Joe co-wrote the songs that sky-rocketed Roy Orbison’s career in the early 60’s. These hits included, among others, Only The Lonely, Running Scared, Crying and Blue Bayou. Additionally, Joe was an integral part of developing Roy’s signature sound and, in the process, created a new musical style: the dramatic rock ballad. He sang backup on most of the early hits and at live performances.
Joe’s voice is the first one heard on Only The Lonely, singing the “dum, dum, dum, dumbe do wah” that set the stage for Roy’s powerhouse vocals. Other notable hits written by Joe and Roy include Blue Angel, I’m Hurtin’, The Crowd, Up Town and the black-clad singer’s 1967 comeback, Cry Softly Lonely One. Joe wrote over 40% of Roy’s BMI award winning songs. Roy may have been a legendary recording artist, but it takes friends and legendary songwriters like Joe Melson to make it all come together.
The first charted hit Joe wrote with Roy in the USA was “Uptown.” It was on the B side of single “Pretty One.” “Only the Lonely” came next and soared to the top of the charts. Joe and Roy originally planned to offer this song to Elvis Presley. Although disappointed at the time that Elvis did not receive them the morning they came to Graceland unannounced, this proved to be the biggest break for Joe and Roy. The version sung by Roy shaped Rock n’ Roll in a new way that may never have happened otherwise.
Joe, Roy, and Ray Rush wrote Pretty Woman in 1962. Later, Roy and Bill Dees rewrote the song and named it Oh Pretty Woman. Curtis Byrd & the Joe-Rag Singers put the original out on the Candix label in 1962. Joe had written most of Only The Lonely before he meet Roy in Texas. The song’s style would turn out to be the root that permeated the rest of Orbison’s career.
Joe Melson recorded several singles of his own for Hickory Records (one displayed above), EMP, and Shue Records. Joe also wrote songs for other artists, such as Dan Folger, The Newbeats, Ernie Ashworth and others. Joe’s songs have been re-released by numerous artists in the U.S. and in Europe, and have been included in many soundtracks.