What Don McLean Felt When He Covered a Roy Orbison Song With Elvis Presley’s Backing Band

TL;DR:

  • Elvis Presley had a vocal backing band who performed on many of his songs.
  • Don McLean released a cover of Roy Orbison’s “Crying” with the band on backing vocals.
  • McLean had a strong reaction to the cover.
Elvis Presley near a microphone with The Jordanaires
Elvis Presley with The Jordanaires | Bettmann / Contributor

Many of Elvis Presley‘s songs feature backing vocals from one group. During the 1970s, Don McLean worked with the group to create a Roy Orbison cover which became one of his biggest hits. McLean explained what he thought of working with them.

1 band worked on many of Elvis Presley’s hit songs

The Jordanaires were a vocal backing group. While they might not be household names, they worked on many famous songs. For example, you can hear them on “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” “Viva Las Vegas,” “Are You Lonesome Tonight?,” “It’s Now or Never,” “Return to Sender,” and many more Elvis songs. They also performed backup for Orbison.

During a 2022 interview with Gold, McLean discussed growing up with Elvis’ collaborations with The Jordanaires. “I remember sitting with my grandmother when I was 11, and listening to Elvis sing on a .78 record that I got for my birthday, and hearing The Jordanaires,” he said. “My grandmother, who was musical, said, ‘Oh, boy, they can really harmonize.’ She loved it.”

McLean said Elvis wasn’t universally beloved in his household. “The two of us would really appreciate Elvis Presley,” he recalled. “Nobody else in the house did.”

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Don McLean said covering Roy Orbison with Elvis Presley’s backing band was ‘magic’

McLean revealed why he wanted to cover Orbison’s “Crying.” “And all of a sudden, I had this idea: I wanted to do ‘Crying’, because, oh, quite a few English tours, I would go around in a car, and I would have Roy Orbison’s 8-track, and I would hear that song,” he recalled. The Jordanaires were in the studio and they cut the track with McLean.

“It had a No. 1 all over the world,” McLean said. “And it was magic. And here I was with the same guys, you know, that my grandmother and I had been listening to when I was 11.”

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How Don McLean’s version of Roy Orbison’s ‘Crying’ performed on the charts

“Crying” became one of McLean’s biggest hits. It reached No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100, staying on the chart for 18 weeks. The cover appeared on McLean’s album Chain Lightning. The album peaked at No. 28 on the Billboard 200, staying on the chart for 21 weeks.

McLean’s “Crying” was an even bigger hit in the United Kingdom. According to The Official Charts Company, the track peaked at No. 1 there for three weeks. It stayed on the chart for 14 weeks in total. Meanwhile, Chained Lightning peaked at No. 19 and remained on the chart for nine weeks.

“Crying” is a classic song and McLean’s cover is an interesting connection between him and the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

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