This week in Texas music history: Roy Orbison tours with the Beatles

This week in 1963, Roy Orbison launched a tour with an up-and-coming band of Liverpudlians.

By Jason Mellard, The Center for Texas Music History at Texas State UniversityMay 21, 2024 12:11 pm, ,

From KUTX:

Sixty-one years ago this month, Vernon, Texas-born singer Roy Orbison toured Britain with a group whose name perplexed him. “What’s a Beatle?” Orbison asked upon being invited to accompany the band in 1963.

Roy Orbison

But the tour wasn’t the Beatles’ introduction to this West Texas man in black. On their live radio performance debut on March 8, 1962, the Fab Four played Orbison’s single “Dream Baby,” composed by Mexia songwriter Cindy Walker.

Nor was it the first time the Beatles had shared the stage with Texas rock and rollers. In 1962, the then-unknown Liverpool band opened a show for Fort Worth-based Bruce Chanel, who, together with Delbert McClinton, was riding high on his hit “Hey! Baby.” The Beatles would also share stages with Texan Trini Lopez in France just before launching their first American tour in 1964.

Back in May of 1963, the Beatles had released their early singles “Love Me Do” and “Please Please Me.” Their surging chart success led to a co-headlining tour with Orbison, but the Texan ceded the closing slot on the bill to the Beatles. Still, Orbison was a tough act to follow. According to Ringo Starr, “It was terrible, following Roy. He’d slay them and they’d scream for more.”

The Beatles, of course, managed to please the audiences, too, but even on the tour bus, the lads from Liverpool received some master classes from Orbison.

Paul McCartney says, “At the back of the bus Roy Orbison would be writing something like ‘Pretty Woman,’ so our competitiveness would come out . . . He would play us his song, and we’d say, ‘Oh, it’s great, Roy. Have you just written that?’ But we’d be thinking, ‘We have to have something as good. The next move was obvious — write one ourselves. And we did. It was ‘From Me to You.’”

The tour was a success, and it forged respect between the musicians. Some 25 years later, Orbison would join Beatles guitarist George Harrison along with Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, and Bob Dylan in the Travelling Wilburys.


Quance, Julian et al., editors. The Beatles Anthology.Chronicle Books, 2000.

Sussman, Al. “From Juke Box Jury to The Ed Sullivan Show: Radio and TV—The Beatles’ ‘Star-Making Machinery.’” The Beatles in Context, edited by Kenneth Womack, Cambridge University Press, 2020, pp. 109-124.

Wickman, Forrest. “The Beatles Overtake Their Idols.” Slate, May 22, 2013.

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