Written and composed by Bernie Wayne and Lee Morris in 1950, “Blue Velvet” is a top 20 hit for Tony Bennett in its original 1951 version. The song has since been re-recorded many times, with a 1963 version by Bobby Vinton reaching no. 1.
Behind the Creation of the Song
While visiting friends in Richmond, Virginia, songwriter Bernie Wayne stayed at the Jefferson Hotel, and it was the sight of a woman at a party held at the Jefferson which inspired Wayne to write the lyrics for “Blue Velvet.”
When Wayne pitched “Blue Velvet” to Columbia Records head A&R man Mitch Miller, he had only played the opening line:
“She wore blue velvet …”, when Miller interrupted him, saying: “How about [my giving the song to] Tony Bennett?” Wayne’s response, “Don’t you want to hear the rest of the song?”, drew this advice from Miller: “Quit while you’re ahead!”
The Clovers: Original Version
“Blue Velvet” was recorded by the Clovers for their album of the same name. Released in 1955 through Atlantic Records, the song was released as a single on 10″ shellac.
Initially, the song was recorded, produced, and released when the R&B group still consisted of John “Buddy” Bailey (lead singer), Billy Mitchell, Matthew McQuater, Harold Lucas, Harold Winley, Bill Harris. Various members of the group left, died, or were replaced, although the group as a whole still performed the song regardless of whom its members were. In addition, the track reached no. 14 on Billboard’s Rhythm & Blues Records chart of “Best Sellers in Stores.”
Bobby Vinton: Most Successful Recording
“Blue Velvet‘s” most successful recording was released by Bobby Vinton in 1963. On September 20, 1963, Vinton’s version reached no. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Additionally, it remained at no. 1 for the subsequent two weeks. “Blue Velvet” also afforded Vinton a no. 1 hit on the US Middle-Road Singles chart, where its no. 1 tenure was eight weeks.
Vinton’s no. 3 hit in the summer of 1963, with “Blue on Blue,” prompted the recording of the Blue on Blue album comprising songs featuring the word “blue” in the title.
Moreover, Vinton’s friend, music publisher Al Gallico, suggested “Blue Velvet” as a Blue on Blue album track and sent his secretary with a dollar to a music store to purchase the song’s sheet music; an hour later, Vinton had recorded “Blue Velvet” in two takes.
Vinton did not expect the song to be a hit and believed that his remake of “Am I Blue?” had more sales potential.
Consequently, Vinton’s version was ranked no. 5 on Billboard‘s end of year ranking “Top Records of 1963.” In addition, it was also no. 4 on Cash Box’s “Top 100 Chart Hits of 1963,” and no. 8 on Cash Box‘s “Top 100 Chart Hits of 1964.”
Furthermore, Vinton’s recording failed to make the British charts when originally released. However, a re-release in 1990 reached no. 2 on the UK Singles Chart, with “Blue on Blue” as the B-side.
Watch Bobby Vinton perform one of his no.1 hits, “Blue Velvet.”