Baby Boomers

Black Velvet Elvis

Alannah Miles had a boyfriend. He was riding on a bus. But it was not just any bus. This was a bus filled with good people. They were Elvis fans.

Christopher Ward became inspired to write a song about this experience. It was August 1987 and they were traveling to Memphis to attend the 10th Anniversary of Elvis’ death.

Souvenir shops and stands hawked black velvet paintings. Videos from 1950s and 1970s Elvis concerts showed hysterical women falling on their knees. He started writing lyrics about it.

When he return back to Canada, Chris showed his words to Alannah and producer David Tyson, who wrote the chords for the bridge.

The song was one of three in a demo she pitched to Atlantic Records. Although they eventually signed to the label, Alannah was disappointed to find they gave Chris’ song, “Black Velvet” to country singer Robin Lee to record.

However, Alannah plowed through, recorded, and had her version released in December 1989, a two month head start before Lee.

Alannah’s record was promoted on pop and rock radio stations, while Lee’s on the country radio. Alannah won a Grammy in 1991 for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance. In 2015, the song was awarded for it’s 4 millionth play on the radio by ASCAP.

It’s been 31 years since Alannah’s Black Velvet hit the charts. When asked about it last year, she said the song is “hard to peg, because it’s not the song we all thought would become the classic hit that it became.”

“There were other songs we thought might stand a better chance of that.

“But as it turns out, it was the one song that had something very special about it that would become that.”

“We spent a lot of time making that record,” she said. “It was the first record for me and it stumped me, if you will. I was a debut artist and we had to figure out who and what I was.”

“I knew who I was, but we wound up getting there by trial and error. And in doing so, we went through many takes.”

“We did a rock ‘n’ roll version of the song, and at the last minute, it was paired down to just vocals, bass, and drums.”

“At five in the morning, we got the track that we wanted – and I believe that’s why it was successful as it was. The old-fashioned clunky rock ‘n’ roll mix was dynamite.”

Mississippi in the middle of a dry spell
Jimmy Rodgers on the Victrola up high
Mama’s dancin’ with baby on her shoulder
The sun is settin’ like molasses in the sky
The boy could sing, knew how to move ev’rything
Always wanting more, he’d leave you longing for
Black velvet and that little boy smile
Black velvet with that slow southern style
A new religion that’ll bring you to your knees
Black velvet if you please

Up in Memphis the music’s like a heat wave
White Lightnin’ bound to drive you wild
Mama’s baby’s in the heart of ev’ry school girl
“Love Me Tender” leaves ’em cryin’ in the aisle
The way he moved, it was a sin, so sweet and true
Always wanting more, he’d leave you longing for

Black velvet and that little boy smile
Black velvet and that slow southern style
A new religion that’ll bring you to your knees
Black velvet if you please

Ev’ry word of ev’ry song that he sang was for you
In a flash he was gone, it happened so soon
What could you do?

Black velvet and that little boy smile
Black velvet in that slow southern style
A new religion that’ll bring you to your knees
Black velvet if you please

Black velvet and that little boy smile
Black velvet in that slow southern style
A new religion that’ll bring you to your knees
Black velvet if you please

If you please
If you please
If you please

1 reply »

  1. Sweet! I adore, black velvet! Perfect if you please. Me crying in the rain. The king is gone. May Elivis rest in peace. Forever. If you please. Just love Elvis for all his spirit in his music. – yvonne Plunkett-

    Liked by 1 person

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