Music Article

Whither the Wilburys?

What happened to the Traveling Wilburys? -- EW looks at the mysterious disappearance of the boomer-rock supergroup

In searching for a cool song to cover on her upcoming solo album, Jenny Lewis of L.A. indie-pop band Rilo Kiley went for one of her mom's favorite groups. ''I wanted to do a Traveling Wilburys song,'' she says. ''My mother was into it. It was always on in the house and on the radio.'' But tracking down the two albums by the boomer-rock supergroup — a collaboration between George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty, and Jeff Lynne — was harder than expected. ''I couldn't find them anywhere,'' she says. ''Finally, a friend got one in a used-record store bin for $1, so I copied his.'' Lewis ended up recording a sweet, twangy version of the Wilburys' ''Handle With Care'' with Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard and Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst for her January 2006 album, Rabbit Fur Coat.

So why have both of these critically acclaimed platinum albums — 1988's Vol. 1 and 1990's Vol. 3 — gone out of print? ''It's a simple explanation, really,'' says Tom Petty. Originally held by Warner Bros., the albums' rights reverted back to George Harrison (who acted as the group's manager) in 1995. ''George really wanted to do another Wilburys record, with the idea of bringing them all out on CD at once,'' says Petty. ''But we just never got around to it.'' Thankfully, someone finally has. According to Petty, the Harrison estate is working on a reissue for sometime in 2006, which would include some unreleased tracks and a DVD of footage that was recorded in the studio. ''I guess people live off their brother's old copy,'' he says. ''And I think they'd really like some new ones!''

Originally posted Dec 02, 2005 Published in issue #853 Dec 09, 2005 Order article reprints