The Velvets

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The Velvets
OriginOdessa, Texas, United States
Years active1959 (1959)–1962 (1962)
Past members

The Velvets were an American doo-wop group from Odessa in Ector County in west Texas. The African-American quintet was formed in 1959 by Virgil Johnson, a high-school English teacher, with four of his students.[1] Roy Orbison heard the group and signed them to Monument Records in 1960.[2] Their first release was a tune called "That Lucky Old Sun". Their biggest hit single was "Tonight (Could Be the Night)", which hit #26 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1961.[1] The follow-up, "Laugh", peaked at #90,[1] and after a half-dozen further singles the group disbanded.

Virgil Johnson, a former deejay at Radio KDAV in Lubbock, Texas, was the lead tenor singer, with backup from Mark Prince (bass), Clarence Rigsby (tenor), Robert Thursby (first tenor), and William Solomon (baritone). The four were originally Johnson's eighth-grade pupils in an English class which he instructed in Odessa, also in West Texas, in the 1959-1960 school year. Clarence Rigsby perished in an automobile crash in 1978.[3]

"That Lucky Old Sun" (#46) and "Tonight (Could Be the Night)" (#50) made brief appearances in the UK Singles Chart in 1961.[4]

Their complete recorded output runs to just thirty songs, which were collected on one compact disc and released on Ace Records in 1996.[5]

Prior to his death, aged 77, in February 2013,[6] Johnson sometimes appeared in nostalgia concerts.


  • Virgil Johnson (1935-2013)[6]
  • William Solomon (1941-2006)
  • Mark Prince
  • Clarence Rigsby (1947–1978)[7]
  • Bob Thursby


  1. ^ a b c Thomas, Bryan (2008-01-01). "The Velvets - Music Biography, Credits and Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2013-03-05.
  2. ^ Nite, Norm N. Rock On: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock n' Roll (The Solid Gold Years). Thomas Y. Crowell (1974), p. 630.
  3. ^ Virgil Johnson (The Velvets)
  4. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 584. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  5. ^ "The Complete Velvets - The Velvets : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2013-03-05.
  6. ^ a b Doc Rock. "The Dead Rock Stars Club 2013 January to June". Retrieved 2013-03-05.
  7. ^ Doc Rock. "The 1970s". The Dead Rock Stars Club. Retrieved 2013-03-05.