Jeff Lynne Shares Fascinating Story On Formation Of Traveling Wilburys

When you've got the musical connections, fantasy can turn into reality rather quickly.

October 22, 2018

Photo by PA Images/Sipa USA

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Last week marked the 30th anniversary of the Traveling Wilburys debut album Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1

Looking back on it, it's hard to imagine how such a talented group of musicians would be able to come together to create an album of original music. Turns out, it wasn't that difficult.

In an interview with Billboard, Jeff Lynne shared his side of the Traveling Wilburys formation story. He had been working with George Harrison as a producer on his record Cloud Nine when Harrison told Lynne they "should have a group." 

Lynne jumped at the opportunity. After all, who could pass up the chance on being in a band with George Harrison. When Lynne asked Harrison who else he wanted in the band, Harrison responded, "Bob Dylan."

Lynne then told the interviewer, “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."

Each musician immediately said yes and then went to Los Angeles to start writing music.

The logistics behind getting five accomplished musicians together to record an album was quite simple. Largely due in part to Bob Dylan having a studio in his home. Lynne describes the experience, 

"Believe it or not, there wasn't one. Because we had the studio, we just planned for ten days, to write ten songs for the album. Which is what we did: getting together around lunchtime, strumming five acoustic guitars. We'd all share chords, ideas for the chord changes, just to get the backing track, and then we'd lay those down. Sometimes we'd double-track those five acoustics, so it'd become ten acoustics. It was rather extravagant, but the rest of it was very, very simple. We would then have dinner and write the words at the same time we're having dinner. We'd be sitting there at the table, throwing out lines. 

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. 

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 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"

If you've gotten the sense that egos went by the wayside, you'd be correct. Lynne states it was never a problem.

"It 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," he said.