The Velvets, while singing their 1961 Super Doo-Wop Song, "Tonight (Could Be The Night)" can be heard chanting "doo-wop" behind lead singer Virgil Johnson.
This was one of the first uses of the phrase in a song.
Not the very first but certainly the most memorable as the sound was highly polished and the backing included stringed instruments.
The song was written by Johnson who was a teacher at Blackshear Junior High School in Odessa, Texas.
Virgil heard two of his students singing as a duo and recruited two more students to sing as a quintet with Johnson as the lead singer.
The group began singing at sock-hops and other functions and in 1960 Roy Orbison was in town visiting and heard them sing.
Orbison had already established himself as a dynamic impact in the music industry on the Monument label.
was through his influence that The Velvets were brought to the
attention of Fred Foster, president and founder of Monument Records and
the producer of Orbison's hit at the time, "Only The Lonely."
In late 1960 the group's first session was held at the RCA studios in Nashville and produced four tunes.
One of those tunes was
"Tonight (Could Be The Night)" and the accompaniment came from some of
Nashville's finest session players, including Boots Randolph playing saxophone and Floyd
Cramer on piano.
The song tells of a guy trying to get his nerve up to ask his girl to marry him, hence the title, "Tonight (Could be the night).
Johnson and his group The Velvets put out a few more songs, but even though some of the material was quite good, there were no more chart entries and the group called it a day, returned to Texas and Johnson went back to teaching school.
Virgil Johnson says he really knows why the group had a relatively short chart life.
He explains it this way.
"You got to realize, in the early sixties there were two music markets in the US. You had a black market and you had a white market. We were extremely popular with whites, but we were never extremely popular with blacks. We were black and we didn't sound like it. People didn't know we were a black group. We couldn't tour and that really hurt us."
The original song was played over this "Live" concert so you can hear how the actual song was recorded in 1961.
This did cause some minor lip sync problems when Virgil was singing, however it was minimal and I decided to include this great sing-a-long video. Here is the original "Tonight" video as taped on the original PBS show. (the video opens in new window)
These are not all original members of the Velvets but that is the original lead singer, Virgil Johnson.
Sadly, another Doo-Wop lead singer has left us. The number of remaining original groups performing is also sadly coming to an end.
I for one will miss these talented men and women who could actually sing and gave us all great memories growing up in the fifties and sixties.
So long Virgil, I'll continue to keep playing one of my all time favorite Doo-Wop songs with your group center stage.
Virgil Johnson died on February 24, 2013 in a Hospital near Lubbock, Texas. Virgil was 77.
I think this should be the first song played at any Oldies or Classic event. I enjoy the song that much, and look at all the fun everyone is having behind the group.
The "Marcels" were named after a popular hairstyle of the day. A great song, a great group and the live video will have YOU dancing in the aisle. Read more...
This Darling Lorraine page returns to 1959 and the remarkable story about a determined song writer. Includes memorable video clip with original lead singer. Read more here.
Signed to the new Gordy label in 1962 this group recorded Berry Gordy Jr.'s "Do You Love Me," resulting in the group's (and label's) first hit. Read the story here.
"Looking For An Echo" is street corner music with soul. A time when the ability to sing was mandatory. Read more...
"We practiced in a subway,
In a lobby or a hall
Crowded in a doorway
Singing "Doo-wops" to the wall"
Will anyone ever record songs like this again? A Beautiful song with perfect harmony and words you can actually understand, make sense and have a meaning. Read more.
Congratulations on an outstanding site. I am from the old school. I was 13 when Rock & Roll erupted in 1955. I would literally run home from school to watch Bandstand every day. I lived outside Philly and grew up with all the Philadelphia music scene and its performers. Keep up the good work and I thank you for your time and effort in keeping the old vinyl music alive for us and future generations.
Bill Moore (retired)