Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1

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The Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1
Studio album by Traveling Wilburys
Released October 18, 1988 (US)
October 24, 1988 (UK)
Recorded April–May 1988
FPSHOT, Lucky Studios and Dave Stewart Studios
Genre Heartland rock, folk rock
Length 36:22
Label Wilbury/Warner Bros. Records
Producer Otis Wilbury, Nelson Wilbury
Traveling Wilburys chronology
The Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1
Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3
(1990)Traveling Wilburys Vol. 31990
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4.5/5 stars[1]
Robert Christgau A–[2]
Houston Chronicle 3.5/5 stars[3]
Mojo 5/5 stars[4]
MusicHound 3.5/5[5]
Q 4/5 stars[6]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars[7]
Uncut 5/5 stars[8]

The Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 is the debut album by the supergroup Traveling Wilburys and was recorded and released in 1988 to commercial success and critical acclaim.[9] It has been certified triple-platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.


In early April 1988, George Harrison was in Los Angeles and needed to record a B-side for a European 12-inch single. Jeff Lynne was also in Los Angeles writing and producing some tracks for Roy Orbison on his album Mystery Girl (released posthumously), as well as Tom Petty’s first solo album, Full Moon Fever. While having dinner with Lynne and Orbison, Harrison related how he needed to record a new track and wanted to do it the next day. Harrison asked if Lynne would help, and Orbison offered his old friend his hand as well, seeing how fun it would be. Needing a studio on short notice, Harrison suggested they call Bob Dylan, who had a home studio. Dylan gladly let the group use his studio; and not wanting to intrude, Dylan asked kindly to join. After dinner, George stopped by Petty’s house to pick up a guitar of his, and invited Petty along too. Gathering at Dylan’s Malibu home the following day, they wrote and recorded the song "Handle With Care" in five hours, with all five sharing the vocals.[10]

The track was considered too good to be used as a B-side, so Harrison decided to form a band and record another nine songs for an album. The group got together again for nine days in May, recording the basic tracks and vocals at Dave Stewart’s home studio in Los Angeles. Overdubs and mixing were carried out in England at Harrison’s home studio, FPSHOT (short for Friar Park Studio, Henley-on-Thames).

Masquerading as the Wilbury brothers, the participants would be known as Nelson (Harrison), Otis (Lynne), Lucky (Dylan), Lefty (Orbison), and Charlie T. Jr. (Petty) Wilbury with drummer Jim Keltner sitting in as Buster Sidebury. Harrison was no stranger to the use of alternate identities, as he had adopted them with Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and with his plethora of pseudonyms as a session musician, such as L'Angelo Misterioso, George O'Hara and Hari Georgeson. This concept, however, was taken a step further: their real names never appear anywhere on the album, liner notes, or even the songwriting credits.

With Harrison having the greatest claim to the band, he signed them up to Warner Bros. Records (which Petty eventually signed to himself, and which, through Reprise Records, released Lynne's solo album Armchair Theatre in 1990), his current label, and incorporated their own Wilbury Records label, in addition to producing the sessions with Lynne that spring.


According to statements by Harrison in the documentary The True History of the Traveling Wilburys (filmed in 1988 about the making of the album and re-released on the bonus DVD included in The Traveling Wilburys Collection), the whole band gave various contributions to all songs, although each song was mainly written by a single member; the joint songwriting credit came from the fact that giving individualized credits looked egotistical.[11]

Lynne commented that the songwriting process was relaxed and enjoyable:

However, the publishing credits on the Collection book are more revealing about the actual songwriter, as each of the credited publishers belongs to a single member:

  • Harrison's Umlaut Corporation (formerly Ganga Publishing) is credited for "Handle with Care", "Heading for the Light", "End of the Line" and the bonus track "Maxine", identifying him as the main writer of those songs. In an interview included among the bonus features on the 2003 DVD release of the 2002 tribute Concert for George, Petty recalls that the lyrics to "Handle With Care" were the result of a game held by Harrison in his home studio, with all of the band members (including himself) shouting out lines and Harrison keeping the ones that stuck. According to Petty, the line "Oh, the sweet smell of success" is his.
  • Dylan, credited via his Special Rider Music publisher, wrote "Dirty World" (according to Harrison and Lynne's recollections on the documentary, Dylan and all the other band members gave their input to the song by pitching in funny lines to complete the lyric line "He loves your ..."[11]), "Congratulations", the long narrative of "Tweeter and the Monkey Man" (which was apparently intended as a parody of Bruce Springsteen's early, verbose songs) and the other bonus track "Like a Ship".
  • Petty, published by Gone Gator Music, wrote "Last Night" (again, with substantial lyrical contributions from the entire band[11]) and "Margarita".
  • Lynne's publisher, Shard End Music (named after his birthplace), identifies him as the main writer of "Rattled" and "Not Alone Any More".[13]

The separation was not repeated for the publishing credits of Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3, which show all songs as being published by all four publishers.[13]

Release and aftermath[edit]

Released October 18, 1988, Volume One became the surprise hit of the year, selling two million copies within six months in the US, reaching No. 3 in the US and No. 16 in the UK. With over 50 weeks on the charts, The Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 was later certified triple-platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. While Harrison and Petty had had recent successes, Dylan, Orbison (who died of a sudden heart attack on December 6, 1988) and Lynne had not seen an album climb that high in several years. At the time, no Dylan album had ever achieved two million in sales. As one critic put it, it was "one of the great commercial coups of the decade". The single "Handle with Care" was a significant hit in the UK charts, peaking at No. 21, and an even bigger hit in Australia (No. 3) and New Zealand (No. 4), though it stalled at No. 45 on the US Billboard Hot 100.

Most critics said the group's modest ambitions were fresh and relaxing. During 1989 and 1990 the album won many accolades, including a Grammy for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group. The album was also nominated for Album of the Year.

After Harrison’s distribution deal with Warner Bros. expired in 1995, ownership of the Dark Horse Records catalog as well as the two Traveling Wilburys albums reverted to Harrison and the albums went out of print.[14] On June 12, 2007, Volume One and Vol. 3 were reissued by Rhino Records as The Traveling Wilburys Collection, packaged together with bonus tracks and a DVD. The box set debuted at No. 1 on the UK Albums Chart and No. 9 on the US Billboard 200.

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by Traveling Wilburys.

No. Title Lead vocals Length
1. "Handle with Care" George Harrison (Bridge: Roy Orbison) 3:19
2. "Dirty World" Bob Dylan (Bridge: all) 3:30
3. "Rattled" Jeff Lynne 3:00
4. "Last Night" Tom Petty (Bridge: Roy Orbison) 3:48
5. "Not Alone Any More" Roy Orbison 3:24
6. "Congratulations" Bob Dylan 3:30
7. "Heading for the Light" George Harrison (Bridge: Jeff Lynne) 3:37
8. "Margarita" Bob Dylan/Tom Petty (Bridge: Jeff Lynne) 3:15
9. "Tweeter and the Monkey Man" Bob Dylan 5:30
10. "End of the Line" George Harrison/Jeff Lynne/Roy Orbison (Bridge: Tom Petty) 3:30
11. "Maxine" (2007 reissue bonus track) George Harrison 2:49
12. "Like a Ship" (2007 reissue bonus track) Bob Dylan 3:31


  • Nelson Wilbury (George Harrison) – vocals, electric and acoustic guitars, slide guitar, backing vocals
  • Otis Wilbury (Jeff Lynne) – vocals, electric and acoustic guitars, keyboards, backing vocals
  • Charlie T. Wilbury Jr (Tom Petty) – vocals, bass, acoustic guitar, backing vocals
  • Lefty Wilbury (Roy Orbison) – vocals, acoustic guitar, harmonica on "Handle With Care", backing vocals (except on "Tweeter and the Monkey Man")
  • Lucky Wilbury (Bob Dylan) – vocals, acoustic guitar, harmonica, backing vocals

Additional personnel


  • Produced by Otis and Nelson Wilbury (Jeff Lynne and George Harrison)
  • Engineers – Bill Bottrell, Richard Dodd, Phil McDonald, Don Smith


Grammy Awards[edit]

Year Nominee/work Award Result
1990 The Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal[15] Won
Album of the Year[16] Nominated

American Music Awards[edit]

Year Nominee/work Award Result
1990 Traveling Wilburys (performer) Favorite Pop/Rock New Artist[17] Nominated


Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Canada (Music Canada)[18] 6× Platinum 600,000^
Germany (BVMI)[19] Gold 250,000^
Sweden (GLF)[20] Gold 50,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[21] Gold 25,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[22] Platinum 300,000^
United States (RIAA)[23] 3× Platinum 3,000,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone


Preceded by
Cocktail (soundtrack) by Various artists
Australian ARIA Albums Chart number-one album
February 13–26, 1989
Succeeded by
Mystery Girl by Roy Orbison


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