Flashback: Roy Orbison

source: royorbison.com
This story below was posted on Facebook by my long-time family friend Pat Parks' brother Mike.  I've known Frank and Pat since I was about 8 or 9 years old when visiting a friend of mine that lived next door to them.  Pat is one of the kindest people you could ever meet, and she always wanted to make sure if nothing else that we were well fed.  This story is Mike's retelling (with a few edits after speaking with Pat) of Pat and Frank's friendship with Orbison and his wife during the 1950's when he was a very young musician.
My sister, Pat (Lovelace) Parks knew Roy Orbison back in the day when he was first starting out in rock and roll. On a recent visit together, one of his songs was playing on the radio and she casually mentioned that she knew him back in the 50’s. I nearly fell out of my chair and I asked her to elaborate on that bombshell. She said, “Well, he wasn’t a big star back then, he was just starting out and I used to listen to him and his band practice in the warehouse underneath my apartment.”

When Pat married Frank Parks in 1959, they moved into in an apartment above his father's carpet cleaning warehouse in Midland, Texas. It just so happened that about the same time Frank’s younger brother Larry Parks was hired as Roy’s drummer. Needing a place to rehearse, Roy and his band set up their music equipment in the Parks’ warehouse and started practicing for an upcoming tour.  It turned out they really liked the sound in the warehouse because they were surrounded by many hanging rugs.  The group became a big item of interest with the locals as their music filled the neighborhood there in South Midland.

Pat said that Roy was very much a true gentleman and treated everybody really nice. It was well known that Roy Orbison wore very thick prescription eyeglasses. And so did Pat. For laughs, Roy would compare his thick prescription eyeglasses with Pat’s eyeglasses and they had a good laugh trying on each other’s eyeglasses. You know how contagious Pat’s laughter can be! Each time that he saw Pat, he would tap his eyeglasses in a salute to her.

Roy’s wife Claudette was with him while they practiced in the warehouse that summer and Pat got to know her, too. Pat said she was also very nice to everybody and that Roy and Claudette were very close. It was a pleasant time for the Orbison’s as his career was just getting off the ground. Pat remembered that Claudette would eventually die at a young age in a motorcycle accident some years later.

Roy’s first big hit, “Only the Lonely” had just come out that year and was rapidly climbing the charts. It would eventually reach #2 on Billboard’s Music Charts. He instantly became an international music star overnight, even though he had been trying to break into the big-time for several years.

Larry Parks went on tour with Roy Orbison in Australia where they played on the same bill with the Beach Boys. Roy also toured with another up and coming music group out of Liverpool, England . . . the Beatles.
Larry Parks also became a successful songwriter when he penned the hit song “I Like Bread and Butter” performed by the Newbeats in the early 60’s. He wrote the lyrics to that song while sitting in class at Midland High School.

Side Bar: Roy Orbison grew up in Wink, Texas, which is located about 8 miles south of Kermit, Texas. He is a graduate of Wink High School. One of his first “gigs” was performing on a weekly radio show for KERB in Kermit. In 1963, a high powered radio station in Acuna, Mexico hired a disc jockey named Wolfman Jack. If you ever listened to Wolfman Jack’s radio shows, you probably heard a lot of Roy Orbison’s music.

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