THE TRAVELING WILBURYS
I use the name of the group as spelled out on all records worldwide i.e. the American spelling of ‘traveling’
The original Traveling Wilburys line-up:
When George was in Los Angeles in the spring of 1988 putting together tracks for a single to be released from his Cloud Nine album, he was seeking a bonus track for the European twelve inch of 'When We Was Fab'
He contacted Jeff Lynne who was co-producing with him (including appearing in the 'Fab' music video along with Ringo Starr) to participate in a song-writing session. George had left his guitar at Tom Petty's house a few nights earlier, so he invited Petty along. When Lynne arrived, Roy Orbison accompanied him - Jeff had also been working on Roy's album Mystery Girl at the time as well as working on tracks for Tom Petty (Tom and Jeff had co-written the wonderful 'You Got It' for Roy and sang backing vocals on the track)
George was impressed that Roy knew so much about Monty Python and delighted when Orbison volunteered to sing with him on this extra track. "And so I thought I'll just go into the studio tomorrow and do one and it happened that Jeff was working with Roy and Roy wanted to come."
Arriving late the following morning, Roy shook hands with Tom Petty - who Jeff, and to a lesser extent, George, had assisted in the production of a Del Shannon album in 1987, after Petty's group had backed Dylan on the tour that had terminated at Wembley.
It wasn't worth booking anywhere expensive so George telephoned Bob Dylan in nearby Santa Monica and he had a little Ampex in the corner of his garage, available the next day. "And the only studio that we could find available was Bob's. So we thought, Bob’s got one, we'll just call him up."
While George and Jeff worked on the song, Dylan prepared a barbecue. George recalled, `I looked behind the garage door and there was a cardboard box with "Handle With Care" on it.'
>From merely providing refreshments, Dylan lent a hand when Harrison - with his ‘B-Side’ only half-finished - said, "Give us some lyrics, you famous lyricist." It is said that Harrison had long admired Dylan and rated him a better artist than either Lennon or McCartney.
George added what he called 'a lonely bit' for Orbison, while Dylan wheezed the trademark harmonica on the fade. George: " ….. and so everybody was there and I thought I'm not gonna just sing it myself, I've got Roy Orbison standing there. I'm gonna write a bit for Roy to sing. And then as it progressed, I started doing the vocals and I just thought I might as well push it a bit and get Tom and Bob to sing the bridge."
All five musicians pitched in with suggestions for the number. George was to recall, `I thought of the first line, then everyone was writing words with Dylan saying some hysterical things”. The next day we added electric guitar and bass and mixed it. It was instant.'
Roy had to leave for a one-nighter in Anaheim near Long Beach, Bob carried on preparing for a summer tour and George slipped over to Warners with the new tape.
When WEA Records heard `Handle With Care' they considered it to be too good to throw away as a makeweight on a single so George put it aside. He then thought it would be a good idea if they turned the collaboration of the five into a full-scale album project so he discussed the prospect with Jeff over a quantity of Mexican lager. All parties were keen so it was a runner
Owing to Orby's tour, only ten days could be set aside for recording – this was the summer of 1988. “It worked because it was so unplanned'". Most of the composing took place at Dylan's then at producer, Dave Stewart’s. Nourished by a continuous barbecue, George's team would "assemble at about one in the afternoon and just sit around with acoustic guitars - then someone would have a title or a chord pattern and we'd let it roll." What developed was the album The Traveling Wilburys Volume 1. George and Jeff returned to England, where they added the final overdubs
Michael Palin wrote the sleeve notes for the album. The tracks are: `Handle With Care', `Dirty World', `Rattled', `Last Night', `Not Alone Anymore', `Congratulations', `Heading For The Light', `Margarita', `Tweeter And The Monkey Man', `End of The Line'.
It was issued in America and Britain on 25 October 1988 soon after the release of the single `Handle With Care'. The name Wilbury had been a suggestion from George and Jeff. While they had been recording Cloud Nine, when there were any technical problems with their equipment, they said that gremlins were at work and they called them 'Wilburys' - it was an in-joke
First, 'The Trembling Wilburys' was suggested as a name when, remembered Lynne, he and George had "this fantasy idea. We'd start inventing a group that would have all our favourite people." Ultimately the vote went to Traveling, which was certainly the preference of the persuasive Dylan
Harrison was the most avid Wilbury plugger. Later, he'd chew over the likelihood of a full-length movie based on the sleevenotes attributed to Michael Palin from a brainwave of Derek Taylor's.
Masquerading as half brothers sired by the same father - Charles Truscott Wilbury, Senior - the five appeared under their chosen pseudonyms. They decided to create a little history. They would masquerade as half-brothers, all sons of Charles. Bob Dylan was Lucky or Boo Wilbury. Jeff Lynne was Otis or Clayton Wilbury. Tom Petty was Charlie T. Jr or Muddy Wilbury. Roy Orbison was Lefty Wilbury and George was Nelson or Spike Wilbury.
The other musicians who participated were referred to as `the Sideburys'. They comprised Jim Keltner on drums, Jim Horn on sax and Ray Cooper on percussion. Ian Wallace played tom-toms on the `Handle With Care' track. After the death of Orbison it was rumoured that Del Shannon might replace him in the group. When told about the rumours, Shannon said, `At the moment it's not likely to happen until the band gets back together from doing their own individual stuff. If they decide on a second album, I'd be interested.'
The Wilburys did go ahead and make a second album but only as a quartet as they felt that Roy Orbison couldn't be replaced. George said, `You can't really replace somebody like Roy. As far as another member goes, I don't think it's that important. If some magic little thing happens, maybe there will be somebody. You could really have any number of Wilburys. The basic idea is attitude. For now, it's just us four.'
The recording took place at Wilbury Mountain Studio, Bel Air, California between Friday 27 April until Tuesday 15 May 1990 and at FPSHOT in July 1990. It featured Tom Petty as Muddy Wilbury on acoustic and lead and backing vocals; Bob Dylan as Boo Wilbury on acoustic guitar, harmonica and lead and backing vocals; Jeff Lynne on acoustic guitar, bass, keyboards and lead and backing vocals; and George Harrison as Spike Wilbury on acoustic and electric guitars, mandolin, sitar and lead and backing vocals.
George only submitted one of his numbers, 'Maxine' but this was rejected and so he had none of his own compositions on the album. The first number recorded was `Nobody's Child', a number that The Beatles had originally backed Tony Sheridan on in Hamburg in 1962. This was at the suggestion of Bob Dylan when George mentioned his wife Olivia's Romanian Angel Appeal and the idea that they should donate a track, so this was excluded from their own album content.
Gary Moore, under the name Ken Wilbury, played lead guitar on the actual opening track, `She's My Baby'. The other tracks were: `Inside Out', `If You Belonged To Me', `The Devil's Been Busy', `7 Deadly Sins', `Poor House', `Where Were You Last Night?', `Cool Dry Place', `New Blue Moon', `You Took My Breath Away', `Wilbury Twist', `Runaway'
It appears that `Like A Ship' was also recorded but like `Maxine', didn’t make the cut
The album wasn’t titled Traveling Wilburys Volume 2. This second and final album was called Traveling Wilburys Volume 3, due to the fact that a bootleg album called Traveling Wilburys Volume 2 had already been released. Vol.3 was released on 29 October 1990 in both Britain and America and is dedicated to ‘Lefty Wilbury’.
Singles: Overall there were a number of singles released. `Handle With Care' c/w `Margarita' was the first (and, in the British release, a bonus track on an extended `Handle With Care' issued in October 1988). `End Of The Line' was released in February 1989 with an extended mix of 'End Of The Line', plus `Congratulations'. `Nobody's Child' was released in aid of the Romanian Orphans appeal in June 1990. `She's My Baby' c/w the instrumental `New Blue Moon' and `Runaway*' followed the same year and the final single was issued in March 1991 with `Wilbury Twist' c/w `New Blue Moon (Instrumental)' and `Cool Dry Place'.
* any information on this version of ‘Runaway’ gratefully received
Following his tour of Japan, his first in seventeen years, George began to talk of a Traveling Wilburys tour, but it never happened. He commented, `That would be something I'd like to experience. I've always played around in my own mind what a Wilburys tour could be. Would each person do a solo set and then do Wilburys at the end, or would we all go right on from beginning to end and make everything Wilburys? It's an intriguing thought. We could have a great band up there and the four of us could play acoustic if we wanted to. We could all sing `Blowin' In The Wind' and Bob could sing `Something'. Or we could just sing our individual songs and make them Wilbury tunes, as if we'd recorded them that way. Whatever it was, we could do it.'
Tom Petty also commented on the lack of a tour, since people said they were the Traveling Wilburys: `I think it would work, if we wanted to do it. I don't think we ever considered it, really. There were a lot of nights when the conversation would roll around to that. But I don't think anybody ever took it seriously. I think it would ruin it in a way. Then you're obligated to be responsible and it's not in the character of that group. It would make it very formal and that would be the wrong spirit.'
A third album also wasn't to be, even though George said, `There is definitely going to be another Wilbury album - volume 5. Each one of us enjoyed it so much.' Sadly, it wasn't to be. Following the death of Roy Orbison, the rumours of Del Shannon replacing him and doing another album never materialised.
In June 1999 that was an announcement regarding using Carl Perkins' voice on a third Wilburys’ album. Carl Perkins had been Harrison's one-time idol and in the early days he borrowed his Christian name. His son Stan said he would be handing over four unreleased songs by his late father which could be utilised in the same way George, Paul and Ringo had used John Lennon’s demos for 'Free As A Bird' and 'Real Love'. Sadly, the plan never comes off.
At least there was consolation that two platinum-selling albums had materialised.
Neither was there a Wilburys film. George was to say, `We were trying to make a Wilbury film. We were going to film all the songs, it was all read - we had the studios booked, we had director David Leland, and every song filmed in a different location. Unfortunately Roy died but I'd still like to do it sometime.'
Tom Petty said the various Wilburys had a real ball, effectively making the records for themselves. Any commercial spin-off was incidental. One quote has the arrival of The Wilburys ‘a breath of fresh air, so different from the climate of the late 80s. In fact, almost a throwback to George’s skiffle past ……… like a Viking ship docking in a hovercraft terminal’
There are a few bootlegs going around – see website but these are generally made up of solo songs which one or two of the Wilburys worked on.
A Couple of Questions Why is Carrie Fisher thanked for 'You Took My Breath Away' on Volume 3? Carrie says: "I gave George Harrison that lyric (you took my breath away and now I want it back) ......and he used it in that song. It was from a poem I wrote when I was in my late teens.
Is there a Traveling Wilburys mailing list? Yes - run by Clemma Wilbury. It's a reasonably quiet mailing list with people writing to deliver Wilbury related news and just asking questions and the like. You can join at the yahoogroups website.
For everything the band has officially released to date. Now includes bootlegs http://www.wilburys.info/disc.html
The second CD isn’t a patch on the first ........... basically owing to the absence of the Big O in the whole scheme of things. That voice – as big as a cathedral – could never be replaced, either as a solo artist or as part of this ensemble. Also the quality of the second batch of songs is inferior.
The information used herein is from the websites quoted and the CD sleeve notes ======================= Finally here’s some nonsense from the two album sleeve notes
The etymological origins of The Traveling Wilburys have aroused something of a controversy amongst academic circles. Did they, as professor "BOBBY" Sinfield believes, originate from the various Wilbury Fairs which travelled Europe in Medieval times, titillating the populace with contemporary ballads, or rather, were they rather derived from "Ye Travelling Willyburys", who were popular locksmiths during the Crusades used to picking or unlocking jammed chastity belts (rather like today's emergency plumbers.)
Dr. Arthur Noseputty of Cambridge believes they were closely related to the Strangling Dingleberries, which is not a Group but a disease, an unpleasant form of crotch-rot; arguing that a "WILBURY" is often used as an expression for a piece of crud found in the crevice of an ancient pair of y-fronts; but I think this can be discounted, not only because of his silly name but also from his habit of impersonating Ethel Merman during lectures. Some have even gone on to suggest tenuous links with The Pillsburys, the group who invented Flour Power.
Dim Sun, a Chinese academic, argues that they may be related to "The Strolling Tilburys", Queen Elizabeth the first's favourite minstrels, and backs this suspicion with the observation that The Traveling Wilburys is an obvious anagram of "V. Burying Will's Theatre", clearly a reference to the closing of Shakespeare's Globe theatre by Villiers during an outbreak of plague. This would account for the constant travelling.
Indeed, many victims of plague and St. Vitus' dance literally danced themselves to death and it is this dancing theme that resurfaces with The Wilbury Twist. Not a cocktail but a dance craze, reminiscent of The Wilbury Quadrille made famous at Bath in 1790 by Beau Diddley, and the Wilbury Waltz, which swept Vienna in the 1890's. One thing, however, remains certain. The circumambulatory peregrinations of these itinerant mundivagrant peripatetic nomads has already disgorged one collection of popular lyrical cantata, which happily encapsulated their dithyramble antiphonic contrapuntal threnodies as a satisfactory auricular experience for the hedonistic gratification of the hoi polloi on a popular epigraphically inscribed gramophonic recording. Now here's another one. Tiny Hampton
(Professor "Tiny" Hampton is currently leading the search for Intelligent Life amongst Rock Journalism, at the University of Please Yourself, California.)
“ The original Wilburys were a stationary people who, realising that their civilisation could not stand still for ever, began to go for short walks - not the "traveling" as we now know it but certainly as far as the corner and back. They must have taken to motion, in much the same way as penguins were at that time taking to ledges, for the next we hear of them they were going out for the day (often taking lunch or a picnic).
Later - we don't as yet know how much later - some intrepid Wilburys began to go away for the weekend, leaving late Friday and coming back Sunday. It was they who evolved simple rhythmic forms to describe their adventures.
A remarkable sophisticated musical culture developed, considering there were no managers or agents and the further the Wilburys traveled the more adventurous their music became and the more it was revered by the elders of the tribe who believed it had the power to stave off madness, turn brunettes into blondes and increase the size of their ears
But as the Wilburys began to go further and further in their search for musical inspiration they found themselves the object of interest among many less developed species - nightclub owners, tour operators and recording executives. To the Wilburys, who had only just learnt to cope with wives, roadies and drummers, it was a blow from which many of them never recovered. They became hairdressers or tv rental salespersons.
But a tiny handful survived the last of the traveling Wilburys - and the songs gathered here represent the popular laments, the epic and heroic tales which characterise the apotheosis of the elusive Wilbury sound. The message of the music travels, as indeed they traveled and as I myself must now travel for further treatment. Good listening, good night and let thy Wilbury done ............
Sleeve note: Hugh Jampton”
Pulled together by Colin Kilgour: April 2005
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