Who would you choose between Roy Orbison and Elvis Presley? This was the dilemma that one music-loving youngster faced on a sunny morning in 1961. With a dollar burning a hole in their pocket, they rushed to the iconic record store, The Music Box, in search of the perfect “45” to buy.
In the end, they made a choice that would shape their musical taste forever. But little did they know that Roy Orbison and Elvis Presley were more than just rivals for their dollar – they were two of the biggest names in ’60s pop music.
The Battle on the Pop Charts
From 1960 to 1964, Orbison and Presley went head-to-head on the pop charts. While the allure of Elvis eventually won over our young music lover, they remained a fan of Orbison until the arrival of the “British Invasion” shook up the music scene.
But before their chart-topping battles, both musicians had humble beginnings. Born just over a year apart, Orbison and Presley were influenced by the diverse radio music of their youth. However, there was one key difference – Presley grew up surrounded by black and country music, while Orbison’s white West Texas upbringing exposed him to a different musical landscape.
The Road to Success
Orbison’s journey to stardom started in Wink, Texas, where he played guitar and sang for local crowds. After catching a glimpse of Presley’s act in Dallas, Orbison was captivated by the raw energy of rock ‘n’ roll and decided to pursue a career in music.
His big break came when Sam Phillips, the owner of Sun Records, summoned him to Memphis. Although Orbison’s style differed from the head-banging rock ‘n’ roll associated with Elvis, Phillips saw potential in his unique sound and innocence. Orbison recorded “Ooby Dooby” at Sun, and the rest, as they say, is history.
A Lasting Friendship
Orbison and Presley’s paths often crossed in the early days, both at Sun Records and during their time on the road. Orbison found himself enchanted by the King’s court and admired Presley’s confidence and fame. They even shared memorable moments, like the night they went to pick up Elvis’s girlfriend in his purple Cadillac – a testament to Presley’s stardom.
Their last meeting took place in Las Vegas, where Orbison was closing his show at Caesar’s Palace. Unexpectedly, Presley appeared on stage and declared Orbison the greatest singer in the world. Although it may have been a gesture born more out of admiration than reality, it showcased the mutual respect and friendship that had developed between the two Sun Records artists.
A Legacy of Hits
Orbison’s success continued long after his time at Sun Records. Throughout the ’60s, he released numerous chart-topping hits, including “Only the Lonely,” “Blue Angel,” and “Crying.” His soaring vocals and heartfelt lyrics resonated with audiences around the world.
Ultimately, Orbison never became the rampaging rock star that Elvis and others were known for. His conservative values and dedication to his craft set him apart from the typical rock ‘n’ roll persona. But with his music alone, Orbison carved out a place in pop music history that can never be forgotten.
When Roy Orbison passed away at the age of 52, Jerry Lee Lewis remembered him as a kind and genuine person. And so, the legacy of Roy Orbison lives on, forever intertwined with the captivating story of his rivalry and friendship with the legendary Elvis Presley.