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Excerpt from “Only The Lonely: Roy Orbison’s Life and Legacy” by Alan Clayson, 1989, St. Martin’s Press

(By 1958, Roy Orbison’s barely-begun music career was stalled at Memphis’ Sun Records. To his rescue came Don and Phil, merely in search of a hit song.)

“The search (for the B-side to “All I Have to Do Is Dream”) ended at the unlikely source of a warm-up act at an Everly Brothers’ bash in Indiana. Having been reduced to borrowing money to get there, a weary Roy Orbison was angry with himself for leaving behind the demo recordings that he was hoping to press on the prize exhibits - if they should speak to him. Not a natural hustler, he melted into the background, smoking quietly on a window ledge. Desultory backstage chatter amongst the Everlys and others on the bill kept returning to the same aggravating question — what to put on the B-side of “All I Have to Do Is Dream.” Turning round, Phil Everly asked Roy if he had any tunes. He wrote a bit, didn’t he?

“With all eyes on him then, the self-effacing Texan almost shook his head to slough off the attention on himself. Instead, he heard his voice croaking, “I’ve got just one.” Clearing his throat, he stubbed out the cigarette. Then he lifted up his Gretsch semi-acoustic and started chugging quavers. A deep breathe and he was straight into the line: “I’ve got a brand-new baby and I feel so good . . . “ Soon he was in the throes of the one that rhymed “get,” “met,” and “pretty little pet” with its title.

“Glistening with embarrassment while the words and three simple chords hung in the air, he blinked at his feet as “Claudette” died away. An exclaimed “Yeah!” broke the silence. Orbison glanced up at the nodding, smiling hubbub. Because of past disappointments, he was bemused when the Everlys got him to write down the lyrics and chords on the cardboard top of a shoe box before they left. After all, they’d already turned up their noses at demos that Buddy Holly had deigned to send them. Expecting nothing, Roy was astonished when “the next thing I knew, Wesley Rose from Nashville’s calling me in Memphis at Sun Records, telling me to sign this contract for the song “Claudette” that the Everly Brothers were going to record — they actually already had recorded it.”

“Claudette” had netted over one million sales for the Everly Brothers. At number thirty on the Billboard charts, Orbison’s song — with its name misspelled on the label — lagged way behind “All I Have to Do Is Dream,” but the figures on his royalties check would be the same as the Bryants’ for their chart-topping A-side.”

Roy and Claudette Orbison

Don and Phil with Roy Orbison, mid-1980s.
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