Photos by Arnie Goodman
Two of Roy Orbison’s three sons, Alex and Roy, Jr., joined writer Jeff Slate at Gibson Guitars headquarters in New York to read from their new book, The Authorized Roy Orbison (Center Street/Hachette), a more-or-less LP-sized biography of one of the greatest vocalists and songwriters of all-time.
Written by sons Wesley, Roy Jr. and Alex Orbison and with the help of Jeff Slate, the book has captured the essence of this iconic artist. Happily, they had a lot to work with: Slate edited down one million words (the King James Bible has around 800,000 words) to deliver a very readable story. Filled with over 300 photographs, the text introduces Roy as a young child and follows him through the peak of his stardom to his tragic end at 52. Quotes from Roy and many others—Sam Phillips, Elvis Presley and George Harrison to the New York Times, for example—punctuate the detailed text.
At the reading, Alex and Roy, Jr. flanked Slate and read movingly from the book, then spoke about their father, the writing process, and the upcoming album release of A Love So Beautiful: Roy Orbision with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (Sony Music/Legacy Recordings/Roy’s Boys LLC).
On the album, all three sons provided instrumental backing on selected tracks. The new instrumentals (and one new vocal track) were recorded at Abbey Road Studios, #2, the room where the Beatles laid down their own masterpieces. Videos of three song sessions showed Wesley (guitar), Roy Jr. (guitar) and Alex (drums) along with ten-month-old grandson Roy III (guitar, tambourine) in the recording sessions. On the video of the “Oh, Pretty Woman” session, the footage showed a hologram of Roy, Sr. at Abbey Road, making all three generations of Orbisons part of the magic. On video, the Orbisons and the producers, Nick Patrick and Don Reedman, spoke of the recording and remastering process, and what it meant to them.
A review of the book will appear soon at Elmore Magazine, and a review of A Love So Beautiful when it releases November 3, but I’ve heard the album several times and—spoiler alert—from experience, I do not recommend listening when driving or operating heavy machinery, because you will have tears in your eyes: A Love So Beautiful is that beautiful.