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Roy Orbison and Sam Phillips dispute

Sat Mar 03, 2018 1:14 pm

I read on wikipedia that Roy and Sam Phillips had some quarrels when Roy recorded at Sun Records. He sell 200.000 copies of Ooby Dooby, but after that he didn't have a hit at Sun, and because of his frustration, Orbison moved to Monument Records, when he had a big hit with Only the Lonely quickly. So does anyone why the Big O' didn't continue with Sam Phillips and Sun Records? I read else where that Sam wanted Roy to sing Rockabilly music and Orbison wanted to sing more ballads.

Re: Roy Orbison and Sam Phillips dispute

Sat Mar 03, 2018 8:00 pm

That is the story I'm familiar with as well. Roy was more of an ballader than a rockabilly artists, and when Roy wanted to do ballads he was told by Sam Phillips that
ballads was out of the question. He bought himself out of Sun Records to be released from his commitment for the company.Roy was almost about to quit his singing career and continue as a songwriter only, writing for example to The Everly Brothers who at one stage turned his offer about a new song down. There is another story that he wrote Only The Lonely and on his way to Nashville stopped by Graceland to offer the song to Elvis.
Elvis was asleep and he was told if he wanted to see Elvis he had to return later in the evening. Roy wouldn't wait and drove to Nashville recorded the tune himself and the rest is history. Don't know if the Elvis story is true, but it was in a book released by Rolling Stones magazine many years ago.

Re: Roy Orbison and Sam Phillips dispute

Sun Mar 04, 2018 3:30 am

jurasic1968 on Sat Mar 03, 2018 2:14 am wrote:I read on wikipedia that Roy and Sam Phillips had some quarrels when Roy recorded at Sun Records. He sell 200.000 copies of Ooby Dooby, but after that he didn't have a hit at Sun, and because of his frustration, Orbison moved to Monument Records, when he had a big hit with Only the Lonely quickly. So does anyone why the Big O' didn't continue with Sam Phillips and Sun Records? I read else where that Sam wanted Roy to sing Rockabilly music and Orbison wanted to sing more ballads.



Both Carl Perkins and Roy Orbison felt that Sam Phillips was so enamored of Jerry Lee Lewis that he neglected their careers. In Roy's case, Sam let assistant Jack Clement handle his sessions almost right away. Clement didn't really like Roy's Teen Kings very much, and told the singer he'd "never make it as a ballad singer." And, on top of that, the band quit Roy during a December 1956 session at Sun, over lack of songwriter credits and royalty payouts. It devastated Orbison. So a lot of things led to his moving on after September 1958.

Re: Roy Orbison and Sam Phillips dispute

Sun Mar 04, 2018 11:23 am

Roy Orbison,Charlie Rich both moved to RCA after SUN.Chet Atkins tried out different styles with both but did not get a hit record.Charlie Rich got some hitsellers eary 70s from his RCA recordings. :smt006

Re: Roy Orbison and Sam Phillips dispute

Sun Mar 04, 2018 2:12 pm

So Roy Orbison was right to move from Sun Records. Thanks all for the information. He was a great artist and had many tragedies in his life.

Re: Roy Orbison and Sam Phillips dispute

Fri Mar 09, 2018 5:23 am

Well, Sun records was a tiny independent label Sam Phillips couldn't afford to promote all his singers. He was lucky he was able to promote one and he chose Jerry Lee Lewis. Usually if a singer is on a tiny independent label there goal is to use it as a stepping stone to get signed to a major label.

Re: Roy Orbison and Sam Phillips dispute

Fri Mar 09, 2018 10:11 am

Billy Lee Riley tried out on various record labels.He was also a studio musician on the west coast with Beach Boys and other stars.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQSoT-uxFTY
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CuAeeUwREC8
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NP88F7fLSPA
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pg5NgvHUndQ
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xu9mwt6ZtjU
Billy had everything to be a star.I guess he did not find the right manager
:smt006

Re: Roy Orbison and Sam Phillips dispute

Tue Mar 13, 2018 10:06 pm

brian on Thu Mar 08, 2018 10:23 pm wrote:Well, Sun records was a tiny independent label Sam Phillips couldn't afford to promote all his singers. He was lucky he was able to promote one and he chose Jerry Lee Lewis. Usually if a singer is on a tiny independent label there goal is to use it as a stepping stone to get signed to a major label.


I guess by 1958, and JLL's marriage to his cousin, he regretted that decision.

Re: Roy Orbison and Sam Phillips dispute

Tue Mar 13, 2018 10:15 pm

r&b on Tue Mar 13, 2018 12:06 pm wrote:
brian on Thu Mar 08, 2018 10:23 pm wrote:Well, Sun records was a tiny independent label Sam Phillips couldn't afford to promote all his singers. He was lucky he was able to promote one and he chose Jerry Lee Lewis. Usually if a singer is on a tiny independent label there goal is to use it as a stepping stone to get signed to a major label.


I guess by 1958, and JLL's marriage to his cousin, he regretted that decision.



Despite the bad press from the U.K. over that, I doubt anyone else, save Elvis, would have moved as many records for Sun in that span.

Re: Roy Orbison and Sam Phillips dispute

Tue Mar 13, 2018 11:31 pm

drjohncarpenter on Tue Mar 13, 2018 3:15 pm wrote:
r&b on Tue Mar 13, 2018 12:06 pm wrote:
brian on Thu Mar 08, 2018 10:23 pm wrote:Well, Sun records was a tiny independent label Sam Phillips couldn't afford to promote all his singers. He was lucky he was able to promote one and he chose Jerry Lee Lewis. Usually if a singer is on a tiny independent label there goal is to use it as a stepping stone to get signed to a major label.


I guess by 1958, and JLL's marriage to his cousin, he regretted that decision.



Despite the bad press from the U.K. over that, I doubt anyone else, save Elvis, would have moved as many records for Sun in that span.


I still bought em all, but his career really did take a dive compared to the year prior. Not sure how it was in the UK, but you hardly heard of JLL after 1958 here in the US, except for the cousin thing.

Re: Roy Orbison and Sam Phillips dispute

Wed Mar 14, 2018 1:02 am

r&b on Tue Mar 13, 2018 1:31 pm wrote:I still bought em all, but his career really did take a dive compared to the year prior. Not sure how it was in the UK, but you hardly heard of JLL after 1958 here in the US, except for the cousin thing.



The May 1958 U.K. tour was where it went sour about his marriage. Their press hit him hard. It followed to the U.S. on his return and he was mostly blacklisted thanks to that overseas firestorm. In 1958 he was #7 with "Breathless" and #21 with "High School Confidential," but did not sniff the Top 40 again until his great cover of "What'd I Say" in 1961, which made #30. After that, nothing worked for him, save 1971's "Me and Bobby McGee" reaching #40.

From about 1968 on, his big hits registered only on the country charts.

Re: Roy Orbison and Sam Phillips dispute

Wed Mar 14, 2018 2:09 am

Chart-wise, Jerry Lee last made it into the U.K. top-ten with What`d I Say in 1961, his fourth top-ten hit, although he broke the top-forty three more times and had his only U.K. hit album in 1962. But he was quite a regular visitor in the seventies, eighties and nineties, playing a range of venues, including Wembley Arena on several occasions. And Wembley stadium as part of the London Rock ‘n’ Roll show in 1972.

He still had an audience among rock ‘n’ roll fans, even if he wasn't a hit-maker beyond what became his signature songs in the 1950s. Whilst the 1989 film, Great Balls of Fire!, probably gave him a little bit of a boost.



Re: Roy Orbison and Sam Phillips dispute

Wed Mar 14, 2018 9:58 pm

r&b on Tue Mar 13, 2018 1:06 pm wrote:I guess by 1958, and JLL's marriage to his cousin, he regretted that decision.


That would've been a good question to ask Sam Phillips. Given what happened did he regret promoting Jerry Lee Lewis over Billy Lee Riley. I don't know if he'd give an honest answer.

Re: Roy Orbison and Sam Phillips dispute

Wed Mar 14, 2018 10:54 pm

brian on Wed Mar 14, 2018 11:58 am wrote:
r&b on Tue Mar 13, 2018 1:06 pm wrote:I guess by 1958, and JLL's marriage to his cousin, he regretted that decision.


That would've been a good question to ask Sam Phillips. Given what happened did he regret promoting Jerry Lee Lewis over Billy Lee Riley. I don't know if he'd give an honest answer.


I don't think he can give any answer today.

Re: Roy Orbison and Sam Phillips dispute

Thu Mar 15, 2018 1:54 am

How do you solve a problem like Roy Orbison? Try as he might, Sam Phillips couldn't figure it, neither could Chet Atkins at RCA. In his autobiography "CASH", Johnny Cash tells the story of signing an option to go with Columbia when his Sun contract expired. Sam Phillips heard about the option and asked Johnny if it was true, Johnny lied to him and said it wasn't. When he found out the truth, Sam Phillips telephoned Cash at home to confront him. Roy Orbison happened to be at Johnny's house when Sam Phillips phoned.

After he finished with Johnny, Sam got Roy on the phone and let him have it. "Why you little so-and-so. You can't sing! I had to cram the microphone down your throat just to pick you up, your voice is so weak!". Shortly thereafter, Roy would leave Sun and after a brief stopover at RCA, find his way to maverick producer and owner of Monument Records, Fred Foster. And Fred Foster solved a problem like Roy Orbison with a coat rack!

Re: Roy Orbison and Sam Phillips dispute

Thu Mar 15, 2018 4:20 am

mike edwards66 on Wed Mar 14, 2018 3:54 pm wrote:How do you solve a problem like Roy Orbison? Try as he might, Sam Phillips couldn't figure it, neither could Chet Atkins at RCA. In his autobiography "CASH", Johnny Cash tells the story of signing an option to go with Columbia when his Sun contract expired. Sam Phillips heard about the option and asked Johnny if it was true, Johnny lied to him and said it wasn't. When he found out the truth, Sam Phillips telephoned Cash at home to confront him. Roy Orbison happened to be at Johnny's house when Sam Phillips phoned.

After he finished with Johnny, Sam got Roy on the phone and let him have it. "Why you little so-and-so. You can't sing! I had to cram the microphone down your throat just to pick you up, your voice is so weak!". Shortly thereafter, Roy would leave Sun and after a brief stopover at RCA, find his way to maverick producer and owner of Monument Records, Fred Foster. And Fred Foster solved a problem like Roy Orbison with a coat rack!



For those wondering, that bolded Sam Phillips quote is only found in Cash: The Autobiography. Johnny Cash co-wrote this 1997 book with veteran country journalist Patrick Carr and there does not appear to be anything else to corroborate it.

It is notable the sentences that follow Johnny's memory: "Roy just laughed at him. He thought that was pretty funny. So did I."

Re: Roy Orbison and Sam Phillips dispute

Thu Mar 15, 2018 2:32 pm

drjohncarpenter on Thu Mar 15, 2018 1:20 am wrote:
mike edwards66 on Wed Mar 14, 2018 3:54 pm wrote:How do you solve a problem like Roy Orbison? Try as he might, Sam Phillips couldn't figure it, neither could Chet Atkins at RCA. In his autobiography "CASH", Johnny Cash tells the story of signing an option to go with Columbia when his Sun contract expired. Sam Phillips heard about the option and asked Johnny if it was true, Johnny lied to him and said it wasn't. When he found out the truth, Sam Phillips telephoned Cash at home to confront him. Roy Orbison happened to be at Johnny's house when Sam Phillips phoned.

After he finished with Johnny, Sam got Roy on the phone and let him have it. "Why you little so-and-so. You can't sing! I had to cram the microphone down your throat just to pick you up, your voice is so weak!". Shortly thereafter, Roy would leave Sun and after a brief stopover at RCA, find his way to maverick producer and owner of Monument Records, Fred Foster. And Fred Foster solved a problem like Roy Orbison with a coat rack!


For those wondering, that bolded Sam Phillips quote is only found in Cash: The Autobiography.

I already said where it came from, see:
mike edwards66 on Wed Mar 14, 2018 3:54 pm wrote:In his autobiography "CASH", Johnny Cash tells the story.....



drjohncarpenter on Thu Mar 15, 2018 1:20 am wrote:Johnny Cash co-wrote this 1997 book with veteran country journalist Patrick Carr and there does not appear to be anything else to corroborate it.

Is Johnny's word not good enough for you.



drjohncarpenter on Thu Mar 15, 2018 1:20 am wrote:It is notable the sentences that follow Johnny's memory: "Roy just laughed at him. He thought that was pretty funny. So did I."

Also 'notable' is what precedes it. "Sam was pretty angry and wanted to know why I'd lied...........That made him even madder, he got Roy on the phone and really let him have it. Why you little so-and-so. You can't sing! I had to cram the microphone down your throat just to pick you up, your voice is so weak!".

Re: Roy Orbison and Sam Phillips dispute

Thu Mar 15, 2018 5:24 pm

It was true that it was hard to record Orbison. Bill Porter was key.

Re: Roy Orbison and Sam Phillips dispute

Thu Mar 15, 2018 6:59 pm

Harder than Elvis?

Re: Roy Orbison and Sam Phillips dispute

Thu Mar 15, 2018 7:15 pm

Juan Luis on Thu Mar 15, 2018 2:24 pm wrote:It was true that it was hard to record Orbison. Bill Porter was key.

Absolutely. Here's what I wrote on the subject on an earlier topic:


Fred Foster put Roy together with singer-songwriter Joe Melson, and together they penned "Only The Lonely" and it was on that song, originally intended for Elvis, that the remarkable metamorphosis Roy would undergo was fully realised, leaving behind Sun's squeaky-voiced twitterer and emerging as Monument's majestic "Big O". "Only The Lonely" was recorded at Roy's third (Studio B) Monument session, sound engineer Bill Porter said that in those days, Orbison’s voice was "very, very thin, so I put a tape slap back from the 3-track machine to his voice on the middle channel, and I made it so it was enough to let his voice stand out, but you didn’t notice the slap too much. If you listen to "Only The Lonely", on the words there "I can tak-k-k-k-e" you can hear it easily".


Moreover, Porter felt that it was his, and Monument's, concept of how to record Roy Orbison, with Foster as producer, himself as engineer and Anita Kerr's arrangements, that made the magic happen. The result, Roy's melodic breathy vocals atop a bed of "dum-dums" and "dooby-doo-wahs", barely audible percussion, all punctuated and underlined with soaring strings, was perfection on wax. Understandably then, Porter was less than impressed when Orbison left Monument and, on July 1st 1965, signed for MGM. At MGM, for the first couple of years at least, Orbison (with able assistance from co-writer and harmony-vocal singer Bill Dees) cut some of his most creative and aesthetically pleasing tracks. But the hits dried up for Roy at MGM, and a somewhat vindicated Porter would say later that all he ever got from Orbison, by way of thanks, "was a steak dinner one time".


There were no headphones and no isolation booths for separating various sounds and instruments. The six strings and five backup singers especially were being picked up much too clearly on Roy’s vocal mic, affecting the clarity of the sound of his voice. … There was a metal coat rack along one wall and I asked Bill (engineer Bill Porter) if it would be feasible to put Roy in one corner of the room and push the coat rack in front of him and cover it with coats to block the band from leaking into Roy’s mic......We had only two-track tape machines to work with; there was no stereo yet. There were no overdubs; everything had to be recorded on one take. Luckily, we put Roy’s voice in the middle, and even today it sounds like stereo." - Fred Foster - “The Soul Of Rock And Roll”



For future use, to replicate the effect of the coat rack, Foster and Bill Porter created timber walls stuffed with insulation and covered in canvas sacking. The walls were on wheels that could be moved around the studio to create an improvised isolation booth.



The Fred Foster Connection
viewtopic.php?f=1&t=99695&start=50

post edited to provide correct 'The Fred Foster Connection' link.
Last edited by mike edwards66 on Thu Mar 15, 2018 10:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Re: Roy Orbison and Sam Phillips dispute

Thu Mar 15, 2018 8:53 pm

Roy Orbison could have been a success on Sun records. Ooby Dooby was good enough in quality to have been a top ten record but again Sam Phillips didn't have enough money to promote it.

Re: Roy Orbison and Sam Phillips dispute

Fri Mar 16, 2018 1:11 am

mike edwards66 on Thu Mar 15, 2018 4:32 am wrote:
drjohncarpenter on Thu Mar 15, 2018 1:20 am wrote:Johnny Cash co-wrote this 1997 book with veteran country journalist Patrick Carr and there does not appear to be anything else to corroborate it.

Is Johnny's word not good enough for you.



Is a question mark not good enough for your interrogative sentence?

Those who know the era well are aware that Johnny Cash's memory is best served with corroboration. Unless you are one of those who believes he is singing on the "Million Dollar Quartet" jam. One listen to the full recording puts that to rest. He did not, despite him saying otherwise on numerous occasions.

You also missed my reference to Cash: The Autobiography was only to note that the Sam Phillips quote, which you put in bold font, was exclusive to that book. Why is this the case? Put some time to pondering that.

Re: Roy Orbison and Sam Phillips dispute

Fri Mar 16, 2018 1:19 am

brian on Thu Mar 15, 2018 7:53 pm wrote:Roy Orbison could have been a success on Sun records. Ooby Dooby was good enough in quality to have been a top ten record but again Sam Phillips didn't have enough money to promote it.


200.000 copies were not bad.

Re: Roy Orbison and Sam Phillips dispute

Fri Mar 16, 2018 1:47 am

Welcome back to "Things Real Men Would Never Say":
drjohncarpenter on Thu Mar 15, 2018 10:11 pm wrote:Is a question mark not good enough for your interrogative sentence?

If I'd needed an answer I would have put one. Your reputation precedes you, forum friend. If it doesn't fit your version of history, you don't believe it. Ask Paul McCartney.



drjohncarpenter on Thu Mar 15, 2018 10:11 pm wrote:You also missed my reference to Cash: The Autobiography was only to note that the Sam Phillips quote, which you put in bold font, was exclusive to that book. Why is this the case? Put some time to pondering that.

Could be coz it happened to JOHNNY CASH, and it was HIS book about HIS life.

Re: Roy Orbison and Sam Phillips dispute

Fri Mar 16, 2018 7:49 am

jurasic1968 on Thu Mar 15, 2018 3:19 pm wrote:
brian on Thu Mar 15, 2018 7:53 pm wrote:Roy Orbison could have been a success on Sun records. Ooby Dooby was good enough in quality to have been a top ten record but again Sam Phillips didn't have enough money to promote it.


200.000 copies were not bad.



I agree, but the single should have gone higher than #59. It's an incredible record, one so good that someone in the audience at Elvis' May 1956 Little Rock gig asked if he knew it! Creedence Clearwater Revival cut a kick-ass version for their summer 1970 LP Cosmo's Factory.