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The Traveling Wilburys: A Supergroup

The Traveling Wilburys, a folk-rock band during the late 1980s, had a short yet successful career. The five members included five well-known musicians coming from England and America. They had careers that were very successful such as George Harrison’s career as The Beatles’ lead guitarist and Tom Petty’s career as the lead singer and guitarist of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. What made these successful musicians come together and merge genres to become the Traveling Wilburys? According to Mo Ostin on The Traveling Wilburys’ website, George Harrison was working on the release of his single, “This is Love” and was asked by his label to create a B-side for this single. He along with his friends spent time together at Bob Dylan’s studio and made music. The song that came out of their time together was “Handle with Care,” but it was a song too good for a B-side and needed to be made into an album. The idea of a collaboration was in the works. George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty and Roy Orbison make up The Traveling Wilburys. The creation of their band name was started by Harrison and Lynne who called some studio equipment “wilburys.” The name that was inspired by Harrison and Lynne’s nickname was “The Trembling Wilburys.”

Later on, Lynne made the creative suggestion for, “The Traveling Wilburys,” which is what this band is known as now. As a group, they also decided to use pseudonyms on both their records using the same last name, so they could appear more like brothers. In the Traveling Wilburys, the work was shared between all the members. Everyone wrote, produced and sang the music their fans came to love. Their debut album was released October 18 of 1988 and named, “The Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1.” This album had amazing success reaching the top of charts in multiple countries. The Recording Industry Association of America certified the album as multi-platinum, meaning it sold over 2 million copies. “The Traveling Wilburys Vol 1” was nominated for two Grammys including Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, which they won and Album of the Year. This album was also nominated for an American Music Award, Favorite Pop/Rock New Artist. Their first single, “Handle with Care” had significant success around the world as well and was listed on many charts. Shortly after their album’s release, Roy Orbison passed away due to a heart attack. He died December 6 of 1988 at the age of 52, so he didn’t have the opportunity to see the album’s success. A month after his death, “You Got It,” a song he wrote along with Lynne and Petty, was released. This song was his first solo song to top the US charts in over 25 years. After Orbison’s death the other four released their second and final album, “Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3.” This album was released October 29 of 1990 as a continuation of their first studio album. This album was not received the same way as their first album, but still received significant success. This album did not reach the success as the first but did manage to chart in multiple countries. This album sold over a million, so The Recording Industry Association of America certified this album as platinum. “She’s My Baby” and “Inside Out” had a lot of radio success.

Despite being their sophomore release, the title is listed as “Vol. 3.” There has been guesses on why the title is misleading, but on the group’s website, it mentions that George Harrison cleverly named the album. Jeff Lynne said “That was George’s idea. He said, ‘Let’s confuse the buggers.’” The Traveling Wilburys only released two studio albums in their short career. This famous group never toured, but their music did reach people around the world. These five musicians who reached incredible individual success joined together making The Traveling Wilburys into a music Supergroup.

Written by Allison Jones


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