2006: Roy Orbison

Only the Lonely:

The Life and Music of Roy Orbison


“Rock and roll’s Caruso,” Roy Orbison was the honoree for the 11th annual American Music Masters series.  Orbison [inducted 1987] was a pioneer of the dark, sophisticated and solitary side of rock and roll. He possessed a three-octave range and sang in a soaring, operatic tenor. A balladeer with a timeless quality to his music, Orbison specialized in heartbreaking musical meditations on the subject of love. Though the Texas-born singer/guitarist briefly recorded for Sun Records where he had one modest hit, “Ooby Dooby,” Orbison never really fit in with the rowdy rockabilly crowd. Early on, he enjoyed success as a songwriter, placing songs with Jerry Lee Lewis, the Everly Brothers and Buddy Holly. After signing with Nashville-based Monument Records in 1960, his own career took off. Orbison’s sumptuous, sophisticated pop hits include “Only the Lonely,” “Blue Bayou” and “It’s Over.” On the rock and roll side, he cut his biggest hit, “Oh, Pretty Woman,” in 1964.

Events celebrating Roy Orbinson's life and career included interviews, film screenings, Rockin' the Schools classes, a conference and performances.


Tribute Concert Performers at the State Theatre

Saturday, November 4 at 8:00pm

  • Glen Campbell
  • Tift Merritt
  • Raul Malo
  • Ricky Skaggs
  • The Velvets
  • Patty Griffin
  • The Crickets with Sonny Curtis
  • Mandy Barnett
  • Cowboy Jack Clement
  • Billy Burnett


Wilbert's Performers

The night before the Tribute Concert, Fred Foster, Ryan Humbert Band and Truly Lover Trio performed at Wilbert's in Cleveland. 

Conference at Case Western Reserve University

On Saturday, November 4 from 9am until 5pm at the Ford Auditorium in the Allen Memorial Medical Library, scholars, artists, journalists and fans gathered at a conference to reflect on the career of Roy Orbison and his impact on rock and roll music.  Participants included Billy Pat Ellis of the Teen Kings, Virgil Johnson of the Velvets, Colin Escott, Cowboy Jack Clement, Fred Foster, Buddy Buie, Rodney Justo, Terry Widlake, Chet Flippo and Peter Lehman.

An Evening with Songwriter Joe Melson

Live interview on Thursday, November 2 with songwriter Joe Melson.

Orbison from Every Angle

A panel discussion on Wednesday, November 1 on the musical career of Roy Orbison

An Evening with Songwriter Bill Dees

Live interview on Tuesday, October 31 with songwriter Bill Dees.

Film Screening: Black and White Night (1988)

On Monday, October 30, the Rock Hall screened the film Black and White Night.

Selected Song List

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A Rockin' the Schools class explored the impact of Orbison's song style

Additional Resources

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