Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Bobby Vee born 30 April 1943

Bobby Vee (born Robert Thomas Velline, April 30, 1943, Fargo,
North Dakota, United States) is an American pop music singer. According to Billboard magazine Vee has had 38 Hot 100 chart hits, 10 of which hit the Top 20.

Born in Fargo, North Dakota in 1943, Robert Thomas Velline was still in his teens when he formed his first combo, the Shadows, with his brother Bill and their friend Bob Korum. The trio were playing
around the area when their big break came, at the expense of one of Bobby's musical idols; the Winter Dance Party package tour, with Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper were on their way to Fargo when their plane went down in Iowa, killing all three. The Shadows were scheduled to play the date instead of Holly, and several months later, producer Tommy "Snuff" Garrett supervised their first recording session and the release of the single "Suzie Baby" on Soma Records. Liberty/RCA picked up the single later in the year, and though it just barely scraped the pop charts, the label kept plugging with Vee as a solo act, recording him on Adam Faith's "What Do You Want?," which also failed to move.
Vee was subsequently groomed as a soloist, his college-boy looks and boy-next-door persona cleverly combined with a canon of teenage anthems provided by Brill Building songwriters. One of his first recordings was a cover of Adam Faith's "What Do You Want?", which failed to emulate the British artist's UK chart-topping success. After charting in the US Top 10 with a revival of the Clovers' 1956 hit "Devil Or Angel", Vee found transatlantic success via the infectious, if lyrically innocuous, "Rubber Ball". Between 1961 and 1962, he peaked with a series of infectious hits including "More Than I Can Say", "How Many Tears", "Take Good Care Of My Baby" (a US number 1), "Run To Him", "Please Don't Ask About Barbara", and "Sharing You". The imaginatively titled "The Night Has A Thousand Eyes" proved his most enduring song and reached the US Top 3.


Like many American teen-orientated artists, Vee's appeal waned following the arrival of the Beatles and the beat group explosion. He did manage a couple of film appearances (Just For Fun and C'mon, Let's Live A Little) before the hit bubble burst. While 
Beatlemania raged, he reverted to the work of his original inspiration, Buddy Holly. Both Bobby Vee Meets The Crickets and Bobby Vee Meets The Ventures were promoted by touring. In 1967, Vee returned to the US Top 5 with "Come Back When You Grow Up'. An attempt to fashion a more serious image prompted Vee to revert to his real name for 1972"s Nothing Like A Sunny Day. The experiment was short-lived, however, and Vee later contented himself with regular appearances at rock 'n' roll revival shows and to record new material in the style of Holly.

Vee married Karen Bergen of Detroit Lakes, MN, in December

1963, and fathered three sons and a daughter. Between Europe and America, Bobby and his band continued to perform about a hundred dates a year. When he was not touring or working on his own music, he remained involved in the production of various other musical projects at his Rockhouse Recording Studio, located outside of St. Cloud, MN. His backup band, The Vees, included his two elder sons, Jeff and Tommy Vee. His youngest son, Robby Vee, is also a recording and performing artist. Bobby Vee is a recipient of the state of North Dakota's Roughrider Award and his contribution to the genre has been recognized by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. In 2009 he was also inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame.

In 2011, following a shocking diagnosis of early Alzheimer’s Disease, the decision was made to retire. Bobby pulled back from touring and had a stretch of retirement shows including Joetown Rocks in St. Joseph, an annual event he helped to create.

For much of 2011, he concentrated on his two loves – his music and his family.  He loaded up the family and made a cross country RV trip to Tucson, Arizona to move into their new winter home.  The singer wrote on his website: 'As my buddy Fabian says, getting old is not for the meek. I think he may be right. A little over a year ago I was diagnosed with the mild stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Needless to say, it was a moment that stunned my family and myself to the core.


  'I have chosen to remain private and to focus on what is most important to me: my family and my music.' He continued, 'It has been a time to reflect and just be good. To create memories for my grandchildren and to celebrate life’s goodness.” (info various mainly NME)

Monday, 29 April 2013

Lonnie Donegan born 29 April 1931

Anthony James "Lonnie" Donegan MBE (29 April 1931 – 3 November 2002) was a skiffle musician, with more than 20 UK Top 30 hits to his name. Best known for novelty songs like My Old Man's a Dustman, Lonnie Donegan enjoyed a worldwide reputation among musicians as exalted as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Van Morrison. Donegan's enthusiastic espousal of skiffle, blues, gospel and American folk music was instrumental in igniting the 1960s British blues revival.He is known as the "King of Skiffle" and is often cited as a large influence on the generation of British musicians who became famous in the 1960s.

He was born in Glasgow in 1931, the son of a classical violinist. Although he moved to London's East End aged just two, and always considered himself a Glaswegian. Christened Anthony James Donegan, he became known as Lonnie in the early 1950s when an over-excited master of ceremonies confused him with the American guitarist Lonnie Johnson. Through a jazz club, Donegan met Chris Barber, the singer, trombonist and doyen of British trad
jazz. To fill a much-needed role in the band, Barber taught him the banjo. After two years of National Service, Donegan and a group of other musicians, including Chris Barber, set out to improve their playing, eventually re-forming as the Barber Sunshine Hot Six. Personnel changes marked the band's evolution into the Lonnie Donegan Skiffle Group. A new, transatlantic, musical form had been born.

During the early 1950s skiffle, with its guitar-driven rhythm, tea-chest basses and washboard percussion, was hugely popular and Lonnie Donegan was its biggest star, notching-up 28 top-30 hits. Three records, including a version of Leadbelly's Rock Island Line, topped the charts.      


The accessible nature of skiffle led to an explosion in guitar sales, from a mere 5000 in 1950 to 250,000 in 1957. Among those who formed their own groups were Liverpudian schoolboys, the Quarrymen, who would be reincarnated as the Beatles. Other young fans included the Kinks and the Who. But Donegan himself denied that skiffle ever existed as a musical genre. "Skiffle is a mixture of music, it's a mongrel music," he once claimed. "It came via me singing American folk and blues songs with jazz improvisation and overtones. You can call it anything you like. It's neither fish nor fowl." But the hits kept coming, among them Cumberland Gap, Puttin' on the Style and Battle of New Orleans. And his success was transatlantic, though he was initially banned from playing guitar in the United States when the American Federation of Musicians classified him as a variety act. Even so, he became the first British male artist to have two American Top 10 hits.

Lonnie Donegan appeared on the Perry Como Show on American
television, in an intriguing comedy double act with Ronald Reagan, and sharing the bill with a debuting comedian, Woody Allen. As the skiffle craze waned at the end of the 1950s, Lonnie Donegan recorded new material, fun songs like Does Your Chewing Gum Lose its Flavour? and My Old Man's a Dustman. The Beatles began their transformation of popular music in the early 1960s but, as some of his fans became stars in their own right, Lonnie Donegan's reputation as a musical innovator soared. Elvis recorded one of his songs, I'm Never Gonna Fall in Love Again and Paul McCartney was the moving force behind Putting on The Style, a 1978 tribute album featuring cameos by, among others, Elton John, Rory Gallagher and Brian May.

Lonnie Donegan also developed a close musical friendship with Belfast's finest, Van Morrison. The two collaborated on Donegan's well-received comeback album, 1998's Muleskinner Blues.
Donegan triumphantly starred in Skiffle: the Roots of British Rock at the Royal Albert Hall in 1998 and he was appointed MBE in the queen's birthday honours in 2002. He celebrated with a tour called This Could be the Last Time featuring his long-standing musicians Pete Oakman (from Joe Brown's Bruvvers), Paul Henry, Jim Rodford, Nick Payn, Alan ‘Sticky’ Wicket, and Chris Hunt. His son Peter was his opening act. After appearing at the Royal Concert Hall in Nottingham on 30 October 2002, he collapsed from a coronary artery atheroma at the home of his promoter, Mel Roberts, in Market Deeping, Lincolnshire. He died there on 3 November 2002.

 Though Harold Macmillan was Prime Minister when Lonnie Donegan's last hit single graced the charts, the slightly-built performer with the strange Cockney-American singing voice enjoyed a musical reputation which will live on through thousands of skiffle fans around the world. 
(info mainly news.bbc.co.uk/music)


Sunday, 28 April 2013

Ann-Margret born 28 April 1941

Ann-Margret Olsson (born April 28, 1941) is a Swedish-American actress, singer and dancer. She became famous for her starring roles in Bye, Bye Birdie, Viva Las Vegas, The Cincinnati Kid, Carnal Knowledge, and Tommy. Her later career includes character roles in Grumpy Old Men, Any Given Sunday, The Santa Clause 3, and The Break-Up. She has won five Golden Globe Awards and been nominated for two Academy Awards, two Grammy Awards, a Screen Actors Guild Award, and five Emmy Awards.

Ann-Margret has remained one of the most famous sex symbols and actresses since the early 1960s, and has continued her career
through the following decades. Born in Sweden on April 28, 1941, she came to America at age 6. She studied at Northwestern University and left for Las Vegas to pursue a career as a singer. She was discovered by George Burns and soon afterward got both a record deal at RCA and a film contract at 20th Century Fox.

Her first RCA recording was "Lost Love" from her debut album And Here She Is: Ann-Margret, produced in Nashville with Chet Atkins on guitar, the Jordanaires (Elvis Presley's backup singers), and the Anita Kerr Singers, with liner notes by mentor George Burns. She had a sexy, throaty singing voice, and RCA attempted to capitalize on the 'female Elvis' comparison by having her record a version of "Heartbreak Hotel" and other songs stylistically similar to Presley's. She scored the minor hit "I Just Don't Understand" (from her second LP), which entered the Billboard Top 40 in the third week of August 1961 and stayed six weeks, peaking at #17. The song was later covered in live performances by The Beatles and was recorded during a live performance at the BBC. 

Her only charting album was The Beauty and the Beard (1964), on which she was accompanied by trumpeter Al Hirt. She also sang at the Academy Awards presentation in 1962, singing the Oscar-nominated song "Theme from Bachelor in Paradise." Her contract with RCA ended in 1966. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, she had hits on the dance charts, the most successful being 1979's "Love Rush," which peaked at #8 on the disco/dance charts. In 2001, working with Grammy Award-Winning producer-arranger-musician Art Greenhaw who calls Ann-Margret his favorite female vocalist, she recorded the critically acclaimed album God Is Love: The Gospel Sessions. The album went on to earn a Grammy Nomination and a Dove Nomination for best album of the year in a gospel category. Her album Ann-Margret's Christmas Carol Collection, also produced and arranged by Art Greenhaw, was recorded in 2004 and continues to be available every year during the holiday season.

Her acting debut was portraying Bette Davis' daughter in Frank Capra's Pocketful of Miracles  (1961). She appeared in the musical State Fair (1962) a year later before her breakthrough the following year. With Bye Bye Birdie (1963) and Viva Las Vegas (1964)
opposite Elvis Presley, she became a Top 10 Box Office star, teen idol and even Golden Globe winning actress. She was marketed as Hollywood's hottest young star and in the years to come got awarded the infamous nickname "sex kitten." Some of her pictures, like The Cincinnati Kid (1965) with Steve McQueen, were hits. While others such as Bus Riley's Back in Town (1965) and Murderers' Row (1966), were ripped apart by critics. She couldn't escape being typecast because of her great looks. By the late 1960s, her career stalled, and she turned to foreign films and television for new projects. She returned and was back in the public image with Hollywood films like C.C. and Company (1970), Las Vegas sing-and-dance shows and her own television specials.

She finally overcame her image when she co-starred with Jack
Nicholson in Carnal Knowledge (1971), receiving an Academy Award nomination and succeeding in changing her image from sex kitten to respected actress. A near-fatal accident at a Lake Tahoe show in 1972 only momentarily stopped her career. She plummeted 22 feet from a stage scaffold, suffering a brain concussion and fracturing five facial bones, her jaw and her left arm. Coming out of four days in a coma she made a full recovery. Later she was again Oscar-nominated in for her performance in Tommy (1975), the rock opera film of the British rock band The Who. Her film career continued successfully into the late '70s with starring roles in films like Magic (1978). She wowed the critics with her performances in Who Will Love My Children? (1983) (TV) and the remake of A Streetcar

Named Desire (1984) (TV) (TV), the first of many projects to earn her Emmy nominations.

After starring in a string of forgettable films throughout the 80s, she had one of the biggest commercial successes of her career with Grumpy Old Men (1993) as the object of desire for Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, and it's equally successful sequel, Grumpier Old Men (1995) with Sophia Loren. Ann-Margret has also performed with such notable leading men as Al Pacino, John Wayne, Anthony Hopkins, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gene Hackman, Vince Vaughn, and John Travolta, vintage actresses such as Julie Andrews and Janet Leigh, as well as contemporary female stars like Jennifer Aniston and Cameron Diaz. She continued to act in the 1990s and 2000s, with
lead roles in TV and independent films, and supporting roles in Hollywood mainstream pictures such as Any Given Sunday (1999), Taxi (2004/I), The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (2006), and The Break-Up (2006). On August 29, 2010, she won an Emmy Award for Guest Performance by an Actress for her "SVU" performance. It was the first Emmy win of her career, and she received a standing ovation from the Emmy venue audience as she approached the stage to receive her award.

Since 1967 she has been married to Roger Smith, and is the stepmother of his three children. Ann-Margaret is considered iconic and legendary, remaining one of Hollywood's top sex symbols and one of the most famous women in America.(Info edited mainly  from IMDB & Wikipedia)

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Kirby Stone born 27 April 1918

The Kirby Stone Four were an American vocal ensemble popular in the 1950s and early 1960s.

Kirby Stone (b. Herbert Stone, April 27, 1918, New York, NY; d. July 13, 1981) was the group's founder/leader, and strangely enough, the quartet (filled out by Eddie Hall, Mike Gardner, and Larry Foster) started out in the mid-'50s as an instrumental ensemble. Vocals were only incidental to their sound in the early days, when they played mostly in small
clubs, although the singing eventually took center stage intheir work and, coupled with their exuberant, irreverent humor and a sense of showmanship, made their appeal more obvious. They started getting showcased in better nightspots and on local television in New York before being signed to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show, which led to a contract from Columbia Records.

Their debut album, Man, I Flipped When I Heard the Kirby Stone Four, featured a mix of covers of pop standards by George Gershwin and others, interspersed with originals by Stone and Gardner, the quartet's primary in-house songwriters. Later in 1958, they enjoyed a number 25 single with their recording of "Baubles, Bangles and Beads" (from Kismet) -- which got them a Grammy nomination -- and a number 15 chart placement for the accompanying LP. Its success and their versatility led to the release of two complete LPs by the quartet in 1959, in those days an extraordinary achievement in itself.


The group's rendition of "Baubles, Bangles and Beads" was highly animated in its upbeat sensibilities, taking the song far from its more subtle origins -- their music was funny, almost

(but not quite) in a Spike Jones sort of way, and featured some very solid instrumental backing. They tended to perk up the tempo of anything they were doing, making some of he more exciting vocal pop group material of their time, and also tried to take advantage of the move into stereo releases that started the same year as their recording contract. At various times, their backing included Jimmy Carroll & His Orchestra, the Kai Winding Quartette, and such luminaries as Alvino Rey, Shelly Manne, and Al Klink, among others.

 By the end of the 1950s, they'd reached a new plateau of sophistication with what became known as the "Go" sound, a mix of swing, jazz vocalizing, and "big beat" (as rock & roll was called by those who didn't want to use the phrase), an uptempo sound that gave the group its most distinctive trademark and carried it into the following decade. They were also occasionally risqué in their arrangements, such as getting the girl chorus in "Let's Do It" to coo "do it" very

softly -- they weren't your usual '50s vocal quartet and, despite appearances to the contrary, hardly the model for comedy's later "Four Neat Guys." The group was a fixture of network variety television during the first half of the decade, including appearances on The Judy Garland Show. Their relentlessly upbeat, outgoing, exuberant sound retained a major audience among adult listeners right into the mid-'60s, by which time their brand of vocal pop was on the wane.

Still, they soldiered on -- there was always work for them, if not room on the charts or radio playlists of most radio stations for their brand of music, and they did try to adapt. In 1966, the Kirby Stone Four teamed up with the Tokens (the vocal group best known for its rendition of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight") to form an octet officially known as the United States Double Quartet, in an effort to update their sound. The song that pulled the two groups together on the Tokens' own

B.T. Puppy label was called "Life Is Groovy," and was co-authored by Ralph Affoumado, then a young conductor, music teacher, and aspiring composer from New York. The record was a modest chart success, selling well enough to be heard on the New York airwaves fairly heavily, and to yield an LP of the same name, which constituted a recording swan song for the Kirby Stone Four. By the time it was released, Larry Foster had left the lineup and was replaced by Jimmy Hassell. However, this line-up was fairly short-lived, and by the end of the decade the Kirby Stone Four had disbanded. Kirby, however, continued touring and recording into the 1970s, with Kirby Stone & The Ethnic Family and The Kirby Stone Company. He passed away on July 13, 1981, aged 63.

In more recent years, Stone's daughter Gradie Stone has been getting some serious notice as a jazz singer. Meanwhile, the Kirby Stone Four's music, including The Go Sound and The Kirby Stone Touch LPs, has been getting reissued by Collectables Records in America and by Sony Music in Europe, and even "Life Is Groovy" showed up on CD (albeit as part of a Tokens compilation) in the early 21st century. They're part of a late-'50s American vocal pop heritage that is appreciated overseas and beginning to be remembered in the United States. (Info edited mainly from All Music Guide)


Thursday, 25 April 2013

Earl Bostic born 25 April 1913

 Earl Bostic (April 25, 1913 – October 28, 1965) was an American jazz and rhythm and blues alto saxophonist, a pioneer of the post-war American Rhythm and Blues style. He had a number of popular hits such as "Flamingo", "Harlem Nocturne", "Temptation", "Sleep" and "Where or When", which showed off his characteristic growl on the horn. He was a major influence on John Coltrane.

Bostic was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He turned professional at age 18 when he joined Terrence Holder's 'Twelve Clouds of Joy'. He made his first recording with Lionel Hampton in 1942 where he played along with Red Allen, J. C.
Higginbotham, Sid Catlett, Teddy Wilson and Hampton. Before that he performed with Fate Marable on New Orleans riverboats. Bostic graduated from Xavier University in New Orleans. He worked with territory bands as well as Arnett Cobb, Hot Lips Page, Rex Stewart, Don Byas, Charlie Christian, Thelonious Monk, Edgar Hayes, Cab Calloway, and other jazz luminaries. In 1938, and in 1944, Bostic led the house band at Small's Paradise. While playing at Small's Paradise, he doubled on guitar and trumpet. During the early 1940s, he was a well respected regular at the famous jam sessions held at Minton's Playhouse. He formed his own band in 1945, and turned to rhythm and blues in the late 1940s. His biggest hits were "Temptation," "Sleep," "Flamingo," "You Go to My Head" and "Cherokee." At various times his band included Jaki Byard, John Coltrane, Benny Golson, Blue Mitchell, Stanley Turrentine, Tommy Turrentine, Keter Betts, Sir Charles Thompson, Teddy Edwards, Tony Scott, Benny Carter and other musicians who rose to prominence in jazz.

Bostic's signature hit, "Flamingo" was recorded in 1951 and remains a favorite among followers of Carolina Beach Music in South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia.

Bostic's King album titled Jazz As I Feel It featured Shelly

Manne on drums, Joe Pass on guitar and Groove Holmes on organ. Bostic recorded A New Sound about one month later again featuring Holmes and Pass. These recordings allowed Bostic to stretch out beyond the 3 minute limit imposed by the 45 RPM format. Bostic was pleased with the sessions which highlight his total mastery of the blues but they also foreshadowed musical advances that were later evident in the work of John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy.

He wrote arrangements for Paul Whiteman, Louis Prima, Lionel Hampton, Gene Krupa, Artie Shaw, Hot Lips Page, Jack Teagarden, Ina Ray Hutton and Alvino Rey. His songwriting hits include "Let Me Off Uptown" performed by Anita O'Day and Roy Eldridge and "Brooklyn Boogie" which
featured Louis Prima and members of the Brooklyn Dodgers.

During the early 1950s Bostic lived with his wife in Addisleigh Park where many other jazz stars made their home. After that he moved to Los Angeles where he concentrated on writing arrangements after suffering a heart attack.

In February 1959 Bostic was voted No. 2 jazz alto sax in the Playboy jazz poll over leading saxists including Cannonball Adderley and Sonny Stitt. He recorded an inimitable version of All The Things You Are released on the Playboy label. In August 1959, he performed at the famous Playboy Jazz Festival in Chicago on the same bill as the major jazz stars of the time. He returned to performing in
1959, but didn't record quite as extensively; when he did record in the '60s, his sessions were more soul-jazz than the proto-R&B of old.

Bostic died from a heart attack in Rochester, New York, while performing with his band in 1965. That is the story of Earl Bostic, alto sax star of the R & B years. He is another one of those who never experienced the huge successes of the music he helped create, but one we are fortunate to have added his contribution to the music we love. (info mainly edited from Wikipedia)

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Bobby Gregory born 24 April 1900

Bobby Gregory,(b.24 April 1900, Staunton, VA, USA. d. 12 May 1971, Nashville, TN) was a songwriter, accordionist, composer, author and singer, a former cowboy, lumberjack, sailor, and circus and rodeo musician. He led the Cactus Cowboys band, and made many recordings. Joining ASCAP in 1940, his popular-song compositions include "Little Darlin'", "Am I Dreaming?", "Sunny Side of the Mountain", "Riding on the Old Ferris Wheel", "She's Only a Moonshiner's Daughter", "I'd Love to Be a Cowboy, but I'm Afraid of Cows", and "Ramblin' Hobo".

"The Sunny Side of the Mountain" certainly turned out to be a popular location for country and bluegrass performers; it's one of the best-known co-writing ventures of Bobby Gregory, a performer and bandleader as well as songwriter whose career in the '20s, '30s and '40s spanned the genres of Tin Pan Alley and country & western. The man is wearing a cowboy hat on the cover of Bobby Gregory's Jumbo Song Folio Number 10, and he led a band called Bobby Gregory & His Cactus Cowboys, whose vintage reissue on the Cactus label is proof -- if the label's hype can be believed -- that the man "belongs to the more important figures of country music history!" Here's "Cherokee Rag".

The preceding quote, worded somewhat awkwardly as it is, makes it sound as if Gregory was some kind of a man-slave for Hank Snow. In reality, his output cannot even be said to belong exclusively to the country genre, He came from a generation of performers to whom sentimental, so-called cowboy songs -- many of them managing to bring forth an even larger flood of tears than country & western hits --
were an important part of the overall pop songwriting scene. One of Gregory's most successful collaborators was performer and songwriter Vernon Dalhart, who after performing opera among other vocal traditions, began pumping out ballads with as Western a flavor as a bowl of Cookie's famous cowboy stew. Gregory could also pump, supposedly helping write between 1500 and 2000 songs depending on who is counting. As a recording artist he may have cut as many as 350 titles on a dozen labels.

The sides cut by Gregory and his outfit of course come out of the connected cowboy, hillbilly and hobo modes, and include "She's Only a Moonshiner's Daughter," "Cowgirl Polka," "Cowboy Rag," "Cryin' Hobo," "Yodelin' Hobo," "The Hungry Hobo," and "The Sagebrush Waltz." Gregory's songwriting credits lead to genres in which suit and tie, not hat and spurs, were the normal on-stage attire. Tommy Dorsey recorded
"Am I Dreaming," a collaboration with record producer Joe Davis and bandleader Charles Dornberger.

Gregory made some 26 movies, and appeared on the Roy Rogers network TV show. He was also credited as having been the first accordion player ever to appear on radio, in 1927. He also performed for years with stage shows, rodeo and the vaudeville circuits. Among his partners along the way were Roy Rogers, Hank Snow, Smiley Burnette and the Lone Ranger. In the 1950’s, Gregory opened an art gallery in New York City. He later moved it to Nashville.

Gregory, 71, died in Nashville, Tennessee, following a long bout with cancer.

(Info various but mainly from Eugene Chadbourne's bio)

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Roy Orbison born 23 April 1936

Roy Kelton Orbison (b. 23 April 1936, Vernon, Texas, USA, d. 6 December 1988, Hendersonville, Tennessee, USA.) was an influential Grammy Award-winning American singer-songwriter, guitarist and a pioneer of rock and roll whose recording career spanned more than four decades. Orbison is best known for the songs, "Only the Lonely," "In Dreams," "Oh, Pretty Woman," "Crying," "Running Scared," and "You Got It". He was known for his smooth high baritone voice, with a range of at least two and a half octaves. He was rarely seen on stage without his trademark tinted prescription glasses. In 1987, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and in 1989, he was posthumously inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Major critical acclaim came too late for one of the leading singers of the 60s. He became the master of the epic ballad of doom-laden despair, possessing a sensational voice of
remarkable range and power, and often finding it more comfortable to stay in the high register. The former reluctant rockabilly singer, who worked with Norman Petty and Sam Phillips in the 50s, moved to Nashville and became a staff writer for Acuff-Rose Music. He used his royalties from the success of "Claudette", recorded by the Everly Brothers, and written for his first wife, to buy himself out of his contract with Sun Records, and signed with the small Monument label.

Although his main intention was to be a songwriter, Orbison found himself glancing the US chart with "Up Town" in 1960. A few months later, his song "Only The Lonely" was rejected by Elvis Presley and the Everly Brothers, and Orbison decided to record it himself. The result was a sensation: the song topped the UK charts and narrowly missed the top spot in the USA. The trite opening of "dum dum dum dummy doo wah, yea yea yea yea yeah", leads into one of the most distinctive pop songs ever recorded. It climaxes with a glass-shattering falsetto, and is destined to remain a modern classic.


The shy and quiet-spoken Orbison donned a pair of dark-tinted glasses to cover up his chronic astigmatism, although early publicity photos had already sneaked out. In later years his wife Barbara mentioned that he was an albino. Over the next five years Orbison enjoyed unprecedented success in Britain and America, repeating his formula with further stylish but melancholy ballads, including "Blue Angel", "Running Scared", "Crying", "Dream Baby", "Blue Bayou" and "In Dreams'. Even during the take-over of America by the Beatles (of whom he became a good friend), Orbison was one of the few American artists to retain his ground commercially.

During the Beatles" peak chart year he had two UK number 1 singles, the powerful "It's Over" and the hypnotic "Oh Pretty Woman". The latter has an incredibly simple instrumental introduction with acoustic guitar and snare drum, and it is recognized today by millions, particularly following its use in the blockbuster film Pretty Woman. Orbison had the advantage of crafting his own songs to suit his voice and temperament, yet although he  continued to have hits throughout the 60s, none except "It's Too Soon To Know" equalled his former heights; he regularly toured Britain, which he regarded as his second home.

He experienced appalling and unprecedented tragedy when, in 1966, his first wife Claudette was killed as she fell from the back of his motorcycle, and in 1968, a fire destroyed his home, also taking the lives of two of his three sons.

In 1967 he starred as a singing cowboy in The Fastest Guitar Alive, but demonstrated that he was no actor. By the end of the decade Orbison's musical direction had faltered and he resorted to writing average MOR songs such as the
unremarkable "Penny Arcade". The 70s were barren times for his career, although a 1976 compilation topped the UK charts. By the end of the decade he underwent open-heart surgery. He bounced back in 1980, winning a Grammy for his duet with Emmylou Harris on "That Lovin' You Feelin' Again" from the movie Roadie, and David Lynch used "In Dreams" to haunting effect in his chilling Blue Velvet in 1986. 

The following year Orbison was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame; at the ceremony he sang "Oh Pretty Woman" with Bruce Springsteen.
With Orbison once again in favour, Virgin Records signed him, and he recorded an album of his old songs using today's hi-tech production techniques. The result was predictably disappointing; it was the sound and production of the classics that had made them great. The video A Black & White Night showed Orbison being courted by numerous stars, including Springsteen, Tom Waits and Elvis Costello. This high profile led him to join George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne as the Traveling Wilburys. Their splendid debut album owed much to Orbison's major input, notably a stunning vocal on "Not Alone Any More".

Less than a month after its critically acclaimed release, Orbison suffered a fatal heart attack in Nashville. The posthumously released Mystery Girl in 1989 was the most successful album of his entire career, and not merely as a
result of morbid sympathy. The record contained a collection of songs that indicated a man feeling happy and relaxed; his voice had never sounded better. The uplifting "You Got It" and the mellow "She's A Mystery To Me" were impressive epitaphs to the legendary Big "O". His widow and manager Barbara Orbison filed a sizeable lawsuit against Sony Records in 1998. She claimed damages for the underpayment of royalties for Orbison's work with Monument Records over a lengthy period. Barbara died Dec. 6 in Los Angeles on what was the 23rd anniversary of her husband's death. She was 60.

As with other artists of such high standing, a copy of Orbison's greatest hits should be every home with a modicum of interest in music; he was that good. He was loved and respected by many; his shy yet warm personality endeared him to all. He also possessed "the voice", certainly of the greatest and most distinctive in the history of popular music. (edited info mainly from New Musical Express)