…watch the smoke rings rise in the air, you’ll find your share of memories there

Holy Moly, by the time he was my age he’d been dead for two years.  Born in Vernon, Texas in 1936 (he succumbed to a heart attack in 1988, at his mom’s house in Tennessee), Roy Kelton Orbison was six when his father gave him a guitar and as he later recalled, by age  seven, “I was finished, you know, for anything else.”

With a sallow complexion (after a bout of childhood jaundice), thick glasses and protruding ears, Orbison’s looks were’t nearly of teen-idol caliber, especially after his hair turned prematurely white, inducing him to dye it at a very young age. Yet with no PR to speak of and despite (or perhaps with the help) of early record sleeves that didn’t include his picture, he began to reach a listening audience.

Orbison was wearing prescription sunglasses while traveling to to one of his earlier performances, when he realized he’d forgotten his regular glasses, so by necessity, he wore the sunglasses onstage.   A shy man, who suffered from severe stage fright, he found the dark glasses helped him to “hide” a little, and so he continued to perform in them.

“I wasn’t trying to be weird you know,” he once said.  “I didn’t have a manager who told me to dress or how to present myself or anything. But the image developed of a man of mystery and a quiet man in black somewhat of a recluse, although I never was, really.”

As a matter of fact, although quiet and self-effacing, the remarkably polite Orbison was known to have a fine sense of humor.  All of which mattered little when he began to sing.   A natural baritone, musical scholars have noted that he had a “three-of-four octave range” that, when combined with complex musical arrangements led some to refer to him as “the Caruso of Rock”…as even the Beatles would discover.

With his star rising in 1963, Orbison was given top billing on a tour of the UK with the Fab Four (whom he’d never heard of) just as they were beginning to build their own enormous fan base. After his arrival in England, it became clear that he was no longer the main draw and he commented out loud, “What’s a Beatle anyway?”

He then felt a tap on his shoulder and John Lennon replied, “I am.”

On the first night of the tour Orbison took the stage first with his usual, sedate manner. This was completely alien to the raucous Beatles who were dumbfounded when he was called back for fourteen encores.  Apparently lifelong friendships were formed during that tour, with Orbison feeling a particular kinship with Lennon and years later, with George Harrison, but first a little adjustment was required, as Ringo Starr recalled, “We were all backstage listening to the tremendous applause he was getting. He was just standing there, not moving or anything.”

No doubt some of that applause came as a result of today’s selection, from Orbison’s 1963 album, “In Dreams”. Written by Johnny Mercer in 1944 and first recorded by June Hutton and the Pied Pipers, other notable versions of “Dream” include the Skylarks, Betty Johnson, Frank Sinatra (who had two hit versions, one in 1945 and one in 1960), Etta James, Ella Fitzgerald, Michael Buble… and in 1970 on his album, “Sentimental Journey” none other than Ringo Starr himself.

But I ask you, if you had but one version of “Dream” to play, which would yours be?  I thought so….



 Dream, when you’re feeling blue

Dream, that’s the thing to do

Just watch the smoke rings rise in the air

You’ll find your share of memories there

So dream when the day is through

Dream, and they might come true

Things never are as bad as they seem

So dream, dream, dream

Dream when the day is through

Dream, and they might come true

Things never are as bad as they seem

So dream, dream, dream

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