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Roy Orbison's son on his father, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Tom Petty, Bono, John Cleese, growing up in the Midlands, and Birmingham hologram gig

By Kirsten Rawlins | Music | Published:

Roy Orbison's voice is among the most distinctive of all time and the Texan icon is not only regarded among the Greatest Artists Of All Time by Rolling Stone, but is also included in five different halls of fame.

Top left, Roy Orbison, bottom left, Roy Orbison Jr, and right, Roy Jr as a little boy with his dad

He was best friends with Johnny Cash, mentor to Bono, an inspiration to John Lennon and even formed a supergroup with Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, and Tom Petty.

And while Roy died back in 1988, his musical legacy very much still lives on.

Fans will be treated to a 'live' spectacular showcasing an array of the singer/songwriting icon's best-loved hits when the late star returns to the Midlands in the form of a hologram accompanied by The Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra.

Roy Orbison

Roy Orbison In Dreams comes to Birmingham's Genting Arena on April 9.

The tour follows the release of album A Love So Beautiful, released in November last year by Roy's sons who used old recordings of their father's songs, stripped them back and added in music from The Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra.

Roy Orbison - A Love So Beautiful (with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra) (Audio)

And fans can expected even more Roy-related treats, as his family is now looking to open a museum dedicated to his legacy, a musical set to open on Broadway and even a film of his life.

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"Though it may seem strange that he’s still very much on people’s minds nearly 30 years after his death, it feels normal to us," says Roy's son Roy Orbison Jr.

"He’s been at the forefront of the music industry for the last 60 years - and now is no different. He’s still kicking in doors all these years later.

Roy Orbison at Wolverhampton's Gaumont cinema

"Roy did 150 years of living in 50 years on Earth.

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"He was among those who invented rock and roll.

"Roy invented wearing dark sunglasses and dark clothing, with Johnny Cash.

"He even changed copyright laws. His case was part of the rulings which made sampling possible. The case was back in the 80s and even went to the Supreme Court.

"Pretty Woman has been sampled more times than any other song.

Roy Orbison - Oh, Pretty Woman (from Black & White Night)

"That drum sound on the record is so clear. Whenever I’m in Europe I hear it on songs all the time.

"Roy made a huge contribution to guitar music as a whole in every aspect; from publishing to songwriting.

"We’re very thankful for it.

Roy Orbison

"There may be people who have sold better, but they’re not more than 25 years dead and still selling.

"Roy goes through generations. He’s been reaching the hearts of teenage girls for the last 60 years.

"He has a very high profile on social media and kids have never been faster or smarter than they are today. The fact he reaches such a young audience may be surprising to older people, but he sang about such timeless topics.

"If you’re a teenage boy and you’ve just lost your girlfriend, and you can’t talk to your parents or your friends… Somehow people just find music which they need at that time. Then they stumble across Crying, and suddenly Roy’s your only friend. It happens every day."

Roy Orbison - Crying (Live 1964)

Looking ahead to the hologram tour, Roy Jr says he and his family 'can't wait' for it to reach fans.

"We’re very excited. We’re hugely involved in all different aspects," he says.

"The hologram is amazing and it will be backed with great music. We’ve got his voice on some great songs. And the quality of the hologram is just the icing on the cake. Without Roy’s voice there’s no cake at all.

Roy Orbison Jr. Pic: Rebecca Denton Photography

"The music will be played loudly too - if you play his music loudly in a large auditorium, it takes on a new dimension.

"There’s some fascinating technology being used on the tour.

"The hologram looks great. I’ve been to look at it from all sides too, to make sure it’s angle-free.

"The same thing that has happened to TV over the last 10 years has also happened with holograms.

Roy Orbison - I Drove All Night

"This is a 4k resolution HD hologram. The image is very crisp; the technology has come on leaps and bounds.

"I do wish we had Roy though.

"The tour is doing a run of Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and the US. It will be a 100-day tour in total."

Among the projects Roy Jr and his brothers Wesley and Alex are working on is a plan to open a Roy Orbison museum in Nasvhille, next door to the Johnny Cash Museum.

Roy Orbison

The link between the Orbisons and the Cash family go back five generations, says Roy Jr, with his grandfather living next door to Johnny Cash's dad, right up to the icons' grandchildren now being friends as tiny children.

John Carter Cash, son of Johnny, even got ordained especially for the wedding of Roy Jr and his wife Asa, as the two of them have been lifelong best friends.

"Johnny Cash’s family and mine go back five generations. Old man Cash - Johnny Cash’s dad - lived next door to my grandfather," explains Roy Jr.

Pretty Woman-Roy Orbison & Johnny Cash 1967

"My dad and Johnny Cash were best friends - though they didn’t meet until 1955. They were lifelong friends.

"His son John Carter Cash and I have been best friends since birth.

"My son was born last year and John recently had a daughter named Grace June Cash. Roy The Third (my son) and June are now friends too.

"Johnny Cash was the third person to hold me after I was born."

Johnny Cash

Though Roy enjoyed an incredible career, he endured a great deal of tragedy in his personal life which saw his first wife Claudette die following a motorbike crash in 1966. Just two years later, two of Roy's three children were killed when his house in Hendersonville, Tennessee, burned to the ground.

But he met his second wife, German-born Barbara, in Leeds in 1968 and the two were married by 1969. It is with his Barbara that he had Roy Jr and, following the terrible incident involving two of his other sons, Roy Jr was kept close to his father's side, taken on the road with his him almost everywhere he went.

Roy Orbison with his then 18-year-old wife Barbara and mum of Roy Jr in 1969

"My father had two sons who died before I was born, so when I arrived he took me everywhere with him," says Roy Jr.

"I grew up on his tour bus. I didn’t have to go to school. And because my dad had a reputation, no one would ever tell him he shouldn’t have me with him."

So when supergroup The Travelling Wilburys formed (with Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty) and recorded their first album in secret, Roy Jr was the only person not in the band to know about it.

"The Travelling Wilburys was a dream that all the musicians had individually," explains Roy Jr.

The Traveling Wilburys - Handle With Care

"George Harrison was only ever in two bands in his whole career.

"George got down on one knee and asked my dad if he wanted to be in his band. That showed such humility. He didn’t kneel before anyone.

George Harrison

"Roy never really had peers, so it was great for them to get together.

"And there should have been tension; if you put the wrong people together, egos can get in the way - but I think all of them were very conscious of that.

"I remember Bob Dylan with his camera, hiding in the bushes as everyone arrived.

Bob Dylan

"Tom Petty and Roy, meanwhile, would always talk about cars and bikes every day.

"When Roy arrived, everyone would run out to see what he was driving. And it turned into a competition: one day Roy would turn up in a certain car, so the next day, so would Tom Petty.

Tom Petty

"It was a beautiful time in everyone’s lives.

"It re-started Roy’s career - and the careers of all of them.

"They helped each other. It was a beautiful thing.

The Traveling Wilburys - End Of The Line

"When I think of The Travelling Wilburys, I think of Monty Python and laughing and comedy.

"My contribution to their music was on Dirty World. At the end, when they are singing ‘it’s a dirty world’ they edited out a swear word in the last line.

"It came from a song Roy and I listened to when he was driving, from a Monty Python album, when they beeped over the bad words, using a chicken cluck or by honking a horn.

Left to Right: Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Graham Chapman, John Cleese and Michael Palin of Monty Python

"After that, they ended up adding it into the end of the song."

During the time of The Travelling Wilburys, Roy Jr not only met the superstars who made up the group but also, by chance, comedy icon John Cleese who just so happened to move in next door to where he and his father were living.

"At the time, I was very much into Monty Python, so I used to force dad to watch all their sketches," adds Roy Jr.

"John Cleese actually moved in next door to us when he was filming A Fish Called Wanda.

John Cleese in Fawlty Towers

"He taught me how to juggle.

"Roy and John met at that time too."

As Roy Jr went everywhere with his dad, he also became close friends with Bono when Roy took him along to a songwriting session with the U2 frontman.

Roy Orbison - You Got It

"Roy needed a song for his album Mystery Girl," says Roy Jr.

"It was so funny that Roy had a 17-year-old sidekick.

"I got on with Bono very well.

Bono

"Around 1987 it was U2 mania and Bono actually ran away and hid at our house. Roy always lived behind closed doors and Bono had to learn how to do that. He used my dad as a mentor. And I was his friend.

"We’re still very good friends."

And though he will be here in the Midlands in memory rather than in person next month, Roy Orbison spent a lot of time in and around the area during his lifetime - with Roy Jr saying he 'basically grew up in the Midlands.

Roy Orbison - Only The Lonely (A Black & White Night)

"What New York City was to John Lennon is what London and Birmingham were to Roy," adds Roy Jr.

"We may even have a museum in Birmingham.

"My parents also met in the UK, though that was in Leeds.

Roy Orbison's wife and Roy Jr's mum Barbara Orbison in 2009

"Roy and I often spent time at Sherwood Forest and other locations in the Midlands.

"We also spent time just outside Birmingham in a little village. I think the place was called The Black Horse Inn… Dad would rent the whole place - it was like a small castle. Roy loved it so much.

"Artists would often go there to visit him, such as The Bee Gees and The Rolling Stones."

Released last year, the album of some of Roy's greatest hits combined with the music of The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra - A Love So Beautiful - has done 'really well', says Roy Jr, reaching number one on Amazon and number two in the charts, despite it being Roy's first album in more than 20 years.

Roy Orbison - Love Hurts (with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra) (Audio)

"At first glance, it may seem like a greatest hits compilation, but we stripped back all the tracks and added new music in around his work," explains Roy.

"The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra feature - of which all the musicians are individually good enough to watch on their own for hours. So to have 75 of them behind Roy’s vocals is tremendous.

"It was recorded at Abbey Road Studios 2, where The Beatles recorded most of their greatest music.

"The Beatles’ first radio performance was in 1962, where they sang Roy’s song Baby. And though The Beatles are too complicated to simplify so easily, you can most certainly see the connection in their music.

"John Lennon was a big fan of Roy Orbison.

George Harrison, left, and John Lennon, right

"Their first big tour was with Roy in 1963.

"Then their careers met later again, with George Harrison being in The Travelling Wilburys. He was also a good friend of ours.

"The Elvis connections run deep too, as Elvis and my father followed each other to different record companies."

Looking ahead to the future, Roy Jr revealed Pretty Woman The Musical will be coming out soon on Broadway and also a film, set to be produced by the vice president of Disney, he said.

"In terms of the movie, we now have a script," says Roy Jr.

"We’ve got a few projects lined up for the next two to three years - there’s been nothing for the last 20 years and now, all of a sudden, we’ve got all this. It’s took us a long time."

Kirsten Rawlins

By Kirsten Rawlins
@kirsten_Star

Online Entertainment Editor for the Express & Star and Shropshire Star. E-mail me kirsten.rawlins@expressandstar.co.uk, or phone 01902 319368

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