#646: Falling by Roy Orbison
Roy Kelton Orbison was born in Vernon, Texas in 1936. When he turned six his dad gave him a guitar. Both his dad, Orbie Lee, and uncle Charlie Orbison, taught him how to play. Though his family moved to Forth Worth for work at a munitions factory, Roy was sent to live with his grandmother due to a polio outbreak in 1944. That year he wrote his first song “A Vow of Love”. The next year he won a contest on Vernon radio station KVWC and was offered his own radio show on Saturdays. After the war his family reunited and moved to Wink, Texas, where Roy formed his first band, in 1949, called The Wink Westerners.
From 1951 into the mid-50s The Wink Westerners appeared with Roy Orbison on KERB in Kermit, Texas. The band performed at school assemblies and country jamborees sponsored by KERB. In 1953 they played at an International Lions Club Convention in Chicago. After high school, Roy Orbison met two friends in college named Wade Lee Moore and Dick Penner. They’d written a song called “The Ooby Dooby”. The Wink Westerners began to include the song in their performances, including on a TV show on KMID in Midland, which won them a half hour Friday night slot on KMID.
With the advent of Rock and Roll, the Wink Westerners renamed themselves The Teen Kings. In addition to the TV show on KMID, TV station KOSA in Odessa, Texas, gave them a half hour slot on Saturday afternoons. The CBS affiliate also had Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley guest star on Roy Orbison’s KOSA TV show. Johnny Cash got Orbison in touch with Sam Phillips of Sun Records in Memphis. Orbison called Phillips who hung up the phone saying, “Johnny Cash doesn’t run my record company.”
Orbison had been approached by owners of Je-Wel Records who wanted The Teen Kings to make a record. The session took place in early March, 1956. This time, Roy and The Teen Kings, recorded The Clover’s “Trying to Get to You” and “Ooby Dooby”. The single was released March 19, 1956. That same day, Orbison took a copy to Cecil “Poppa” Hollifield in Odessa. He was a well-know record dealer in West Texas. “Poppa” Hollifield liked the record and played it on the phone to one of his connections in Memphis. The guy on the other side of the line asked him to send him a copy. His name was Sam Phillips, owner of Sun Records. A few days later “Poppa” telephoned Roy to say that Phillips wanted the Teen Kings in Memphis in three days to record for Sun Records. Roy Orbison and the Teen Kings arrived in Memphis on Monday, March 26, 1956. The next day they re-recorded “Ooby Dooby”. Bob Neal, owner of Starts Inc., signed the group to a booking and management contract. They kicked off with an experimental tour of Southern drive-in movies theaters, performing on the projection house roofs between film showings. Most of the time touring with Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Warren Smith, Sonny Burgess, Faron Young, Johnny Horton and then Jerry Lee Lewis and other Country and Rockabilly stars. “Ooby Dooby” peaked at #59 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #2 in Vancouver. However, follow-up singles failed to chart. The Teen Kings split up in December 1956 and Orbison stayed at Sun until 1958.
In March 1958, Roy Orbison was offered a spot on an Everly Brothers show in Hammond, Indiana. The Everlys needed a song for their new single and they asked Roy if he had anything. He sang his new composition “Claudette” and they asked him to write the words down. So he did, on the top of a shoebox. Soon Orbison was signed to Acuff-Rose Music Publishing in Nashville, and he also got a contract with RCA Victor where he briefly worked with Chet Atkins. The Everly’s “Claudette” was the B-side of “All I Have To Do Is Dream”. The A side went to #1 while “Claudette” climbed to #30 on the Billboard Hot 100 and to #1 in Vancouver. Orbison had more of his songs recorded by Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Ricky Nelson and Cliff Richard.
By the fall of 1959 Orbison got a new record contract with Monument Records. They released “Uptown” which had strings as opposed to fiddles, which were not very common in Nashville. It was Orbison’s biggest hit since “Ooby Dooby”. But his next release was a smash hit. “Only The Lonely” Climbed to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100, #2 in Vancouver and #1 in the UK. His follow-up single, “Blue Angel”, gave Orbison his first #1 hit in Vancouver, while peaking at #9 in the USA and #11 in the UK.
Orbison had another #1 hit in April 1961 here in Vancouver and in the USA with “Running Scared”. The song debuted at #11 on CKWX and #9 on CFUN. It climbed to #1 on April 15, 1961, on CKWX topping the charts for three weeks. The songs’ production and the performance were unusual for the time, as Monument Records was willing to spend more money on production than many other record labels.
The hits kept on coming for Roy Orbison with “Crying”, “Dream Baby”, “In Dreams” and many other Top 40 singles. Among these was “Falling”.
“Falling” is about someone who has been pretending to be in love with the person they are dating. They’ve been mouthing the words, “I love you,” though it wasn’t true. But since they’ve finally kissed it isn’t pretend anymore. Now the singer is anxious that the person they are finally falling in love with might leave them. In an article for the Daily Mail in London, UK, Sarah Bridge writes that up to a third of women and one fifth of men report telling their partner “I Love You” when they know it’s a white lie. The reasons include not knowing how to more precisely say “I care about you.” Others admitted “it seemed like the right thing to say,” while others thought they were being polite to their date. Others told their date that they loved them because if they didn’t they were afraid they’d hurt their feelings. The Daily Mail reported in a 2014 poll that 59% of individuals admitted to telling the person they were dating that they loved them within the first month. “Around four out of ten couples say ‘I love you’ several times a day when they are in a settled relationship. Just over a third do it (36 per cent) once a day and 14 per cent do it several times a week,” Sarah Bridge reported.
In her article Bridge makes a list of the top reasons people say “I Love You” when they don’t mean it.
1) My partner said it and I felt I had to say it back.
2) It just seemed like the right thing to do.
3) I said it to reassure my partner.
4) We were having sex.
5) I felt pressure to say it because we’d been together a long time.
6) It was an accident, I didn’t mean to say it.
7) I wanted to please my family/friends.
“Falling” was the follow-up single released after Roy Orbison’s top ten hit in the USA, “In Dreams”. “Falling” peaked at #4 in Vancouver, a strong follow-up to “In Dreams” which topped the CFUN charts for several weeks. “Falling” also did well in Corpus Christi, Texas, (#4), Chicago (#6), Seattle and Montreal (#7) and Pittsburg, Pennsylvania (#8).
“Falling” was the twelfth Top Ten song in a row for Roy Orbison in Vancouver, and fourteenth of fifteen Top Ten hits for Orbison between June 1960 and June 1963. In 1963, Orbison had a song on the C-FUNTASTIC FIFTY for 41 of 52 weeks. That same year Orbison’s chart performance in the USA was lackluster with only one of his four single releases making the top ten. In contrast, Orbison enjoyed three top five hits in Vancouver, including “In Dreams” which climbed to #1. Only “Blue Bayou” missed the top ten in Vancouver, peaking at #11, while briefly appearing in the Top 30 in the USA at #29. But in 1964, Roy Orbison topped the charts in the USA and Vancouver with “Oh, Pretty Woman”. He also had a Top Ten hit with “It’s Over” in the spring of ’64.
In 1966, Orbison’s wife, Claudette, was killed in a motorcycle accident. In 1968, tragedy struck again when two of his three children died in a fire that burned down his house in Hendersonville, Tennessee. In the 1980’s Roy Orbison enjoyed a resurgence of interest. A duet of “Crying” with k.d. Lang climbed to #2 nationally on the RPM Canadian singles chart, though only to #35 on CKLG in February 1988. Orbison won a Grammy Award for the duet. Next, Orbison sang with George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty and Bob Dylan, in a group called the Traveling Wilburys. Their single, “Handle With Care,” climbed to #9 in Vancouver and #45 on the Billboard Hot 100. Roy Orbison died dead at 52 from a heart attack on December 6, 1988. In April, 1989, his posthumous single, “You Got It”, climbed to #6 on CKLG in Vancouver.
In January 2018 it was announced that Roy Orbison will be going on tour again, in hologram form. On November 23, 2018, a vinyl double album titled Unchained Melodies: Roy Orbison & The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra will be released. It includes “Falling” as one of its tracks. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra has previously released three albums featuring songs by Elvis Presley. And in 2017 there was a release of the album titled A Love So Beautiful: Roy Orbison & The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. It featured “Love Hurts“, “Oh, Pretty Woman”, and others.
January 30, 2018
Cherie Hu, 30 Years After His Death, Roy Orbison Is Going On Tour Again – In Hologram Form, Billboard Magazine, Los Angeles, January 11, 2018
Steve Pond, Roy Orbison’s Triumphs and Tragedies, Rolling Stone, New York, NY, January 26, 1989.
Sarah Bridge, Third of Women Admit to Saying ‘I love you’ to a Partner When They Didn’t Mean it… but Only a Fifth of Men Have Done the Same, UK Daily Mail, London, UK, February 10, 2014.
Unchained Melodies: Roy Orbison & The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Sony Music, November 23, 2018.
A Love So Beautiful: Roy Orbison & The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Sony Music, November 3, 2017.
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