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The Hugo Keesing collection on Roy Orbison

 Collection 0069-SCPA

Roy Orbison (b. Vernon, Texas, April 23, 1936; d. Hendersonville, Tennessee, December 6, 1988) was a famous American singer and song-writer, with the peak of his career taking place in the 1950s and 1960s. He is arguably best known for his 1964 hit single, "Oh, Pretty Woman." This collection consists of clippings, magazines, realia, ephemera, recordings, sheet music, and other miscellaneous documents. These materials span the length of most of Orbison's career, with the majority of materials dating from either 1961-1979 or 1981-1992.


  • 1956-2001, undated

Use and Access to Collection

The collection is open for research use. Materials from this collection must be used in the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library's Irving and Margery Morgan Lowens Special Collections Room, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday. Contact the curator for an appointment:

Duplication and Copyright Information

Copyright was not transferred with the donation of the materials; all rights remain with the creators and rights holders.


3.00 Linear Feet

Scope and Content of Collection

The Hugo Keesing collection on Roy Orbison consists of realia, such as concert t-shirts, framed photographs and posters, and items containing his autograph. It also contains concert ephemera, such as ticket stubs, newspaper clippings, magazines, audio and visual recordings, sheet music, and research materials of Dr. Keesing pertaining to Orbison's discography. Several clippings are obituaries and tributes to Orbison. This collection covers the period from 1956 to 2001; the bulk dates of the materials are concentrated in three main periods: 1961 to 1962, 1967 to 1979, and 1981 to 1992.


[See finding aid for the Hugo Keesing collection on popular music and culture for information on Hugo Keesing]

Roy Orbison (1936-1988) was an award-winning American singer-songwriter who, in the development of rock and roll in the 1950s and 1960s, stood out for his reserved stage presence, powerful vocals, and emotionally vulnerable ballads like "Only the Lonely" and "Crying." Always dressed in all black, wearing thick black sunglasses, with dyed black hair, Orbison performed his music standing almost completely still for the duration of each concert. Often referred to as the "Big O" and the "[Enrico] Caruso of Rock," a comparison to the famous opera singer of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Orbison's big break happened in 1956 when he signed with Sam Phillips at Sun Records in Memphis. After moving to Monument Records in 1960, Orbison was one of the first to popularize the "Nashville sound," pioneered by producer Chet Atkins and characterized by its smooth vocals, refined textures and tempos, and easy tempos - an attempt to revive country music after the rise of rock and roll. Orbison gained international fame in 1963 when he toured the globe with major acts of the day, such as The Beatles and Rolling Stones. In spite of the rock and roll craze in America known as the "British Invasion" that took place during 1964 and 1965, Orbison was still able to maintain his popularity during this time, with his 1964 hit "Oh, Pretty Woman" reaching No. 1 on both the British and American Hot 100 charts. Unfortunately, his success began to decline in 1966 when his wife Claudette was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident. He still toured in the late 1960s and recorded throughout the 1970s, even starring in a film titled The Fastest Guitar Alive (1967), but did not see the same commericial success he had prior to his wife's death. Tragedy struck again when his two eldest sons were killed in a house fire in 1968. His career experienced a revival in the late 1970s and 1980s when famous artists of the time, such as Linda Ronstadt and Van Halen, recorded Orbison's songs, exposing a new generation to his music. In 1981 he won his first Grammy for his duet with Emmylou Harris, "That Lovin' You Feelin' Again." By 1987 he had gained enough popularity to re-release several of his recordings on an album titled In Dreams: The Greatest Hits. Orbison was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and initiated into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by Bruce Springsteen that same year. Shortly after, Virgin Records released a recorded concert titled Roy Orbison and Frieads: A Black & White Night, featuring musicians like Bruce Springsteen, Tom Waits, Elvis Costello, Bonnie Raitt, and k.d. lang. In 1988 Orbison formed a "super-group" band called the Traveling Wilburys with Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, George Harrison, and Jeff Lynne (lead of the Electric Light Orchestra). Their album remained for several weeks on the Hot 100 charts in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia and won Grammy for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group. During this same year, Orbison also completed a solo album within a month before his untimely death, titled Myster Girl. He died of heart attack at the age of 52 on December 6, 1988.


This collection is organized into eight series.

  1. Series 1: Realia
  2. Series 2: Ephemera
  3. Series 3: Books and Other Publications
  4. Series 4: Keesing Research Materials
  5. Series 5: Clippings
  6. Series 6: Magazines
  7. Series 7: Sheet Music
  8. Series 8: Recordings

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

Gift of Hugo Keesing received in shipments beginning in September 1996, and is ongoing (as of 2009).

Related Material

In addition to this collection, the other Keesing materials at Special Collections in the Performing Arts (SCPA) are separated into eleven other collections (see the list below). Also available for access are thousands of LP singles and pieces of sheet music pertaining to popular music in the twentieth century.

An additional finding aid exists to further describe the memorabilia contained within several of the Keesing collections.

The Keesing Collection also contains thousands of catalogued books, including several about Roy Orbison, available for use in the Lowens room. To view the available titles, visit the Libraries' catalog. Using the "type of search" drop-down menu, select "call number" and type "MKEESING" into the word search box. This brings up a multi-page, browse-able list of Keesing Collection books.

Additionally, the following books and CD collections by Dr. Keesing are available for use at the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library:

Keesing, Hugo A. Battleground Korea: Songs and Sounds of America's Forgotten War. Bear Family Productions, 2018. 4-CD boxed set and accompanying 159-page book. Call number: Paged Collections, MCD 19705.

Keesing, Hugo A. Next Stop is Vietnam: The War on Record. Bear Family Records, 2010. 13-CD boxed set and accompanying 304-page book. Call number: Paged Collections, MCD 12460.

Keesing, Hugo A. Incomplete Bibliography of Pop/Rock Music: Key Word Version. Call number: Reference, ML128.R6 K43 1989.

Keesing, Hugo A. "Semper Fi": An Annotated Index of World War II Era Songs about the United States Marine Corps. 1997. Call number: Paged Collections, ML128.W2 K43 1997.

Keesing, Hugo A. Victory Girls: An Incomplete, Annotated Index of World War II Sheet Music Depicting Women in Non-Military Work. 1997. Call number: Reference, ML128.W2 K44 1997.

Keesing, Hugo A. "Youth in Transition: A Content Analysis of Two Decades of Popular Music." 1972. Call number: Lowens Special Collections Room, ML3477 .K44 1972.

For other related archival and manuscript collections, please see the following subject guides.

Processing Information

This collection was received in multiple shipments. Initial processing, inventory, and finding aid was completed by Mary Crauderueff in Winter 2012. Enhanced item-level description was added by Meghan Creek in Summer 2019 when additional artifacts were received. Series for sheet music, Keesing research materials, and books were added and the finding aid was updated accordingly. Materials were re-housed in appropriately sized containers.

The Hugo Keesing collection on Roy Orbison
Mary Crauderueff, December 2012, Meghan Creek, July 2019
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Library Details

Part of the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library

University of Maryland Libraries
8270 Alumni Drive
College Park MD 20742 United States