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Gary Payne - University of North Texas

Roy Orbison’s son accepts award from UNT

Profile image for By Megan Gray / Staff Writer
By Megan Gray / Staff Writer

Alex Orbison, son of rock ’n’ roll legend Roy Orbison, was in town Friday to accept an award on behalf of his late father from the University of North Texas.

The late Roy Orbison, famous for such hits “Oh, Pretty Woman” and “Only the Lonely,” was honored with the university’s most prestigious award — the Distinguished Alumni Award — at a ceremony Friday evening.

Roy Orbison attended UNT (then North Texas State College) in the 1950s, when he launched his musical career.

“We as a family are honored,” Alex Orbison, 37, said about receiving the award. “We knew how important coming through UNT was for Roy, and his career was essentially launched as a student here.”

Roy Orbison recorded his first hit, “Ooby Dooby,” which was written by two fellow students, while attending UNT, Alex Orbison said.

“He also wrote ‘Go-Go-Go’ here [in Denton],” Alex Orbison said.                                     

These songs were later recorded at the well-known Sun Studios in Nashville, Alex Orbison said.

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Alex has two older brothers, Roy and Wesley, and they were all taught how to play guitar by their dad.

“He was a genius; he could play any instrument,” Alex Orbison said. “I remember when I saw him in the studio for the first time playing the drums. I was shocked. … I just didn’t know he played anything else as a kid other than the guitar, but he could do it all.”

UNT first presented the Distinguished Alumni Award in 1965, and it is given to individuals who have achieved prominence in their profession, thereby reflecting a positive image of the university.

Roy Orbison was adamant his sons went to school and received proper education, Alex Orbison said.

“I used to be a touring musician. Now I am just here to make sure my dad’s legacy is kept alive while I take care of his estate,” Alex Orbison said.

Roy Orbison has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. He died of a heart attack in 1988 at age 52.

MEGAN GRAY can be reached at 940-566-6885. Her e-mail address is