WANT MORE ORBISON? YOU GOT IT!
The sons of music legend Roy Orbison talk to MARION McMULLEN about music, memories and next year’s hologram tour
What is your earliest memory of your father singing?
ROY Jr (aged 47): The first thing that jumps out would be in London. We were probably at the Mayfair Hotel or one of the two or three big hotels we stayed in.
I would’ve been two or three years old and I remember they wouldn’t let me go to the show.
I was just lying on the bed and I remember I could feel the floor shaking and the people clapping and everything.
I just I wanted to go down there so badly and I fell asleep to Roy Orbison music. It’s nice to fall asleep to. It was so soothing. ALEX (aged 42): I remember getting pulled up to do a bow – being about three – and just seeing all of those people looking back.
That was in the UK as well and it was amazing how hard everyone clapped. It was stunning. WESLEY (aged 52): He came to pick me up on his motorcycle, we rode to the top of the hill and he started singing Yellow Submarine and I thought it odd.
I said: “Are you just making that up on the spot?” and he said “No, it’s a song by a really terrific famous band called The Beatles.”
Was music always around growing up?
ROY Jr: I grew up on the back of a tour bus. I slept more nights than not in the studio, so I remember living in the music studios, and there was always a guitar in the room.
Roy always left a guitar nearby and I still sleep with a guitar nearby. I have a guitar in every room of my house right now so I don’t have to go searching. ALEX: Life revolved around the turntable and music and people coming by to write music or play music or wanting to do music business, and so I think it was all encompassing. WESLEY: For me it was a little more of a solitary experience.
I had a record player and some of my dad’s records hanging around and a Johnny Cash record and a Jerry Lee Lewis record and Merle Haggard, who was one of my grandfather’s favourites.
He played that quite a bit.
When did you start playing music yourselves?
ROY Jr: Well, I have a son, Roy III, and he’s one year old, and we have him on this new Royal Philharmonic Orchestra album, A Love So Beautiful.
At 10 months old, he plays on the song Oh, Pretty Woman so we have three generations of Roy Orbisons on Roy with wife Barbara this album. and his son Wesley
Our dad in 1970 in London was a passive aggressive dad.
He didn’t push it on us, he just made it easy to choose music.
He gave me a guitar for my fifth birthday so I could say I started at five, but I remember sneaking in and playing with his guitar earlier than that. ALEX: I think I was three, right? I remember my hands were too small to get on the guitar.
First they wanted me to play the violin! I had to have a sponge to go on the chin holder because it was too far away because I was so small.
I was legitimately the worst violin player probably ever.
It made me much more comfortable when I got to drums a little while later.
WESLEY: I always sang for as long as I could remember, but dad said if I wanted to get into writing songs and all that I should learn an instrument and be able to accompany myself. I think it was probably close to my 18th birthday when I got a guitar and then it started pretty full on.
What was it like hearing songs like Only The Lonely, Crying and In Dreams played by the orchestra for the first time on the album?
ALEX: I literally cried. It’s strange but I don’t know what the tears are, because they’re not sad tears.
It’s just so beautiful that it moved me to tears the first time.
When we were sat around, I remember seeing these guys get a little misty, and I thought ‘Good, it’s not just me.’
How will the hologram tour work next year?
ALEX: By sheer entertainment magic. We can’t get too deeply into how it’ll work, but we can say that it’s gonna work well.
The tour will be our father walking out on stage as a hologram surrounded by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra playing the arrangements that are on the record with our dad’s vocals.
To have the Roy Orbison concert experience again will be incredible for people, and for me personally.
If it passes muster with me then I’m confident it’s gonna pass muster with other people, even the people who have seen many, many, many shows.
ROY Jr: I was sold when they first described it and said ‘Here’s the way it’s gonna go, your dad’s gonna walk to the centre…’ He’s gonna walk?! What else is he gonna do? I was blown away just from that.
That’s like Darth Vader walking into the room! He’s gonna walk into the centre of the stage? I’m gonna have goosebumps already.
What is the best piece of advice your father ever gave you?
ALEX: I was a famous shortcutter, like I would try to stack all the plates on the table so it would only take one run to the dishwasher, and he must’ve sympathised with that and he said, “When you do something, do it 100%, even 110%.
“Give it your all, so you don’t have to come back and mess with it later, because those shortcuts end up meaning more time later.”
I didn’t figure that out until I was 35 years old, and now those words echo in my head.
WESLEY: Choose your friends wisely. ROY Jr: He had so many bits of advice. He was very, very smart, but one thing that I think about more and more as I get older was that he said, “Son, the surest way to poverty is to become a poet or a jazz musician.”
All these years later, I’m kind of a poet and a jazz musician. ■ A Love So Beautiful With The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is out now and the single Love Hurts will be released on December 22. The orchestra will also be performing with a holographic Roy Orbison next year as part of the Roy Orbison In Dreams tour. Go to royorbison.com for details.
Roy Orbison pictured backstage at the London Palladium in 1965, and above, with his wife Barbara and baby son Roy Jr. Below, is new album A Love So Beautiful which features Roy’s classic tracks with music from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
John Lennon and Ringo Starr at the birthday party of Roy Orbison in 1964. They are pictured with his son Roy Jr