Who Am I?

My photo
A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

19 August 2007

Inadvertent Destinations

Ferrying a helicopter out west back in 2001, we stopped for fuel at the airport in Wink, Texas. The town of Wink could have been named Middle-Of-Nowhere, Texas or Hotter-Than-Freakin’-Hell, Texas because that’s what it was. It was literally take-your-breath-away hot. Ah, but it was a dry heat, right? Screw that! I wasn’t sweating but I was roasting like one of Kenny Rogers’ chickens. The new owner of the ship and I let the lineboys do their work. We ran inside and were sucking up every drop of water and every cube of ice in the place. Neither of us was enthusiastic of getting back in that convection oven of a helicopter for a while.

Now, Wink is not exactly a jumping place during the day. Or maybe at any time, ever (although it was once). Attached to the airport office was a little cafĂ© which didn’t appear to be in business anymore. But the doors were open so we, bored and in no big hurry to leave, wandered in. We found the walls of the dark room decorated with all sorts of Roy Orbison memorabilia. Roy Orbison just happens to be one of my favorite singers of all time. “Yep, this was his home town!” one of the airport rats proudly proclaimed.

Well, not exactly. Roy was born way up north in Vernon, Texas in 1936. Later, his family moved down to Fort Worth and his dad worked in one of the big munitions plants there during WWII. After the war they moved again, this time to Wink. It had been a booming oil town of 6,000 people once – by the 1940’s it was in decline. Now with less than 1,000 residents it’s just another sad, dying desert town. According to the National Weather Service, Wink is one of the hottest places in Texas. Wish I’d known that before we planned to stop there for fuel!

Orbison started his first band, The Wink Westerners in 1949 when he was thirteen. He stuck around Wink only long enough to graduate high school. By the mid-1950’s he was recording songs. In the early 1960's he had a string of Top-40 hits, like “Only The Lonely,” “In Dreams,” “Running Scared,” and “It’s Over.” And who hasn’t heard his giant classic from 1964, “Oh, Pretty Woman” with that unique sexy, warbling growl. That was pretty much the high point for Orbison; his career stagnated after that.

Roy Orbison had this wonderful, magnificent, powerful operatic voice. According to Wikipedia, none other than Bob Dylan once wrote that Orbison’s unique, four-octave range “made you want to drive your car over a cliff” (he meant it in a good way). Which is understandable coming from Dylan, an outstanding songwriter who has never exactly been known for his singing voice.

In the late 1980’s Roy Orbison’s career enjoyed rejuvenation. His songs began getting airplay and exposure to a whole new generation of fans. Roy gave a concert in Los Angeles for an HBO called “Roy Orbison and Friends: A Black and White Night.” He had a truly all-star backup band consisting of some of the most renowned names in music, all of whom requested to be part of the event and volunteered their services just to be part of it. Please play this clip so you can see what I mean.

The above song showcases Orbison’s incredible voice in an absolutely beautiful song. It’s three minutes of nirvana. Even if you were never a fan of Orbison it is worth checking out. (Did you spot Bruce Springsteen in the background? The Boss! And by the way, the guitar player with the white jacket is the legendary James Burton, one of the best, most well-known and well-respected session guitarists who got his start in his mid-teens playing in Ricky Nelson’s band, and then went on to play in Elvis Presley’s “TCB” band.)

After the “Black And White” concert, Roy Orbison released the highly-acclaimed “Mystery Girl” album, which spawned a big hit song and video (“You Got It”). It seemed like he was on a well-deserved roll. Sadly, his comeback was cut short when he had a heart attack and died in late 1988 at the age of 52.

Wink, Texas. Not so great memories, but just another reason I have to get that dang Volkwagen Camper fixed up so I can go back and revisit the place before it dies completely and becomes a modern-day ghost town.

But I’ll go back in the winter next time. With Roy Orbison CD’s in the player. Loud, too - all the way up to eleven. What a trip it’ll be!


Hal Johnson said...

Wow, that was an amazing video.

I remember hearing an interview with Tom Petty several years ago, in which he discussed how "The Traveling Wilburys" were formed. As the story goes, George Harrison, Tom Petty, and Jeff Lynne, having already gained a "yes" from Bob Dylan in forming the TW's, next set their sights on Mr. Orbison. Although Orbison had earlier agreed to help Harrison out on a B side of a single he'd released, the guys had their doubts that the often-cloistered Orbison would get on board. They called to ask if they could talk to him, and when he said yes, they got in a car and headed for his house. As Petty related it, they beat around the bush for a good while before finally asking Roy if he'd join their group. He just shrugged and answered, "sure."

Petty said that that they got back on the freeway, looked at each other, then started jumping up and down in their seats: "HE SAID YES! HE SAID YES!"

Redlefty said...

I've got that concert DVD. Amazing group of people together that night.

Gary said...

I have Roy's touring bus and don't know what to do with it.