The Petty Archives

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Supergroup: The Traveling Wilburys
By Shelia Rogers
Rolling Stone #539 -- November 17, 1988

What do you get when you put Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison and Tom Petty in the same room? You get the Wilburys -- the Traveling Wilburys, to be more precise.

The story goes that last spring Orbison and Petty were over at Lynne's house, in L.A., working on their respective albums (both of which Lynne is producing), when Harrison dropped by. They went to dinner that night, and when George mentioned that he needed an additional track for a European EP, everyone agreed to help out. Then George suggested they all go over to Bob's house. "I didn't know who Bob was," said Orbison. "It turned out to be Bob Dylan." The following day, at Dylan's, they recorded the song "Handle with Care." That number turned out so well that they decided to make an entire album. The group spent the next few weeks writing songs and laying down tracks in the recording studio at Dave Stewart's house.

"Everybody pitched in -- it was really wonderful,” says Orbison. “There was no leader as such -- we would all play rhythm guitar on everything. So there are five rhythm-guitar plays on every song. Songwriting for the album was also more or less of a group effort, though each member of the Wilburys takes the lead vocals on the tracks he’s most responsible for.”

So what’s a Wilbury? According to the album’s liner notes, the Wilburys are are members of “a remarkable sophisticated musical culture” that developed without the aid of managers or agents. The name itself was the brainchild of Harrison and Lynne. “It’s a legendary family.” says Orbison. Each member has his own moniker: there’s Nelson (Harrison), Lucky (Dylan), Lefty (Orbison), Otis (Lynne) and Charlie T. Jr. (Petty). Otis and Nelson produced the extraordinary album, titled Traveling Wilburys. The Wilburys have no plans to tour, but a movie is in the works. “The whole story of the Wilburys will untold,” says Orbison.