Where Roy Orbison Needed To Be

Roy Orbison tried one year of college at North Texas State.

It was a good year for Mr. Orbison. But, he confessed, a lonely year.

“It was an attempt at being legitimate,” the singer told Rolling Stone, “or not being a free spirit.”

Mr. Orbison had made other attempts at being legitimate.

He grew up six hours west of North Texas State in rural Wink, Texas. It was a town of oil fields and football fields. Mr. Orbison tried his hand at both. But neither meant much to him.

What meant something – what had meant something to him since he’d gotten a guitar for his sixth birthday – was music.

Mr. Orbison couldn’t read music. Never would learn. But growing up, he wrote music. And he played music. At Lions Club Conventions, on local radio shows, with draftees in Fort Worth before they left for World War II.

But, in 1954, Mr. Orbison found himself at North Texas State. College, after all, was legitimate.

One day during that lonely year at North Texas State, Roy Orbison heard Elvis Presley on the jukebox. And that sound – that free-spirited sound of a boy from rural Tupelo, Mississippi – convinced Mr. Orbison that he was not where he needed to be.

So, he packed his bags and headed west to make his own sound. It might not have been legitimate. But legitimate didn’t matter. It was where Mr. Orbison needed to be.

It takes guts to kick legitimacy to the curb. And follow your self-respect west.

But Mr. Orbison had learned something about life and living from those draftees in Fort Worth. And that something, as he put it, was this:

“Do it for all it’s worth and do it now and do it good.”

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