BMI Award-winning songwriter and Roy Orbison collaborator Joe Melson joined the ranks of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame when he was inducted into the elite group during a ceremony August 8 in Jackson, Tennessee. On behalf of BMI, John Lomax III of Kinetic Management delivered Melson's induction speech, describing his lasting impact on popular music through his writing and recording. Rockabilly Hall of Fame founder Henry Harrison presided over the gala festivities at the Garden Plaza Hotel that also commemorated Sun Records' 50th Anniversary.
Pictured after the induction are Sam Phillips, Joe Melson and son Michael Melson, Henry Harrison and John Lomax III
Melson first met Orbison in 1957 and they soon began a co-writing relationship that yielded Orbison's first six hits on Mounument Records and included such enduring classics as the BMI multi-Million-Airs "Only The Lonely," "Running Scared," "Crying" and "Blue Bayou." Additionally Melson helped Orbison shape what became his signature sound and, in the process, the pair created a new musical style: the dramatic rock ballad. He sang on Orbison's records and on his early '60s live performances; Melson's voice is the first one heard on "Only The Lonely" singing the "dum, dum, dum, dumby do wah" that set the stage for Orbison's powerhouse vocals. Melson also co-wrote other Orbison hits, including "Blue Angel," "I'm Hurtin'," "The Crowd," "Up Town" and the black-clad singer's 1967 comeback, "Cry Softly Lonely Girl."
Sun Records Founder Sam Phillips and such luminaries as Wanda Jackson, Narvel Felts, Sonny Burgess, Ace Cannon, Stan Perkins, W. S. Holland, Shelby Singleton and several members of Bill Haley's original Comets attended, with many coming onstage to reprise their hits for the delighted crowd.