Ricky Nelson and Roy Orbison had back-to-back number one hits around this time 50 years ago. It doesn’t get much better than that. Nelson’s “Travelin’ Man” would top the Billboard Hot 100 chart the weeks of May 29, and June 12, 1961. Right in the middle of those two weeks came Roy Orbison with his first number one hit, “Running Scared.”
Roy Orbison was born in Vernon, Texas and was influenced by the country swing and rockabilly movements of the day. He began his recording career during the mid-1950s with the legendary Sun Records label. “Ooby Dooby” was his only hit for the label before he signed with RCA for two single releases. He signed with the Nashville-based Monument Records label in 1960 and during the next four years produced a series of singles that ranked with the best of the era.
“Blue Angel” and “Only The Lonely” had both reached the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 when “Running Scared” was released March 10, 1961. It may have taken awhile but it finally reached the number one position three months later.
Any time Roy Orbison’s music is discussed, it always comes down to his voice. He had a four-octave range that just seemed like it could go on forever. Even Elvis Presley was impressed, as he considered Orbison to possess the best voice in music.
“Running Scared” is a typical booming Orbison balled with what can be called a bolero beat. It had all the markings of an opera in under three minutes. It is also an excellent example of the power and purity of his vocal prowess.
Today, while Roy Orbison is best remembered for such classic performances as “Oh Pretty Woman,” “Dream Baby,” “In Dreams,” and “Crying;” it was “Running Scared” that brought him his first number one song 50 years ago this week.