Elvis Presley has worked with countless musicians and songwriters throughout his 20+ year career. He admired a few as well, but not many were as prestigious as Roy Orbison. Later in the day, at 8:50pm on BBC Two, BBC Two’s Roy Orbison will appear on TV, showcasing the star’s biggest and best performances over the years. Roy, also known as The Big O, was known for his rock style and distinctive voice, but his song wasn’t good enough for Elvis.
Orbison penned the track Only the Lonely back in 1960 and began shopping around for someone to buy it from.
Of course, Elvis was his first outlet as he was fast becoming one of the biggest acts in the world.
He reportedly arrived at the King of Rock and Roll’s home unannounced and tried to deliver it to him personally. But the star concierge wouldn’t let him pass.
Eventually, he met Elvis after arranging to meet him and officially pitched the song. Unfortunately for him, Elvis wasn’t interested.
Elvis turns down Only the Lonely, leaving Orbison distraught.
However, he had no choice but to continue promoting the song elsewhere. He went on to introduce it to The Everly Brothers, but they too turned it down.
After the two biggest music shows in America canceled Roy’s song, he decided to release it himself. Roy released his rendition of Only the Lonely on May 9, 1960.
Within months, on October 20, 1960, the song had reached number one in the UK.
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Only The Lonely had sold more than half a million copies in the US by the end of the year.
Although Elvis rejected Roy’s song, the King of Rock and Roll later explained how much he loved the singer’s voice.
Right before going on stage during a residency show in Las Vegas, Elvis and Roy met for the first time in over a decade. The old friends were so excited to see each other again.
That same night, while playing to a sold-out crowd, it was announced that Roy was in the audience as well. He went on to tell them that Roy was “the greatest singer in the world”.
Elvis was also very respectful of the singer as well. Throughout his decades-spanning career, he has covered numerous artists’ tracks while performing live, including The Beatles, Frank Sinatra, and many more.
But Elvis refused to cover any of Orbison’s songs. He reportedly felt that he could “not sing any of Roy’s songs better than the original recordings”.
He later commented that Roy had a “perfect voice”.