Roy Orbison's #1 Hits

57 years ago Roy Orbison first hit #1 in the UK Chart.

Ultimate Guitar
Roy Orbison's #1 Hits
In 1960 Roy Orbison entered the UK chart with 'Only The Lonely,' which went on to give Roy his first of three UK chart toppers.
YouTube preview picture
The song is seen as a landmark event in the rock ‘n’ roll history, as the sound of the operatic ballad was unheard at the time. Roy wrote this song with his songwriting partner Joe Melson. The inspiration for the lyrics came from Melson, who as a teenager fell in love with a girl who left him brokenhearted. Roy and Joe met each other in 1958. After several years without much success in the music business. He was living in a tiny apartment with his wife and a newborn baby, and he couldn’t work at home, so he didn’t have a better place to write songs other than his own car. One of these days Joe Melson tapped on Roy’s car window and suggested they collaborate. The rest is history.
The song was intended for The Everly Brothers and Elvis Presley, so Orbison decided, but it was turned down. So he decided to record it himself. Orbison recorded the song in RCA Studio B with the elite session musicians known as ‘The Nashville A Team.’

Their sound engineer Bill Porter decided not to use the trusty string section and doo-wop backing singers technique, but instead tried out something new. He built the mix from the top down rather than from the bottom up, beginning with close-miked backing vocals in the foreground, and ending with the rhythm section soft in the background. The song also differed from the typical verse-chorus form structure of the time, building and falling to a climax, with emotional expression then rare for masculine performance.The recording notably featured a falsetto note hit by Orbison that showcased a surprisingly powerful voice. After the song had been released, this combination became Orbison's trademark sound.

Orbison told Rolling Stone in 1988:
"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."
Released by Monument Records as a 45rpm single, the single shot to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. Fun fact: When Elvis Presley heard ‘Only the Lonely’ for the first time, the song he had turned down, he bought a box of the records to give out to his friends.
Bruce Springsteen referred to the song in his 1975 song 'Thunder Road,' and when inducting Orbison into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, he said:
"In '75, when I went into the studio to make Born to Run, I wanted to make a record with words like Bob Dylan that sounded like Phil Spector, but most of all I wanted to sing like Roy Orbison."
Since that hit song, Roy’s singles had reached #1 twice in the British charts, and once in the USA.

‘Running Scared’ song hit #1 in USA Billboard chart on June 10, 1961.

YouTube preview picture
‘It’s Over’ topped the British charts in May 1964.
YouTube preview picture
And last but not least, ‘Oh, Pretty Woman’ topped the British charts in September 1964.
YouTube preview picture

12 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Orbison (and several others from the same era) are too frequently overshadowed by Elvis when people talk about this era. He had a unique voice that meshed so well with the songs that he did. 'Crying' is my favorite song of all time, just for the pure emotion you hear throughout the song and at the climax. Not exactly sure why it wasn't mentioned here since I believe it was a #1 as well. Great article overall though.
    'Crying' is an amazing song, but it was #1 only on the United States Cashbox chart at 1961. On Billboard, unfortunately, it peaked at No. 2, right after Bobby Vee's 'Take Good Care Of My Baby'
    I can't help think about Henry Winkles ass tattoo in the Waterboy when I hear Roy Orbison.
    That black and white special really introduced me to his music. What great songs this guy performed. Amazing.
    Orbison came at the right time. He is a damn good song writer and musician. If he tried making it today, he would fall flat because sadly the music industry is geared now toward looks. He would still be great, but he would never find the success that he did back in the 50's and 60's...Video truly did kill the radio star
    Not necessarily. But most probably he'd be somewhat closer to Sam Smith and similar musicians.  Amazing musicians can still make it, despite being damn ugly.  Rag'n'Bone Man comes to mind (though I don't really like his music). Cee Lo Green is another good example.
    My favorite song is actually 'you got it'. It reached No. 1 on the adult contemporary chart... Nevertheless, a great up beat song.