Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Traveling Wilburys

The Traveling Wilburys (from left): Lucky Wilbury, Otis Wilbury, Charlie T., Jr., Nelson Wilbury, Lefty Wilbury.

Later their names changed. Just because. On Volume 3, Lucky became Boo Wilbury; Otis became Clayton Wilbury; Charlie T. became Muddy Wilbury; Nelson became Spike Wilbury. Lefty was gone.
I doubt if anyone reading this doesn't remember or know about the traveling Wilburys, but perhaps some have forgotten how this "super group" happened to be formed. Here is an abbreviated version.

George Harrison, a solo artist, had just released his "Cloud Nine" album and was looking to release one of the songs as a single. He needed another song for the "B" side of the single. While Harrison was in Los Angeles, he asked Jeff Lynne (of Electric Light Orchestra) to help him with this song. This was natural, since Lynne had produced the "Cloud Nine" album that had just been released in Europe. But then started an almost incredibly coincidental chain of events.

It happened that Lynne was at the time also working with Roy Orbison on Roy's "Mystery Girl" album. This was in 1988. Roy (himself a prolific songwriter) also agreed to pitch in to help write the needed song for Harrison. That was the first coincidence, and we now have three rock and roll legends in one place working on one song. But the coincidence chain continues.

George Harrison needed his guitar. As luck would have it, he had left it at Tom Petty's house. He, too, offered to pitch in on the song collaboration. Four rock and roll legends. They finished the song and showed up at the studio for Harrison to record it.

The studio belonged to their friend, Bob Dylan. He was there.

George Harrison: "And so everybody was there and I thought, I'm not gonna just sing it myself - I've got Roy Orbison standing there. I'm gonna write a bit for Roy to sing. And then, as it progressed, then I started doing the vocals and I just thought I might as well push it a bit and get Tom and Bob to sing the bridge." The final result was a song called "Handle With Care."

It wasn't destined for the "B" side of a single. They came up with 9 other songs and made an album. They called the album Volume 1, tongue in cheek of course - not likely there would ever be another album. And what would they call the hastily-formed group?

There are always mistakes in the recording of music. Equipment failures. Mistakes. Whatever. Sometimes it requires another take. Sometimes they don't bother. As George Harrison said of one such mistake, "We'll bury that in the mix." Ha. But then someone decided "We'll bury" was not a bad name for a band like theirs. We'll bury. Wilbury. The Trembling Wilburys. No. The Traveling Wilburys. And so it was.

I really have a hard time choosing a favorite song by The Traveling Wiburys. They went on to make another album, and I like much of that too, although they were not the same people (Roy Orbison unexpectedly passed away right after "Mystery Girl", and so I like the original song, "Handle With Care" a lot, because Roy was prominent in the bridge of that song. Other songs I really like include "End of the Line", Dylan's "Nobody's Child", and a haunting remake of the sad-fated Del Shannon's "Runaway."

There were a couple of songs the supergroup made that were never released. One of these was a song that featured George Harrison, called "Maxine". When the original albums were re-released in 2007 as a boxed set, "Maxine" was released too. It had the vocals okay but some of the guitar needed overdubbing. What to do? - George Harrison had died in 2001. Here's a little bit of trivia for you: a new Wilbury was created for that duty on "Maxine". His name became Ayrton Wilbury. His real name was Dhani Harrison, George's son.

I thought Julian Lennon looked a lot like his father. But Dhani Harrison could BE his father. The first time I saw a picture of him, I thought George Harrison had come back to life and it was the 1960s again. I swear.

Click below picture of the original Traveling Wilburys to enlarge.

Picture of George Harrison (click to enlarge)

Picture of Dhani Harrison (click to enlarge)

Watch the "Wilbury Twist" video RIGHT HERE!


  1. You said in the beginning, "I doubt if anyone reading this doesn't remember or know about the traveling Wilburys..." - I'm not sure what it means, but, if you were trying to say we've all heard of the Traveling Wilburys - I hadn't.

    In my defense, I was born in 1967 and my father, a classical music afficionado, had our one and only radio. I can sing every song from a number of operettas and musicals (as "pop" as my father got), thousands of songs sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (yes, my parents were Mormon) - if, indeed, thousands they've sung, and my mother's favorite singers: Anne Murray, John Denver and Karen Carpenter.

    When Elvis died, I heard about it but had no idea who he was. I never heard of the Beatles until the eighties. I do have quite a bit of 30-90's music now, everything from opera to hip-hop, but I've never heard of the Traveling Wilburys.

    I have, however, heard of Roy Orbison, Tom Petty and Bob Dylan.

    We can't all be experts in everything.

  2. Well of course I've heard of them, collectively and individually. Indeed, I have a particular affinity with their name. :) Dhani Harrison does look incredibly like his father. It crossed my mind that the offspring could form a Sons of Beatles group, unless of course there is nobody left who knows who the Beatles are. Apart from Max and me, that is. :)

  3. Forgotten the Wilburys?
    Not. A. Fucking. Chance.

  4. The best group ever. Well maybe not the best but damn close. I still get very sad when I think of Roy's passing. I loved every thing he ever did. One of my all time favorite singers.

  5. @Ettarose - I liked Roy too and have a lot (maybe most) of his music. Can't say I liked EVERYTHING he did. A VERY unlucky guy who endured what would drive many of us crazy. (First wife killed in a motorcycle accident; two of his children burned to death in a house fire; struggling through 15 years of obscurity after being a really big star in the late 1950s and early 1960s, after Pretty Woman, but resurfacing again in the late 1980s, only to die of a heart attack before his comback album was even released and not reaping the rewards, although his family did. That postumous-released "Mystery Girl" ironically was his highest-charting album of his entire career. I believe Roy was a survivor. He was knocked down by the British Invasion and suffered through 15 lean years. That's why I say he was a survivor. (Although he didn't "survive" to old age.) I think it was just an unbelievable "payback" for those lean years that it was, finally, a member of the most popular of those British Invasion groups that had knocked Roy on his ass, who took him into the Wilburys and gave him a huge bump for Mystery girl. I speak of George Harrison of course. Maybe what goes around comes around if you can hang in there long enough. Roy hung on until he was famous again, and then died. I guess it was just time to finish. His lifelong formula of lost love and occasionally getting lucky never changed, right up to and including "Mystery Girl." He always wore those dark sunglasses and I have heard that it was because he was embarrassed at having one brown eye and one blue eye. As Wikipedia is fond of saying, "Citation needed", and I can't prove it. I have looked and looked through picture after picture of him, and he always has those glasses on. I have only come across two photos of him with his glasses off or with clear lenses that are not obscure or blurry, and even those two photos are black and white. But they prove it sufficiently for me. You can decide for yourself, here and here.

  6. Thank you for the whole story. 'End of the line' is my favourite of the group.



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