All it takes is a few syllables — “Dum dum dum dum-bedoo-wah” — and you know the song “Only the Lonely” and the “glass-shattering falsetto” voice with the three-octive range — Roy Orbison.
During the early to mid-1960s, the singer, songwriter and guitarist had 22 Top 40 hits. The titles are rock ’n’ roll mainstays and range from “Running Scared” and “Crying” to “In Dreams” and his massive hit, “Oh, Pretty Woman,” which ultimately sold 7 million records in 1964.
It’s this musical legacy performer David Keiski will share during his Roy Orbison tribute shows at 4 and 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 19, at the Litchfield Opera House. See sidebar for ticket information.
“This is an awesome tribute to the music and history of a true legend,” Keiski said. “From Roy’s hits of the ’50s and ’60s, to his resurgence when Linda Ronstadt covered his hit ‘Blue Bayou,’ then songs in films like ‘Pretty Woman’ and ‘In Dreams,’ to hits of The Traveling Willburys with Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty.”
SETTING THE STAGE
Keiski described his two-part tribute as an “upbeat story and family-friendly.”
Each performance follows Orbison’s life in an almost chronological order. Keiski sets the stage with a vintage amp and other period memorabilia including video. He will perform with a trio at the 4 p.m. show and have a six-piece band for the evening 7 p.m. show.
“There’s a bit of tragedy in Roy’s life, too,” Keiski said. “Two sons burned to death while he was on tour. His first wife had an affair with the guy building their house in Nashville. They divorced, remarried. Claudette died in a motorcycle accident. There are some songs that portray some of this story. They are dramatic. Fans know he had an operetta voice and sang rockabilly. He wrote some songs that were like no other back in the day. We try to do equal justice to each song. Some are rocking. It’s a mix of upbeat and passionate stories of life.”
The Orbison tribute show is a relatively new effort for the musician. His first gig was earlier this year at the Westonka Performing Arts Center.
“It’s a new facility with fabulous lighting, stage and sound,” he said. “We incorporated historic tidbits of Roy’s life story. We had 400-plus people. I thought, ‘Let’s keep doing this.’ I have some shows booked through the winter.”
Keiski’s portrait is so authentic that an audience member came up to him after a show and asked him to sign his guitar. The fan had never seen Roy perform, so figured having the tribute artist sign it was the next best thing.
“It’s so humbling to represent Roy that way,” he said.
Like many musicians, Keiski started making music as a child growing up in Eden Prairie.
“I’ve played since I was a kid,” he said. “I’m a Methodist minister’s son. As a little boy, my dad brought home albums by Bob Dylan, The Band, Simon and Garfunkel. He’d quote pop lyrics in his sermons. That’s the first place I personally heard the hook, line and sinker. I’d look around and watch people. It was passionate and from the heart.”
The performer credits his friend Kevin Hovey for this weekend’s shows. Hovey grew up in Litchfield. Keiski rode out with him and found himself walking around the town.
“The Litchfield Opera House sounds so good,” he said. “(Hovey) inspired me to do a show there. I met Connie (Lies, facilities coordinator and president of the Greater Litchfield Opera House Association Inc.). We’re going to donate a portion of the proceeds to the Litchfield Downtown Council.”
Keiski is hoping Hovey is available to do sound for him. He’s a pro, having done sound for Prince as well as many other performers. Hovey also produced an album of Keiski’s original songs.
“Some people have a gift of how to make it sound,” he said.
If Keiski has learned one thing from playing Orbison, it’s don’t ever quit.
“You could be that close to a really good thing happening,” he said. “Roy never stopped. For me personally, I’m always trying to do things. I tried out for ‘The Voice’ and got some adoration. If it doesn’t work, you try something else.”