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Why Roy Orbison wore sunglasses all the time


Why Roy Orbison wore sunglasses all the time

Born in Vernon, Texas in 1936, the singer and guitarist Roy Orbison started his successful career in 1953 releasing his debut album “Lonely and Blue” eight years later in 1961. His career took-off in the 60s and he even got to tour with The Beatles in England, when they still weren’t that famous.


He had countless hits during his career like “Oh, Pretty Woman”, “Crying”, “Only The Lonely”, “You Got It” and “I Drove All Night”. And also was a member of the supergroup Traveling Wilburys in the 80s, alongside Bob Dylan and George Harrison.

But Orbison wasn’t known only for his incredible voice and guitar playing, his sunglasses were also a big part of his image. But why the musician wore sunglasses all the time?

The reason why Roy Orbison wore sunglasses all the time

Orbison and all his siblings had poor eyesight and had to use thick corrective lenses since they were young kids. So the musician couldn’t see properly without glasses but he actually started using the prescribed sunglasses by accident.

Back in the early 60s he chartered an airplane to go play in Dothan Alabama. The sun was really bright and he put the sunglasses on, but as soon as he got off the plane he forgot his regular glasses inside. Realizing that he was wearing dark sunglasses only when the sun came down, Orbison was forced to perform with them that night. But it was after appearing with The Beatles with the glasses on that he really couldn’t change that image anymore.

He explained the whole story in a TV interview (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage). “I was on my way to Dothan, Alabama to play a concert and I chartered a private plane. It was a low-wing plane, I remember and the sun was very bright. So I put on the sun shades and put (the regular glasses) aside. When I got to Dothan, I got out of the plane and left the (regular glasses) on the airplane.”

“I didn’t realize it until the sun went down. I was busy rehearsing that day and all of a sudden I was going to perform at night in sunglasses. (So) I felt very embarrassed and I got through the night. Then the next day flew to Atlanta, New York and London, England. (I) opened The Beatles tour that evening and wore the same pair of sunglasses. I was still worried about that but no one sort of minded.”

He continued:

“That tour really made The Beatles and myself in Europe and internationally, I guess. It was really important to us and with all these photographs around the world with sun shades I was sort of stuck (instantly with that image). So it wasn’t something I designed or thought up. ‘I’ll just do this and be cool’, it was (actually) a mistake,” Roy Orbison said.

Besides Roy and The Beatles, that UK tour also had other acts like Gerry and the Pacemakers, Terry Young Six and Lousie Cordet. Originally it was Orbison who would be the headliner but the reaction of the crowds watching The Beatles were so enormous that they became co-headliners.

His son Roy Orbison Jr., told the same story to Rolling Stone in 2017. He recalled that his father couldn’t see without glasses.

“(My father) had left his regular glasses on a plane, right before the tour. He had the dark glasses with him and decided to keep wearing them. Dad wasn’t able to see without glasses.”

“When he got off the plane in England, people were taking pictures and that’s what they saw, Dad with the dark glasses,” Roy Orbison Jr. said.

Roy Orbison passed away in 1988 at the age of 52, victim of a heart attack. He was inducted by Bruce Springsteen into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame one year before, in 1987.

I'm a Brazilian journalist who always loved Classic Rock and Heavy Metal music. That passion inspired me to create Rock and Roll Garage over 6 years ago. Music has always been a part of my life, helping me through tough times and being a support to celebrate the good ones. When I became a journalist, I knew I wanted to write about my passions. After graduating in journalism from the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais, I pursued a postgraduate degree in digital communication at the same institution. The studies and experience in the field helped me improve the website and always bring the best of classic rock to the world! MTB: 0021377/MG

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