Elvis Presley worked with countless musicians and songwriters throughout his 20+ year career. He admired a fair few, as well, but not many were as prestigious as Roy Orbison. Later today, at 8:50pm on BBC Two, Roy Orbison at the BBC will hit TV screens, showing off the star’s biggest and best performances throughout the years. Also known as The Big O, Roy was best known for his rockabilly style and distinctive voice, but his song was reportedly not good enough for Elvis.
Orbison penned the track Only the Lonely back in 1960 and started shopping around for someone to buy it from him.
Of course, Elvis was his first port of call as he was fast becoming one of the biggest acts in the world.
He even reportedly arrived at the house of the King of Rock and Roll unannounced and tried to get it to him in person. But the star’s doorman wouldn’t let him pass.
Eventually, he met Elvis after arranging to meet him and officially pitched the song. Unfortunately for him, Elvis was not interested.
Elvis turned down Only the Lonely, leaving Orbison distraught.
However, he had no choice but to keep pitching the song elsewhere. He went on to offer it to The Everly Brothers, but they, too, turned it down.
After the two biggest music acts in America had turned Roy’s song down, he decided to release it himself. Roy released his rendition of Only the Lonely on May 9, 1960.
In a matter of months, on October 20, 1960, the song reached number one in the UK.
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Only The Lonely sold more than half a million copies in the US by the end of the year.
Although Elvis turned down Roy’s song, the King of Rock and Roll later explained how much he loved the singer’s voice.
Just before going on stage during one of his Las Vegas Residency shows, Elvis and Roy met for the first time in well over a decade. The old friends were extremely excited to see one another again.
That same night, while playing to a sold-out crowd, he announced that Roy was in the audience, as well. He went on to tell them Roy was “the greatest singer in the world”.
Elvis was also extremely respectful of the singer, as well. Throughout his decades-long career, he covered many 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 he could not “sing any of Roy’s songs any better than the original recordings”.
He later commented that Roy had “the most perfect voice”.