“Ooby Dooby to Pretty Woman”
Biography (April 23, 1936 – December 6, 1988)
Roy Orbison or “The Big O” was one of the rockabilly legends who amazed audiences with his vocal range. In January 1955, Elvis Presley, Scotty Moore and Bill Black roared in from Memphis like a West Texas tornado, and when the dust settled, Buddy Knox, Buddy Holly and Roy Orbison were heading in a brand new direction – straight to Rockabilly. Roy Orbison and his little band, the Wink Westerners, were basking in the hillbilly and bluegrass world of Lefty Frizzell, Hank Williams and Bill Monroe before Elvis came along. Orbison attended North Texas State College in Denton, where he met Wade Lee Moore and Dick Penner, who co-wrote a Rockabilly ditty called “Ooby Dooby.” Orbison loved the Elvis-type song, and he and the songwriters rushed over to the Jim Beck’s studio in Dallas to record it. Since Beck had been instrumental in bringing Lefty Frizzell and Marty Robbins to Columbia Records, Orbison thought he and his band were sure to be on their way to a contract at Columbia, but this didn’t happen.
Orbison and the band secured a weekly television show on the CBS affiliate in Odessa, and when the Louisiana Hayride came to town, Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley appeared on it. Orbison asked Cash how to get a recording contract with Sun Records, and Cash gave Roy the telephone number and told him to call Sam Phillips. When Orbison called Sam Phillips in Memphis and politely asked Mr. Phillips if he would record him, Sam bluntly shouted, “Johnny Cash doesn’t run Sun Records!” and abruptly hung up on Roy Orbison.
In the late summer of 1955, at the urging of his friend, Buddy Knox, Roy went over to the Norman Petty garage studio in Clovis, New Mexico where Knox had recorded his amazing “demo” hit, “Party Doll,” and recorded “Ooby Dooby” again. This time the record was released on the local Jew-ell Records label, but with little national attention. Orbison took a copy of the record to local record shop owner, Cecil Hollifield, and “Papa” Hollifield, as he was fondly known to the musicians of the area, immediately called Sam Phillips and sent him a copy of the recording. Within days, the same Sam Phillips who had rudely hung up on Orbison just months before, quickly arranged a recording session at Sun Studios for Roy. For the third time, Orbison and the Teen Kings recorded “Ooby Dooby.” They signed with Sun Records and began a regional tour of drive-ins and high school sock hops in and around Memphis and northern Mississippi working with Elvis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash, all Sun family members. “Ooby Dooby” peaked at a disappointing #59 on the national charts, and soon after, Roy’s Teen Kings headed home to West Texas. Sam Phillips talked Roy into staying with the label, and Orbison turned his attention to songwriting. In 1958, Roy Orbison’s fortune turned when the Everly Brothers recorded his song, “Claudette,” written for his high school sweetheart. Roy’s songwriting success caused Nashville’s Acuff Rose Music Publishing Company to purchase his contract from Sam Phillips, and Orbison then met the person who would become his mentor— a record producer and label owner named Fred Foster at Monument Records. Fred Foster was instrumental in grooming Roy Orbison to realize his amazing God-given talents, and the stretch from “Ooby Dooby” to “Pretty Woman” began. Elvis Presley’s favorite singer of all time, Roy Orbison, created a legacy unmatched by other Rockabilly pioneers.
Excerpt from The Rockabilly Legends DVD Documentary 2-DVD Set.