Roy Orbison was born in Vernon, Texas, the second son of Nadine and Orbie Lee. After a move to Fort Worth, around 1943, the family later moved to the tiny oil town of Wink in late 1946. Music was an important part of his family life.
In 1949, at age 13, he organized his first band, "The Wink Westerners", and when not singing with the band he spent his time playing guitar and writing songs. The band appeared weekly on KERB radio in Kermit, Texas. Orbison graduated from Wink High School in 1954. He attended North Texas State College in Denton, Texas for a year, and enrolled at Odessa Junior College in 1955. The Wink Westerners had some success on local television, being given 30 minute weekly shows on KMID (Midland) and then KOSA (Odessa). One of the guests on their show was Johnny Cash, who advised them to seek a contract with his record producer, Sam Phillips, of Sun Records. Having renamed The Wink Westerners as "The Teen Kings", Orbison left college in March 1956, determined to give music a serious try, and headed for Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee.
Many of the earliest songs he recorded were produced by Sam Phillips, who also produced Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, and Elvis Presley. Orbison achieved his first commercial success in June 1956 with "Ooby Dooby", a song written by friends of Orbison from college. His song "Claudette", named after his first wife, was recorded by the Everly Brothers as the B-side to their Number 1 hit "All I Have To Do Is Dream". However, the rockabilly and blues sounds of Sun's artists did not bring Orbison much success and his career seemed over, although fans of rockabilly music count his records among the best that this kind of music has to offer. For a time, he worked at Acuff-Rose Music in Nashville, Tennessee as a songwriter, and then was given a contract by RCA, but eventually Chet Atkins referred him to Fred Foster, the owner of Monument Records, where he moved after his contract with RCA ended in 1959.
At Monument, Foster encouraged him to break from his established style. Under Foster's guidance, he began writing his own songs alone or in collaboration with Joe Melson and later Bill Dees, developing his signature operatic voice, and creating a sound unheard of in rock and roll at the time. What followed was a career that spanned more than four decades. By the mid-1960s Orbison was internationally recognized for his ballads of lost love, rhythmically advanced melodies, four-octave vocal range, characteristic dark sunglasses, and sometimes distinctive usage of falsetto, typified in songs such as “Only The Lonely”, “In Dreams”, “Oh, Pretty Woman”, “Crying” and “Running Scared”. In 1989, he was inducted posthumously into the National Academy of Popular Music/Songwriters Hall of Fame.
CLUES TO THE LETTERBOX:
This is a drive-by letterbox located in Roy’s hometown of Wink, Texas. In downtown Wink you will need to stop and visit the Historical Marker that explains the Early Oil Discoveries of Winlker County. It is on the east side of the main highway just across from the Chamber of Commerce and the Roy Orbison Museum. There is a round, raised planter bed beside the marker, with various rocks placed around the base of the planter. Go around the north side of the bed and almost even with a very large yucca plant there will be several rocks stacked against the planter with the box hidden underneath. Be discreet and rehide well so that the box survives for others to find.