Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day: 1961 The Velvets – Tonight (Could Be The Night)

1961 The Velvets – Tonight (Could Be The Night)

Talk about oldies inevitably leads to talk about doo-wop songs. While most people associate the genre with the fifties, doo-wop songs actually peaked in the early sixties. The phrase itself has a much older beginning.

The Delta Rhythm Boys recorded the single Just A Sittin’ And A Rockin’ in 1945. You can hear background singers on the song singing, “Doot doot doo wop.”

The Turbans sang a much more prominent, “Doo-wop,” on their 1955 hit, When You Dance.

The Five Satins made usage of the phrase in 1956 over the saxophone solo on their recording of In The Still Of The Night.

Despite the increasing usage of the phrase in these and many other songs, and the growth of the doo-wop genre, the phrase didn’t get applied to that brand of music in writing until 1961. That same year, the Velvets sang those magic words in Tonight (Could Be The Night).

Virgil Johnson had worked as a disk jockey in Lubbock, Texas, before teaching high school English in Odessa, Texas. He and four of his eighth-grade students formed the singing group the Velvets in 1960. Their singing impressed Roy Orbison, who helped the group get a recording contract with Monument Records in Nashville. Their first single was a cover of the 1949 Frankie Laine song That Lucky Old Sun, but their record failed to chart.

Their second single did much better. Virgil wrote the lyrics for Tonight (Could Be The Night). That single reached #26 on the Hot 100 in 1961. Roy also wrote their next single, Laugh, but the record spent one week at #90 and got no higher.

The group disbanded and returned to school. Virgil continued teaching and eventually became a principal. Later in life, he also appeared on the oldies circuit, singing the group’s beloved hit.


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