Jeff Lynne never had any reservations about the Traveling Wilburys. George Harrison and Lynne were the driving forces behind the famed classic rock combo, each having carefully chosen their perfect bandmate. Harrison selected Bob Dylan, while Lynne went for Roy Orbison. The final configuration of the band was established when Harrison went to Tom Petty’s house to grab one of his guitars.
While talking with Rolling Stone, Lynne said some things about the initial formation of WIlburys, “One night while we were recording [Harrison] said, ‘We should form a group.’ I said, ‘Who should we have in it?’ He said, ‘Bob Dylan.’ I’m going, ‘Bloody hell.’ I never expected that answer.”
“And then I said, ‘Can we have Roy Orbison?’ He said, ‘Great, I love Roy.’ It was a marvellous time. I thought to myself, ‘Wow, I should have been doing this years ago.’”
The quintet collaborated to make Vol. 1, their debut album, in 1988. Lynne was extremely happy that Orbison was engaged because the singer of “Only the Lonely” was one of Lynne’s great boyhood heroes. Lynne said, “When I was a kid, I loved the plaintive songs of Del Shannon and Roy Orbison. They wrote songs that were really sad and those were the best. I thought I was writing those sort of songs. People tell me the song gives them a boost, but I never dreamed I was doing that for anybody.”
Tragically, Orbison passed away just two months after the album’s release, undermining the band’s popularity as songs like “Handle With Care” and “End of the Line” became radio smashes. The passing of Orbison hit Lynne especially deeply because she and Harrison were co-producing the singer’s comeback album, Mystery Girl.
George Harrison eventually gathered the soldiers to start production on a second LP, Vol. At that moment, Lynne was glad to participate but saw that Orbison’s absence in the group was felt. Jeff explained, “We did a second album after Roy died, but I could have done without it. Roy was just too big a part of the original group.”
“We never played any concerts, though George had some whack ideas about how we’d do this tour. His first idea was that we’d rent an aircraft carrier and then we’d just fly to different ports and let everyone climb onto the aircraft carrier and have a listen to us. The next idea was we’d do it on a train. We’d pull into a station and drop a stage and play for the people that came to see us at the station. But we never got around to either of them. Everyone else had their own tours.”