trade began his career in music publishing at the age of 17, as co-president of Still Working Music along with his brother Roy, Alex has overseen numerous top ten songs and number one hits. All three brothers reside with their families in Nashville. Jeff Slate is a songwriter and music journalist who regularly contributes to Esquire, Rolling Stone and other publications. A lifelong fan of Roy Orbison, he recently contributed liner notes to Roy Orbison The Ultimate Collection and the 50th anniversary of the Beatles Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely-Hearts Club Band reissue. He and his partner Lynne reside in New York City with their children. Follow Roy Orbison on Instagram official Roy Orbison, Twitter, Facebook, and RoyOrbison.com. This audiobook was published by Hashet and is available now everywhere.
As they say, it’s available everywhere, we hope to get this thing into bookstores in Australia by Christmas. I’ve done quite a few book signings for this already. We kicked it off on October 17th, 2017 in Los Angeles at the Grammy Museum. It was a fun event, Alex, Wesley and I did a twenty-minute reading from the book followed by video presentation of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra album and then we ended with a question and answer. The whole things took about two hours, we signed books, autographed the books at the end of the presentation and question and answer period and we sold out at the Grammy Museum. Then we flew to Nashville and we did a little gig at the Parnassus bookstore and we sold out there as well. We may even do a second one there or at least go by to sign them soon. I went through the Nashville airport as I flew out and they have a book store in the airport that had them, so I signed them in the Nashville book store. Then we flew to New York City where we did an event at the Gibson Showcase. It was nice, Jeff Slathe, the co-author of the book who I’ll talk about more as he pops up was at the event. We had a great fun night, we went out to dinner afterwards, but I’ve been so impressed with what he has done. We had a lot of research that went into this book about 15 years plus done by a friend of ours Marcel Reisko, he is a great guitarist, he is in a band called Truly Lover Trio, if you like Rockabilly and haven’t’ heard of the Truly Lover Trio and Marcel Reisko then do yourself a favor, he’s one of the last rock n rollers there is, and he does spot on solos of Roy Orbison’s Son Records period. He’s devoted 15 years plus of his life, I guess 18 years off and on to collecting every receipt and diary and he’s done personal interview and gotten firsthand accounts from people. That’s one of the things that makes this book so different is that it’s factual. We had to have a firsthand account, a picture of Roy, a receipt or ticket stubs to put it in the book. I want to thank Marcel for devoting so much of his time and being one of the biggest Roy Orbison fans I’ve ever met.
Alex and Wesley and I continued this project for our parents, my dad Roy Orbison when he was 52 we were living in Malibu doing a lot of work and out of the blue he said, “I think I’ll start writing a book.” He did start, he got about 10 pages in and unfortunately he died in the middle of that project. Then my mother picked up the baton and she worked two or three times on getting books, but she never got the tone exactly right. So, it’s been a family affair from the beginning, but we have finished Roy’s memoires for him. It was an honor, we laughed, we cried and it’s a great responsibility and one we knew we had to do. I can’t believe Roy has so many fans that have stuck by him 50 years and there’s never been a book on Roy Orbison. It shows the strength of those fans, thank you very much. If you are a fan please get this book, it’s what you have been waiting for.
Jeff Slate did extensive interviews with Alex, Wesley and me. He got a lot of information, we each wrote quite a bit and then he consolidated and shaped and gave a great tone to this book. Without his help it wouldn’t be quite so palatable, so entertaining and it’s an entertaining book. About half the people that have come up to me have said “Roy I opened it to check it out and four hours later I was sitting there, closed the book and I had read the whole thing in one sitting.” I’ve done that myself, I think the first time I opened it, I opened it and I read it from that page and went all the way through and went back and read the beginning part I missed and didn’t even realize I had read the whole book and I’m going to read the whole thing again today.
The book itself contains a lot of information that you haven’t heard. We did hit on some of the dirt on Roy but in the case of Roy Orbison the dirt is real dirt. My dad grew up poor and West Texas and they didn’t have much money. You get to see Roy grow up and you get to read about Roy grow up and you get to grow up with him through four big pieces in his life. It covers his early childhood, then his years with the Teen Kings, the transformation into the man in black that we know with sunglasses, the rock star and then the ladder career. We put some of the sad parts in there too about my dad’s heart attacks and Elvis dying. We didn’t leave any stone unturned in giving you what we felt was an accurate portrait of my dad.
There were a lot of pictures that I hadn’t seen in a long time. For some reason whenever I open the book it just opens naturally to this page of my dad, Alex, Billy Idol and my mom’s there and I’m sticking my head up in the back but it’s really of Roy, Billy Idol and Alex. Alex has the same kind of spikey hair and that picture is about the age that I really remember Alex. To this day when I see him, I see him like that with that spikey hairdo and he was such a cute kid. Billy Idol was so cool, I remember sitting near him in the Black and White Night and since he’s not actually on stage filmed in the show and he’s only in there briefly in the filming I hadn’t seen this picture. I laugh every time I do see it, we talked about it for years, but I didn’t see it all the time from then until now.
There’s pictures of my brothers, Roy Dewayne and Tony. You traverse through four or five geographical locations as well. It begins in Texas where Roy was born and his days in Wink as a child. Then it moves to Nashville, where he was at Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee and then later where he worked at RCA Studio B. He lived next door to Johnny Cash. Then the third geographical area is England where he lived sporadically when he was on tour sometimes more than six months a year in England. Then finally to Los Angeles where we lived in Malibu, spent time at the beach and Roy did the Wilburys, the Black and White Night and the re-recording albums in Dreams that he did of his old hits.
On the front cover of the book which I’m holding now, it says a quote by Katie Lang “Roy’s impact has been indelible like finding a secret key to unlocking truth and possibility.” The book is a great size, it’s a coffee table book. I turn it over here it says, “filled with over 300 photographs, many never before seen. Roy’s boys have left no stone unturned in order to illustrate the people, places, thing and events that forged their father, the man behind those famous sunglasses.” It also has a quote here from Joe Walsh “I met Roy in 1980, he opened for us, The Eagles in SanFransisco. We should’ve opened for him. This is a great book by his sons, a must read.” – Joe Walsh, guitarist and vocalist The Eagles.
The book has a good weight and the quality of the paper is perfect. When I open a book, I always check to see the size of the text I need to be able to read the book and its nicely spaced, it’s not cluttered, it’s not jammed but it’s still power packed. Oh, there’s so many beautiful pictures, I’m looking at a poster here that says, “high school gym Thursday November 8th, Karl Perkins, Warren Smith, Roy Orbison, and the sensational Teen Kings.”
You find out things in this book, I like a lot of the left hooks I call them, the things that people are not expecting: Roy lived next door and was best friends with Johnny Cash, Roy was the first person to have a hit with Love Hurts, or that Roy invented sunglasses. Whatever it is, it’s the left hooks that make people go “oh yeah that makes sense,” and “I never knew that.” It’s full of these got you movements that I really like. On Buddy Holly’s first album there were two Roy Orbison tracks, You’ve Got Love and An Empty Cup. Roy’s influence on music goes through so many people all the way up through to Bruce Springsteen, Jeff Lynn and T-bone Burnett and a lot of great people. They are all accounted for in this book as well.
The book took a lot of time it’s the cumulated effort of many people starting with my dad, you must have these pictures, songs, music and stories, and you must have Roy Orbison first. Then you’ve got a lot of work I can’t imagine all the photographers, engineers, musicians, publicists, and all the fans that propelled this to the state that we now have it. It’s not up to me whether it’s a great book, it’s up to the readers, and to you. For my part, I just couldn’t be prouder of everyone involved and I don’t even know what words to use to tell you how proud I am, how much I us want to show this book to you. I wish I could make everyone read it for sheerly personal, selfish reasons. I just think it’s so good, it’s the book we’ve been waiting for these years and it’s a big piece of what we’re trying to do for my dad.
We have so many projects now happening that people are asking “oh is this a plan to do them all at once?” and the answer is yes and no. Yes, it all works together well and yes, we designed all the packages to complement one another, but they are all meant to be standalone projects. The audiobook, the book, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Album a Love So Beautiful that is coming out November 3rd, 2017. There’s also documentary that should be out in December of 2017 and it’s a Roy Orbison documentary in conjunction with the BBC. We’ve done it the same way that we’ve done the book and the other albums. We went through everything to show you home video footage. It’s not just unreleased they keep on pushing that point ad kind of sales point, “un released”, yes there’s lots of unpublished, unreleased things but it’s more than that, we’ve bared our sole, we’ve bared our fathers heart for you with a lot of stuff that he probably (and I probably) would in a way rather just keep personal. We’ve decided it’s now or never and that we also still needed the definitive Roy Orbison documentary.
Those three things are happening all right now and I’m doing quite a lot of press. I went to Austin for a book signing. On October 25th, 2017, Roy was inducted into the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame which is a great honor because Roy was from Texas. Anything from your home town, any appreciation is a little extra appreciated. I miss my dad and I know he would have loved to be there, but we were inducted with Rose Ann Cash, which was fitting because her dad is Johnny Cash. I got a new thing I’m saying now everywhere, “Cash and Orbison forever.” I was standing next to Rose Ann Cash and she said, “Cash and Orbison” and I held up the peace sign in the picture and said “forever.” She repeated it back, and she went, “yeah, Cash and Orbison forever.” That was very appropriate, and we are very happy for her, congratulations Rose Ann Cash. If you haven’t listened to her in a while, go back and check some of those songs are excellent.
We were also inducted with the Nevel Brothers which that meant Doctor John was there. We got some great pictures of my baby, Roy Orbison III, with Doctor John. He was doing some voodoo stuff on my baby and it was intense. He’s an intense, powerful character and I can’t wait for my son to look back and years and see a picture of himself with Doctor John and just think, “oh my gosh, I met everybody.” The Nevel Brothers were there too, I heard a great story from Lynn Nevel who looks so much like his dad that and he plays like him. While we were watching it, I thought it was Aron Nevel there, but it was his son Lynn who has been around a long time but looks young. We met him afterwards and I heard a lot of great stories from him. I said “Lynn, you have to do a podcast for me, I need you to tell these stories.”
Back in the late 80’s, when my dad was signed up with Virgin and doing the Mystery Girl album, Keith Richards was on Virgin and did an album with X-Pensive Winos called Talk is Cheap. I got a free copy, I got one of the first copies of that and I’ve always felt they were my band because nobody else seems to listen to them. I got a copy from Jeff Airoff, the president of Warner Brothers. A long time ago he handed me, Paula Abdul, that album which they had done and Keith Richards. I went back and listened to them both and then I gave Alex the Paula Abdul album because I listened to Keith Richards. So, Keith Richards had Steve Jordan, a great drummer in that band and Wadi Watell. Later I’ll have to do a Rolling Stone podcast for sure. I’ve got enough Keith Richards, Mick Jagger and Rolling Stone stories to do a podcast so look out for that one in a couple of months.
So, I met Wadi Wattle the great guitarist and I forgot that Lynn was playing piano on there. While I was watching the Nevel brothers they did a reggae kind of inspired Louisiana funk song and as I was listening to it I thought it sounds like that Keith Richards X-Pensive Wineo. They did a song called Too Rude, a reggae song and I heard that song, so I asked Lynn later since he mentioned he was in the X-Pensive Winos and I nearly fell over and suddenly became a fan. I started shaking his hand and smiling going “Lynn you were in that band?” So, I asked him to come down and tell his stories. He’s got some good Orbison stories and he’s got a photographic type memory. Not everyone remembers, not all the kids remember everything but Alex and I both have a lot of information and this guy Lynn, and he has a lot of information about all types of music. He told me a quick story about him and a white limousine he was trying to get this girl and he took her to the Roy Orbison concert where he got to meet Roy. He had a great night and he got the girl. That was one of the last shows that my dad performed, I think it was in Austin or Connecticut and Lynn had driven from New York or wherever go see this show and he got goosebumps telling me about it. A couple of days later Roy died and he had that shock that you get when you’ve just seen someone recent and then they’re gone.
The Nevel Brothers were fantastic we hung out with all those guys. That was at the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame on October 25th, 2017. They are going to air that entire show. Chris Isaac, Brandy Carliel, and Roule Malou of the Mavericks were there and they all did Orbison songs and then did a big version of Pretty Woman at the end. The Texan fans were fantastic in the audience. We got to see this show, we gave a little speech while we were there and that airs New Year’s Eve. That was one of the funny things, everyone would be talking and then they would say “Happy New Year,” and I thought, “is this some kind of serial joke or Texan humor I’m not getting,” and then at the end they let us know that that airs on December 31st, 2017. So, you don’t get to see that for a couple of months, but it’ll be out there later and on YouTube to see.
I got nervous of the first time, I’ve been doing press for two weeks and I never really get nervous. This time I got out there and the emotion hit me, I got nervous, I introduced my niece Emily Nadine King Orbison, Wesley’s daughter, I said “this is Wesley’s granddaughter.” Then I got nervous and I wanted to congratulate Rosanne and the Nevel Brothers, and I said, “I would just like to thank the Nevel Brothers and God bless Johnny Cash.” That’s what I said, I don’t know if they’re going to edit that out or if it made it but as I came off I thought “oh.” It was because of the emotion, being in Texas, I looked out there and this was a different audience, they loved Roy Orbison. One woman had flown from Australia to be there for this event and there were people from Canada and lots of Texans. Chris Isaac, we shared a lot of stories about Roy and he is such a great guy and he always shows up for us when we need him, and he was there to host this night. I remembered how much I love that man and too, Chris Isaac was great. We’re going have to do a Chris Isaac podcast, I need to get him on one of these shows and we’ll have to start back in the 80’s in San Francisco for that one, there’s a lot of stories to tell.
I’m going on to a book tour in London, England and were going to do Britain a bit and some dates there. I’m going to have to come back and continue doing the book tour, so I hope to see you around the country, around the world and around the United States. This book is for sale at: RoyOrbisonJr.com and in the future, I will be signing them there so if you want an autographed copy by me you can get one at: store.royorbisonjr.com and the audio book is also there. You can also find the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra which will be next week’s podcast. Of course, you can get it on Amazon, iTunes, and Royorbison.com. Go check it out there, we’ve got a lot of great Roy Orbison merch: the book, audiobook, and vinyl versions of some of Roy’s albums, lots of t-shirts and things. I’ve just updated my Wikipedia page recently and Wikipedia is what it is, good for some things not for others but it’s a nice little primer to find out things about people so check that out we’ve just updated that recently.