Learn to Play “Handle With Care,” the Traveling Wilburys’ Impromptu Hit

George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty, and Bob Dylan had so much fun recording this song that they ended up making a band together.
Cover artwork for the ablum 'Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1]

In the spring of 1988, George Harrison was in Los Angeles and needed to assemble a band at the last minute to record an extra track for a single from his album Cloud Nine. Harrison ended up enlisting Jeff Lynne, with whom he’d been working on the album, along with Roy Orbison and Tom Petty. These all-star musicians converged on Bob Dylan’s garage studio in Malibu, where the five of them joined forces to write and record a new song, “Handle With Care,” named after the writing on an Ampex tape box in the garage. It was such an enjoyable experience that the group took the name Traveling Wilburys and recorded a pair of albums together: the eponymous Vol. 1 in 1988 and, following Orbison’s untimely death, Vol. 3 in 1990.

“Handle With Care” starts out with a ringing riff, which Lynne played on a Fender electric 12-string, outlining a chord progression with a neat stepwise bass line: D–D/C–G/B–G. The riff works just as well on the six-string acoustic, so I’ve included it here in notation. It can be played not just during the intro but the first four bars of each verse, as well as the interlude and a portion of the outro. 


If you’d prefer straight strumming, pretty much any eighth-note-based pattern will work. For the D, D/C, and G/B chords, you might try omitting the notes shown on string 1 in the chord frames, making for a tighter sound. Speaking of chords, note the use of the Gaug and Baug chords, heard less frequently in rock than their major and minor counterparts. An augmented triad is a major triad whose fifth is raised a half step, lending a tense sound—a good harmony to have in your tool kit.


As a little something extra, I’ve included the concise interlude solo that Harrison played on a Fender Stratocaster using a slide. If you work up this solo, whether on electric or acoustic, try to match Harrison’s vocal-like guitar quality, and use it as the inspiration for creating your own longer solo.

Due to copyright restrictions, we are unable to post notation or tablature for this musical work. If you have a digital or physical copy of the May/June 2023 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine, you will find the music on page 44.

Acoustic Guitar magazine cover for issue 340

This article originally appeared in the May/June 2023 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.

Adam Perlmutter
Adam Perlmutter

Adam Perlmutter holds a bachelor of music degree from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro and a master's degree in Contemporary Improvisation from the New England Conservatory. He is the editor of Acoustic Guitar.

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