Traveling Wilburys were a late 1980s supergroup consisting of George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty and Bob Dylan. The band recorded two albums during the two years they were together.
"Wilburys" was a slang term coined by Harrison and Lynne during the recording of Cloud Nine as a pet name for various types of equipment in the recording studio; Harrison, referring to errors caused by malfunctioning equipment, jokingly remarked to Lynne: "We'll bury 'em in the mix". The term was used again when the entire group was together. Harrison suggested "The Trembling Wilburys" as the group's name; instead, Lynne suggested "Traveling", which was agreed on by the group. The American spelling of "Traveling" rather than the British spelling "Travelling" was used because the band started in America and consisted of three Americans and only two Britons.
Starting at a meal among Roy Orbison, George Harrison and Jeff Lynne, the group came together at Bob Dylan's home studio in Malibu, California, to record an additional track as a B-side for the single release of Harrison's "This Is Love". Tom Petty's involvement came by chance as Harrison had left his guitar at Petty's house. The band, however, decided that the song that resulted, "Handle with Care", was too good to be released as a "single filler".
The members enjoyed working together so much that they decided to create a full album together. Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1, written by all the members, was recorded over a ten-day period in May 1988, and released on October 18. The "Wilburys" joke was extended further, with the band members credited under various pseudonyms, all sons of a fictional Charles Truscott Wilbury, Sr. and half brothers. The album was a critical and commercial success, spawning several successful singles and eventually reaching triple-platinum sales status in the US. The album was nominated for several awards and won the Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group in 1989.
Roy Orbison's death on December 6, 1988, precluded further collaborations with the original lineup. In tribute to Orbison, during the music video for "End of the Line", when Orbison sings, his photo is shown followed by a shot of his guitar in a rocking chair.
After Roy Orbison's death, singer Del Shannon was rumored to take Roy's place amongst the Wilburys. Unfortunately, Del passed away before anything could be recorded as an official Wilbury song. However, on Jeff Lynne's solo album entitled "Armchair Theatre" (released 1990), there is one song titled "Blown Away" that was co-written by Jeff Lynne & fellow Wilbury Tom Petty. It was sung by Jeff Lynne with Del Shannon and "The Warwickshire Wobblers" singing backup.
The Traveling Wilburys contributed the title track, "Nobody's Child", to the Romanian Angel Appeal benefit album "Nobody's Child: Romanian Angel Appeal", released on July 24 1990.
The final studio album by the Wilburys, intentionally misnumbered Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3, was released on October 30, 1990, but met with less success than the previous one. In the booklet contained in the 2007 box set, the album name is credited to 'George being George'.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the two Traveling Wilburys albums had limited availability and were out of print in most areas. Harrison, as primary holder of the rights, did not reissue them before his death in 2001. In June 2007, the two albums were reissued as The Traveling Wilburys Collection, a box set including both albums on CD (with bonus tracks) and a DVD featuring a twenty-four minute band documentary and a collection of music videos.
The box set was released in three editions; the standard edition, with both CDs and DVD in a double Digipak package and a 16-page booklet; a "deluxe" boxed edition with the CDs and DVD and an extensive 40-page booklet, artist postcards, and photographs; or a "deluxe" boxed edition on vinyl. This version omits the DVD, but adds a 12" with rare versions of the songs.
The release surprised many when it debuted at #1 in the UK Album Chartsand the Australian album charts. On the US Billboard 200 it reached #9. The collection sold 500,000 copies worldwide during the first three weeks and remained in the UK top 5 for seven weeks after its release.
The Traveling Wilburys of Volume 1 were:
Nelson Wilbury - George Harrison
Otis Wilbury - Jeff Lynne
Lefty Wilbury - Roy Orbison
Charlie T. Jr. - Tom Petty
Lucky Wilbury - Bob Dylan
The Traveling Wilburys of Volume 3 were:
Spike Wilbury - George Harrison
Clayton Wilbury - Jeff Lynne
Muddy Wilbury - Tom Petty
Boo Wilbury - Bob Dylan
Additional named Traveling Wilburys on the 2007 Collection were:
Buster Sidebury - Jim Keltner
Ayrton Wilbury - Dhani Harrison
Keltner, the session drummer and percussionist, was not listed as a Wilbury in Volume 1 or 3; however he is in some of the music videos. In the DVD released in 2007, he is given the Wilbury nickname 'Buster Sidebury'. Furthermore, overdubs to the unreleased tracks "Maxine" and "Like a Ship" credit Ayrton Wilbury, a pseudonym for Dhani Harrison.
The lead guitar on the song "She's My Baby" (from Volume III) was played by hard rock / blues rock / blues guitarist Gary Moore.