#744: I Can’t Stop Loving You by Roy Orbison

Peak Month: February 1962
8 weeks on Vancouver’s CFUN chart
Peak Position #4
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ did not chart
YouTube.com link: “I Can’t Stop Loving You” Roy Orbison
YouTube.com link: “I Can’t Stop Loving You” Ray Charles
Lyrics: “I Can’t Stop Loving You”

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. In the midst of a solid string of Top Ten hits in Vancouver in the early 60’s, Roy Orbison released “I Can’t Stop Loving You”.

I Can't Stop Loving You by Roy Orbison

“I Can’t Stop Loving You” is a song written by country singer Don Gibson. In 1958, his recording was a Top Ten country hit in the USA and #2 hit in Norway. It climbed to #81 on the Billboard Hot 100. Later that year Kitty Wells covered Gibson’s song and took the tune to #3 on the Billboard country charts. In January 1961, Monument Records released a debut album on the label for Roy Orbison. It was titled Roy Orbison Sings Lonely And Blue. The album included the hit singles Orbison released in 1960: “Only The Lonely” and “Blue Angel”. In America, the third single release was “I’m Hurtin'” with “I Can’t Stop Loving You” on the B-side. However, in Vancouver both CKWX and CFUN play listed the B-side, “I Can’t Stop Loving You”. The song debuted on the C-FUNTASTIC FIFTY on January 19, 1962. This was a year after “I’m Hurtin'” had peaked at #11 on CFUN on January 21, 1961. Of the songs where a B-side appeared on the pop charts in Vancouver after a chart run by the A-side of the 78 or 45 RPM, Roy Orbison’s “I Can’t Stop Loving You” represents the longest gap. It was 51 weeks, between an A-side (“I’m Hurtin'”) falling off the charts (on January 28, 1961) and a B-side appearing on the charts (on January 19, 1962).

When Don Gibson wrote “I Can’t Stop Loving You”, it began with a refrain, the first line being “I can’t stop loving you/I’ve made up my mind/To live in memory/of the lonesome times.”  But when Roy Orbison recorded the song, he opened by singing the first verse: “those happy hours that we once knew/though long ago, they still make me blue…” Orbison sings the refrain later in his recording. Uniquely, Roy Orbison sings a second verse with these lyrics:

I can’t stop loving you, there’s no use to try.
Pretend ther’s some one new, I can’t live a lie.
I can’t stop wanting you, the way that I do.
Theres only been one love for me, that one love is you.

In the credits for the Roy Orbison recording of “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” only Don Gibson appears on the credits on the Orbison 45 RPM. Since neither Gibson, Kitty Wells or Ray Charles included this verse, was this an extra verse that Don Gibson wrote but chose to omit in his recording? Or did Roy Orbison write this additional verse but omit crediting himself for the second verse he sang on “I Can’t Stop Loving You?”

The song is about someone whose life has come to a standstill since their relationship broke apart. When they think about the happy hours they once spent with their ex-partner, they just feel blue and lonesome. They’ve resigned themselves to dream about “yesterday” and live in a world of memories. Such resolve precludes moving forward and meeting anyone new. In a Global News article, Dani-Elle Dubé gives insight into 5 Reasons Why You Still Can’t Get Over Your Ex. She reminds us that it was the inventor of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell who observed, “When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.” Research by Carol Dweck and Laurel Howe in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, prompted the researchers to make several observations.

“Few things in life are more traumatic than being rejected by someone who knows you well and then, with this insight, decides that she or he no longer cares for you or wants to be with you,” Dweck said, adding that romantic rejection, in particular, poses a tremendous threat to the self. Howe added, “The experience of being left by someone who thought that they loved you, then learned more and changed their mind, can be a particularly potent threat to the self and can drive people to question who they truly are.” The researchers discovered that people who believe that they cannot change are most likely to take the longest to rebound after a breakup. Those who believe they can grow and develop are most able to recover more quickly, even in the face of a rejection that might sting.

The researchers discovered that individuals who are certain that being rejected exposed a fatal flaw tended to be more reluctant to wade back into the world of dating, protecting themselves from being rejected once again. “This concern haunts them and can make them guarded and defensive in future relationships – something we know is likely to impair these future relationships,” Dweck said.

Dani-Elle Dubé identifies that some people can’t face the fact that the relationship is over. For some people who feel blindsided and didn’t see any of the warning signs that the relationship was at risk, this is an added factor in taking time to bounce back. Another reason is your keeping tabs on them on social media. Focusing on what your ex is doing on Facebook, Instagram or other social media isn’t going to help you focus on what you are going to do to move your own life forward. Another obstacle is properly grieving the loss of a relationship and having closure, saying goodbye to what was. Ways to do this include writing an unsent letter or some other exercise that help name what was important about the relationship, what was unhelpful and what your next steps are in moving your own life forward. Another factor is low self-esteem. If this is a significant factor, it is worth exploring what the sources of the low self-esteem are with a professional. Dragging your low self-esteem into a singles bar will likely unmask itself in small talk in ways that push others away that you may not even be conscious of. One other cause of a slow recovery from a breakup is discovering that you built your world around your former partner. You abandoned your previous life for the adventure and excitement, even narcissism of your former partner. Now that you are on your own again, it can be hard to adjust to the realities of how little you gave to focusing on your own personal growth and development while in your last relationship.

In June 1962, Ray Charles had a #1 hit for five weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 with “I Can’t Stop Loving You”. In Vancouver, the song spent weeks on the C-FUNTASTIC FIFTY, peaking at #34 on June 2, 1962. While the version by Ray Charles would end up getting played on “Flashback weekends” and oldies stations over the following decades, for radio listeners in Vancouver in 1962, it was Roy Orbison who had the bigger hit locally. “I Can’t Stop Loving You” has been recorded by numerous recording artists that include Elvis Presley, Dolly Parton, Jerry Lee Lewis, Andy Williams, Johnny Tillotson, Paul Anka, Frank Sinatra, Faron Young, Jim Reeves, Duke Ellington, Count Basie,  Conway Twitty, Van Morrison, Anne Murray and Bryan Adams.

On October 27, 1963, Roy Orbison appeared for his first time in concert in Vancouver at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. 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. On November 28, 1965, Roy Orbison returned to the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.

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.

On June 13, 1976, Roy Orbison returned to the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in concert.

In the 1980’s Roy Orbison enjoyed a resurgence of interest. He regularly performed in concert in Vancouver throughout the decade. On June 25, 1981, Orbison gave a concert at the Orpheum. The following January 17th, 1982, he was in concert at The Cave. Three years later he appeared at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on June 22, 1984. During Vancouver’s centennial anniversary in 1986, Orbison was at the Expo Theatre on August 10th. And on September 3, 1987, he returned to the Orpheum. His ninth and final concert was at the Expo Theatre on May 28, 1988.

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.

October 4, 2018
Ray McGinnis

Cherie Hu, “30 Years After His Death, Roy Orbison Is Going On Tour Again – In Hologram Form,” Billboard, January 11, 2018
Ethel S. Person, Love Triangles, The Atlantic, Boston, MA, February 1988.
Steve Pond, “Roy Orbison’s Triumphs and Tragedies,” Rolling Stone, January 26, 1989.
Dani-Elle Dubé, “5 Reasons Why You Still Can’t Get Over Your Ex,” Global News.ca, June 14, 2017
Clifton B. Parker, “Stanford Research Explains Why Some People Have More Difficulty Recovering From Romantic Breakups,” Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA, January 7, 2016
Lauren C. Howe and Carol S. Dweck, “Changes in Self-Definition Impede Recovery From Rejection,” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, October 23, 2015
Roy Orbison, “I Can’t Stop Loving You” credits, Discogs.com.
Roy Orbison Concerts – Canada,” Setlist.fm.
C-FUNTASTIC FIFTY,” CFUN 1410 AM, Vancouver, BC, January 19, 1962.
C-FUNTASTIC FIFTY,” CFUN 1410 AM, Vancouver, BC, June 2, 1962.

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