August 16

The Story of “Only The Lonely” From Roy Orbison to Sonny James

Sonny James sings "Only the Lonely"

The Early Career of Roy Orbison

Sonny James covered this song and made it reach the No. 1 spot in the country music charts. However, this song started with Roy Orbison. Eventhough he was from Nashville, Roy Orbison had never appeared in the Billboard’s Country Singles until the 1980s. He stayed in the pop music genre between 1960 and 1964 in which he made an astounding nine Top Ten Singles. He only appeared in the country charts when he charted “That Lovin’ You Feelin’ Again,” a hit from the movie “Roadie.”

Orbison became friends with Sonny James in 1956. When Roy charted “Ooby Dooby,” it was often the opening for “The Southern Gentleman” during those times.

The first true hit of Roy Orbison was “Only The Lonely.” It was a song he once hoped to be recorded by the Everly Brothers. However, he was the one who recorded the song and managed to land it on the No. 2 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 pop Chart in 1960.

Another Hit for the Southern Gentleman

Sonny James liked “Only The Lonely” and thought that it would be a great song for country music lovers. He has redone the arrangement to suit the country genre. It was after nine years when Orbison released his version of the song, Sonny James introduced it to the country audiences.

“Only The Lonely” was perfect for Sonny James. As a proof, his cover of the song was at the peak of the Billboard’s Hot Country Singles chart for three weeks.

Inspired by a Heart Break

Written by Joe Melson and Roy Orbison, this sad song was actually meant for Elvis Presley or The Everly Brothers. “Only The Lonely” was one of the first products of the two men’s collaboration. This song’s lyrics were inspired by Melson’s teenage love story. She left him heartbroken and when she took off in a Cadillac, the words to this song came to him naturally. Also, this song was his proudest moment as a songwriter. It’s because it was his first with Roy Orbison.


Roy Orbison, sonny james

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