DEAR JERRY: As a Baltimore teenager in the mid-'60s, I never realized how many of our hit songs were completely ignored in other cities.
Likewise, it seems many big hits elsewhere never got played in Baltimore.
One in particular in my collection is Jimmy Velvet's “We Belong Together,” which reached No. 1 in Baltimore. Back then I would buy every record that hit No. 1, and I still have a November 24, 1963 WITH-AM Fabulous 50 survey. The Top 3 that week are: No. 1 “We Belong Together” (Jimmy Velvet); No. 2 “Everybody” (Tommy Roe); and No 3 “Leaving It Up to You” (Dale & Grace).
Most music lovers know the original “We Belong Together” by Robert & Johnny, but does anyone outside Baltimore know Jimmy Velvet's version?
By the way, is Velvet his real name?
Also noteworthy is the B-side, “The History of Love,” which I regard as one of the best records of the '60s. It should have been a smash.
Anita Kellogg, Evansville, Ind.
DEAR ANITA: As you obviously know, regional hits can vary unpredictably. That is exactly why they are called “regional” hits.
Usually they account for less than 10 percent of any station's record survey.
For example, I pulled my file copy of that WITH Fabulous 50 you have, and spotted three Baltimore hits which never even made the Top 100 on Billboard or Cash Box: No. 13 “Going Through the Motions (Of Living)” (Sonny James); No. 41 “Baby Goodbye” (Kenny Rankin); and No. 50 “Let's Get Going” (Fabulous Continentals).
During my surveys search, I also found numerous others ranking “We Belong Together” (ABC Paramount 10488) in their Top 10. A few of these are WAMS (Wilmington, Del.); WNOK (Columbia, S.C.); WKDA (Nashville); WOMP (Bellaire, Ohio - Wheeling, W.Va.); KFXM (San Bernardino, Calif.) and of course WCAO, also in Baltimore.
Besides Baltimore's WITH, both WLAN (Lancaster, Pa.) and WMBR (Jacksonville, Fla.) show “We Belong Together” at No. 1 in their markets.
Pretty impressive showing for a tune that never got higher than No. 75 on either Billboard or Cash Box.
Now here is some interesting history on “The History of Love,” and more, directly from Jimmy Velvet whom I contacted on your behalf:
DEAR JERRY & ANITA: About the name: I was born Jimmy Tennant, and that is how my first few records are credited. In 1961 I started using Velvet as a stage name, and four years later I made the name change legal.
As for “We Belong Together” and “The History of Love,” we recorded both in April 1963 at RCA's legendary Studio B in Nashville.
Bill Justis arranged the tracks, and brought in many of Nashville's top session people. We had the Jordanaires; Prissy Reed (Jerry's wife); and the Anita Kerr Singers on backup vocals; Jerry Reed; Kelso Herston; and Jerry Kennedy on guitars; and Hargus “Pig” Robbins on piano.
Of course “We Belong Together” was originally by Robert & Johnny, but I wrote “The History of Love” just before the session. ABC-Paramount thought it would make a good B-side, but many of the radio stations favored “The History of Love.” This concerned Paramount because they were busy pushing the other side.
For example, one letter I received from a Georgia dee jay [Pinky Pearson, WGIG, Brunswick] says: “Your record has been getting many requests on my show, and “The History of Love” is more popular than “We Belong Together.”
ABC-Paramount then sent out memos to all the radio stations asking them to focus their play on “We Belong Together,” which kind of killed “The History of Love.”
Still, that single wound up being among my top sellers ever.
Much to my astonishment, “The History of Love” has recently been re-discovered in the UK. Someone there has reissued it as a single and I hear it's doing very well all over Europe.
Jimmy Velvet, Hendersonville, Tenn.
DEAR JIMMY: That is wonderful news. Over 40 years later, “The History of Love” is finally an A-side! Click here to enjoy it on YouTube.
Thank you for sharing some details we could not have gotten elsewhere. You have been a treasured friend for 30 years, as you know.
IZ ZAT SO? In the early 1960s, at exactly the same time as Jimmy Tennant performed professionally as Jimmy Velvet, a man named James Mullins recorded as Jimmy Velvit.
This caused many mix-ups, especially since both names sound the same when spoken.
The ultimate confusion came when even their respective record companies misprinted labels, each crediting the other fellow.
Records on Cub crediting Jimmy Velvit are actually by Jimmy Velvet.
Any on BI, Blue, or Teardrop which credit Jimmy Velvet are really by Jimmy Velvit.
That's enough turmoil to make either singer a blue Velvet.