On the 30th anniversary of the release of the Traveling Wilburys' debut album, Volume 1, Jeff Lynne spoke at length about the legendary supergroup and the classic album that took the music industry by surprise. In addition to Lynne, the Wilburys included George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, and Roy Orbison. Volume 1 was released on October 18th, 1988 and peaked at Number Three on the Billboard 200 album charts. Volume 1 has since been certified triple platinum. The album went on to score the Wilburys their only Grammy for Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group.


Jeff Lynne recalled how the seeds project began in 1987, telling Billboard, "I'd just started working with George, producing (Cloud Nine), and we'd been working on it for a couple of months probably, and George said, 'You know what? Me and you should have a group.' And I said to him, 'Oh, that's a great idea.' What a lovely thing to be asked to be in a group by George Harrison. And I said, 'Who should we have in it?' I don't know what I was expecting, but he said, 'Bob Dylan.' And then I said, 'Can we have Roy Orbison in it as well?' 'Cause it was still a fantasy, really, at the time for me. I didn't realize that this was about to happen. And luckily, we both said 'Tom Petty,' because we both loved Tom, and it all came together just like that."

Although on paper putting some of the biggest hitmakers and important artists of the rock era in one room at once seems like a potential disaster, Jeff Lynne maintains that it was clear sailing from the get-go: "I didn't have to wait too long to find out whether it was doable. They all said yes immediately, so that's how it started out. It was just on the phone, basically, and then we got together in L.A. at Bob's house. . . I didn't know Tom that well. I'd met him a couple of times, I'd met Bob a couple of times. I'd never met Roy, but that was my dream, to meet Roy Orbison -- and to be in a group with him was just ridiculous. I couldn't possibly believe that. We weren't close pals, but it was meant to be, because when we did all meet up together, we got on great."

He remembered how the group snagged Roy Orbison for the project: "We went down to a show in Orange Country somewhere -- I think it may have been Anaheim -- and we actually watched his show first, because we got there a little bit late. Then afterwards, we were in his dressing room and asked him to join the group, and he (said) yes. There was never any long, big thought about it. Everybody thought it was a good idea."

Jeff Lynne spoke about how the actual songwriting went down in the Traveling Wilburys, recalling, "Bob got a lot of the lines, just because he's such a great writer of lyrics. And it was just fascinating, really -- the whole thing was done at dinner time. We'd then go back in the studio and sing them. We'd sort out which parts would suit everybody, and then me and George produced it. It was a marvelous time. "

Lynne explained that the final touches to the album were done in England at George Harrison's home studio in his sprawling estate, Friar Park: "When we’d done the ten songs, they were just basic tracks, really -- acoustic (guitars), bass, a couple of drum beats, and then we took it home to England to really finish it off. Tom came over to play, and Roy came over to finish them off -- to make them into what you'd call proper records, rather than demos."

Jeff Lynne said that the Traveling Wilburys was based on mutual admiration and having a blast together: "(Ego) never did get in the way. I never thought that it would. I mean, we had met up before we all started thinking about doing the work, and (it was just) a bunch of guys having fun. Tom came up with loads and loads of words for the songs as well, and Tom. . . (his death) really knocked us about, that one. Three of them gone now -- I can't believe it still. It's one of those things: 'No, it can't be true.'"

George Harrison explained that the Traveling Wilburys sessions were among the most fun of his life: "When they actually were doing the vocals in there, at one point, I just said to Jeff, 'This is it -- the Traveling Wilburys!' I mean, it was like, magic -- it just happened. You could never have planned it. Y'know, if you has tried phoning everybody up, (and) say, 'Hey, we've got this idea, y'know, will ya do it?' You woulda got all these record companies and managers and it would've been impossible. But it was so spontaneous, we were doing it before we realized." in Fort Myers, Florida at Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall.

AUDIO: JEFF LYNNE ON WRITING WILBURYS SONGS
AUDIO: GEORGE HARRISON ON THE TRAVELING WILBURYS BEING AN ORGANIC BAND