More Than a Happy Accident; The Traveling Wilburys

Often time’s ego is the tool of destruction that rips bands apart to a devastating, unamendable state. It is a rare occurrence that five separate rock and roll legends band together to form a super group that is not only a worldwide chart topping success, but a group of musical friends that genuinely admire and respect one another.  In 1988 George Harrison, Jeff Lynn, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, and Roy Orbison became the Traveling Wilburys. Luckily for us, ego never made an appearance.

George Harrison rose back to the top of the charts with his album Cloud Nine that his friend, Jeff Lynn, helped produced. While preparing to release his single, “This Is Love” Warner Bros. asked Harrison to write a B side to help promote record sales. Having been hanging out with Jeff, Bob, Tom, and Roy in Bob’s studio, George asked if they’d be interested in jamming together and working out a single. This session resulted in one of the Traveling Wilburys biggest hits, “Handle with Care” and in Warner Bros. exclaiming that it was far too good to have as a B side. Warner Bros. also suggested that they should write an album.

With the excitement from Warner Bros. and what many say was a dream come true for George Harrison, the Travel Wilburys began work on their first album. The group recorded in Bob Dylan’s home studio in Malibu and recall the time as some of the best days of their lives. Everyone sang, everyone wrote, and everyone produced, making this album a true collaboration of talent. Bob was headed for the road ten days after the band got together so they began writing and recording at least one song a day. They got innovative with instruments, using a refrigerator as a drum kit for the song “Rattled”, and sat around flipping through auto magazines picking out words for lyrics. Though they all sang on the record, Roy Orbison’s voice gave the album a classic, hypnotizing glow.

Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 took six week to complete and became an instantaneous success. It reached number three on the charts and over 5 million copies were sold. Sadly, only two months after its release, Roy Orbison passed away at age 52. Though his passing was sudden, it was comforting for the band to know he was able to release chart topping music one last time. The rest of the Wilburys paid him respect in their music video for “End of the Line” by leaving a rocking chair empty, symbolizing Orbison’s presence.

George Harrison has said that the coming together of the Traveling Wilburys was more than a happy accident, rather, something that was meant to be. If the magic surrounding this album could be captured it would become a priceless work of art. Moments like these don’t occur on a daily or yearly basis, they occur at just the right moment, with just the right people, in just the right place. We can all be grateful that “Handle with Care” was far too good to have as a B side.

-Victoria Shaffer

**I wanted to add that if this topic interests you, you should check out the documentary The True History of The Traveling Wilburys and let Roy Orbison’s voice give you chills**


“History.” Traveling Wilburys. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2017.

“The Traveling Wilburys Biography.” Rolling Stone. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2017.

10 thoughts on “More Than a Happy Accident; The Traveling Wilburys

  1. Thanks for the reminder of what a great album this was. Couldn’t believe these people would ever perform together, let alone were friends.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. They were an amazing line-up – George, the best Beatle; Tom, the leading Heartbreaker; electric Jeff, poetic Bob, and the incredible, lyrical, musical genius, Roy. I don’t know why, but it surprised me to see him in the band…
    I’ve been listening to them lately. Thank you for the great write-up.

    Liked by 1 person

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