They were the first of the 'Super' groups combining stars of the musical world, and genuine friends, who had each achieved fame with their own musical talents. The Traveling Wilburys were formed in 1988 and consisted of 5 members:
Bob Dylan -Lucky Wilbury (Boo Wilbury)
Jeff Lynne - Otis Wilbury (Clayton Wilbury)
Tom Petty - Charlie T. Jr.(Muddy Wilbury)
Roy Orbison- Lefty Wilbury
George Harrison - Nelson Wilbury (Spike Wilbury)
The Traveling Wilburys began after George's comeback album; "Cloud Nine" was completed, George had to create a bonus track for the European twelve inch version of 'When We Was Fab'. Since Jeff Lynne helped in the creation of George's album, he postponed his other projects: work on Roy Orbison's album "Mystery Girl", and work on tracks for Tom Petty. The two Englishmen discussed this over lunch in L.A. That Roy was so well versed in the Monty Python genre of British comedy. George was delighted when Roy volunteered to sing with him on the extra track.
"And so I just thought I'll just go into the studio tomorrow and do one, and it happened that Jeff was working with Roy and Roy wanted to come. My guitar was at Tom's house for some reason and I had to go round and get it. And the only studio that we could find available was Bob's. So we thought, Bobs got one, we'll just call him up."
It wasn't worth booking anywhere expensive so George telephoned Bob Dylan in Santa Monica whose garage was available for recording in the next day. Rolling up late the following morning, Roy shook hands with guitarist Tom Petty, whose group had backed Dylan on the tour that had terminated at Wembley. Petty had nothing better to do, so he tagged along.
"Then George showed up again and George had a single coming out and he needed a new B-Side."
Dylan lent a hand when Harrison - with his B-Side only half-finished.
"Give us some lyrics, you famous lyricist!
I looked behind the garage door and there was a cardboard box with 'Handle with Care' on it."
"So we went out there to Bob Dylan's house, sat on the grass and from the germ of an idea that George had on the guitar we wound up writing this song called 'Handle With Care'."
George added what he called 'a lonely bit' for Orbison, while Dylan wheezed the trademark harmonica on the fade.
"And so everybody was there and I thought I'm not gonna just sing it myself, I've got Roy Orbison standing there. I'm gonna write a bit for Roy to sing. And then as it progressed then I started doing the vocals and I just thought I might as well push it a bit and get Tom and Bob to sing the bridge."
The next day, Roy left for a one-nighter in Anaheim near Long Beach, Bob continued preparing for a summer tour, and George slipped over to Warner Records with the new tape. Warner rejected the tape, saying that it had too much potnetial for profit to be hidden under some obscure 12 inch, so George discussed with Jeff, over a quantity of Mexican lager, the idea of cutting a whole LP. When the two skidded up to his house with the plan, Petty jumped at the chance, while over the phone, all they got from Bob was "Yes!" before he hung up. That evening, Jeff, George, Tom and their wives drove down the coast to Anaheim to put it before Oribson who answered,"That'd be great!"
"We watched Roy give an incredible concert and kept nudging each other and saying, 'Isn't he great? He's in our band' We were real happy that night."
The album was completed over the summer of 1988. Most of the composing took place at the house of Dylan's then producer, Dave Stewart. Nourished by a continuous barbecue, George's team would plan all afternoon and night.
"We'd assemble after breakfast at about one in the afternoon, and just sit around with acoustic guitars - then someone would have a title or a chord pattern and we'd let it roll."
"It worked so well because it was so unplanned."
"Don't learn, just play the bleeding piano!"