Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Jimmy Velvet and Jimmy Velvit - singers.

(Updated August 23, 2014)

These were two separate rock and roll singers from the 1960s. They make a very interesting story. There has been confusion among record collectors for decades.
Velvet is Jimmy Tennant, Velvit is James Mullins. They worked together in the early 60s, Tennant acting as manager for Mullins. Then they split due to disagreements.
Mullins started everything by recording We Belong Together in Texas in 1961. He was noticed, and became part of a tour with Chuck Berry. When American Bandstand tried to find him they couldn't locate him. Tennant then took his place, using the show name Jimmy Velvet. From there Tennant (Velvet) became the celebrity, and Mullins (Velvit) faded. Velvet became championned by Dick Clark. His own rendition of We Belong Together became a minor national top 100 hit, as well as his recording of It's Almost Tomorrow.
They are both still around and have kept doing occasional recording.


Velvet 201 single from 1963. Sung by Tennant, copying both sides of Mullins' previous single:

Notice that the label is printed with the name VELVIT, and it appears that the I has been changed with a marker into E. You can right-click and view an image larger. These are newly arranged by Bill Justis, which was not the case with Mullins' record. This is a hopelessly rare record. He released this on his own label, which did not get enough distribution. Feel free to post any knowledge you have.
When ABC-Paramount released his rendition nationally in 1963 as #10488, he put "History Of Love" on the other side, and never did I'm Gonna Try again.

Song samples:
We Belong Together by Jimmy Velvit (Mullins)
We Belong Together by Jimmy Velvet (Tennant)
I'm Gonna Try by Mullins
I'm Gonna Try by Tennant

Here are some Jimmy Velvet biographical notes from his obscure 1973 album "Blue Velvet". At the time he was still recording and releasing on his own "Music City Records". To view it separately more clearly, click on it.

Jimmy Velvit biographical notes from a 2000 CD "The Original Jimmy Velvit - Rockin' With Velvit ...the 1960s" on the Seduction label, #SCD-102. It's a good one to get, if only it were available.

There's a certain amount of lying or misinformation in the hit claims. Neither one of them had a national #1 hit, only local. And only Tennant appeared on the Billboard top 100 - his We Belong Together was #75 in 1963 on the ABC-Paramount label, and It's Almost Tomorrow was #93 in 1965 on the Philips label.

Jimmy Velvit's national releases
After releasing some songs and having local Dallas hits on the Division label, MGM's Cub label released two of them nationally:
Sometimes At Night /Look At Me ____1961 Cub #9100
We Belong Together /I'm Gonna Try __1962 Cub #9105

The James Velvet single

As if there wasn't enough confusion in this, Cub also released #9111 in 1962 by James Velvet. This was a completely different Motown negro singer. It contained Bouquet Of Flowers and When I Needed You.

Listen to samples of both sides:
James Velvet - Bouquet Of Flowers, When I Needed You

Tennant and Mullins working together

Here's a clue on how they worked together in the early 1960s. Tennant actually became quite involved in the music business, and set up his own booking agency in Dallas. This poster shows one of his productions, which included Jimmy Velvit. This would be Mullins singing, not Tennant, before Tennant started using the Velvet name. Soon after this his venture folded and he returned to Florida.
Recording engineer Phil York of Dallas has the only photo of the two Jimmys together, in the recording studio. We could use more information on their involvement at the time. Tennant doesn't mention Mullins in his book "Inside the Dream".




EZwhip said...

I. George Toomer, was the drummer and harmonica player on the original Jimmy Velvit (James Mullins) MGM Cub label records.

As is usually the case in a sucessful record, the "star" went around the band to make side deals-- thereby cutting the band out of any royalties and future appearances.

The only thing that came from it was getting to play with Jimmy Reed
and other of my heroes.

The members of the band. Perry knippa (Bass) and others from part of the Gene Vincent Touring Band and from the Roy Orbison Band went on to musical careers--or prison!

GeorgeS said...

George Toomer, you must have been recording in Dallas on the local label, before Cub released them nationally. No errors in my article? I also have his "Sometimes I Wonder" on the Alta label, which is almost the same as Sometimes At Night.
Can anyone shed more light on the sequence of events in those early years, the involvement and confusion with Tennant. Was Tennant involved with the Cub records?
I'm the guy who wrote the Wikipedia article on Jimmy Velvet.
Tennant has published his book "Inside the Dream". For me it's an import and haven't got it yet.

Kevin Knippa said...

Perry Knippa, the bass player referenced in ezwhip's comment, is my dad. He neither went to prison nor had a musical career, per se, though he contined to play around town on the weekends. He is retired from Yellow Freight where he was a truck driver for 35 years. Sadly, his hearing is damaged and he is in the early stages of dementia.

Anonymous said...

On May 30, 2008 there was a show called "Rockin' Into Summer" that was held at the Lakewood theater, sponsored by local AM radio station KAAM, Buddy Boren and Cruisin' Al, the DJ that does the program "Saturday Night Sock Hop" on the station each Saturday night. Jimmy Velvit (James Mullins) was a featured preformer and sounds as good today as he ever did.

GeorgeS said...

Was that in Dallas? His official website says he's in Oklahoma. And his CDs are reissued there.

Anonymous said...

get your information from ezwhip and skip the bio on Velvit's (mullins) own webpage.

Anonymous said...

We still hashing this? Five guys went with Jimmy Muillins to Seller's recording studio in Dallas (1961). We had never played with Jimmy and we had all played together for awhile--were acting as a studio band.

He had done a recording before getting us.

I played drums and harmonica (because his first recording sucked he had used the harmonic player from Bruce Chanel and sounded like a campfire player.) We recorded "Sometimes at Night" and "I'm gonna try". It was the first time I knew about over dubbing harmonica.

Our manager, Jim Lowe (WRR) played the record on his show and it did well...MGM Cub liked it and took our original. They sweetened it with violins and other background which we couldn't believe.. we then were asked to record "You're Mine"
which kinda sucked until Cub fixed it.

"Sometimes at Night" was the big hit in Texas (Top o' charts for 2 months) we did a lot of personal appearances and Matinees.

Mullins was an idiot with very little social savvy... as I've said before, he went around us and we lost (usual story).

I think the reason he disappeared and the other nosebleed ripped him off, was because he went to prison or jail (I heard).

Jimmy was not great-- we were not great-- we just had one of the first full tilt boogie, double throw down blues records done by white guys so it could be played on the radio.

It was fun while it lasted.

Ronda said...

Hi I just want you all to know Jimmy Velit (James Mullins)is doing good and still singing ,He is living in Coalgate Ok and travels to Texas alot he is always on the move .I am his cousin so I know him well .Personaly I feel he was done wrong by this other guy that calls himself Jimmy he is a thife i belive and a copycat could he not do something with his own songs and NAME ?????If anyone has any of Jimmys old songs like, Happy go lucky me or Jack Frost lovin company,Im gona kill ya. anyway let me know I need copys mine burnt in a house fire all my 45s and belive me i cant find them or any

GeorgeS said...

Thanks for the note Ronda. Jack Frost is on the Rockin With Velvit CD. When did he record Happy Go Lucky Me?
I just started an article at wikipedia on Velvit.
If anyone wants to give their email addresses privately I'd have to put this into "moderating" mode. Tell me you want to, I'll switch, and give your address, and say to keep it private. Then I can switch off moderating. (Too complicated. Google gives no way to send private messages)

ronda said...

Im not sure but I will ask him I talked to him today he is in Portarans Tx on his sail boat taken it easy right now thanks fr getting back with me you can find him on myspace too Im on his friends list you can get to me there or ill give you a email let me know

GeorgeS said...

I've never registered at myspace because I didn't need it, but it's possible. This kind of job can get too big ... unless I can get something interesting out of it. Like a copy of his "The Original JV 1960-1964" on Collectables label. There's also a photo by Phil York of the two Jimmys together in the studio I haven't seen. I'd like more about that. We need to know that story.
I have a couple Alta label 45s and don't know if they came first or later.

Ronda said...

Anything is posible I seen some for sale somewhere Ill check where and get back to you ,I have a card he gave me and I have some things from when he was in prison .He also has a web site under his name you can go look at if you havent .He still records and was touring with Johnny Rodrigis .

Bob & Carol said...

We were at "Rockin Into Summer". It was really fun. We thought Jimmy was great. We had fun after the show taking pictures with him and Gene Summers and Billy Joe Shine. We are going back for "Rockin Into Winter" where Jimmy will be there again.

Mark Tiller said...

Supposedly "Bouquet Of Flowers" / "When I Needed You" features background vocals by The Primettes aka The Supremes. An page on The Primettes credits them as singing on "We Belong Together" / "I'm Gonna Try" but presumably this is wrong as yoiu explain they are two different singers - they do sound very different on the samples. There is another incorrect credit on there. The Primettes that sang on James Dee & A Piece of The Action's "My Pride" is not the Supremes but another group called the Primettes. It says so in the liner notes of a compilation CD I have. However I'm not even totally sure it's them on Bouquet & "When I Need You" as there is some spoken lines on "When I Needed You" and it doesn't sound like Diana, Mary or Flo, but they were very young. r it could be the early fourth member, Barbara Martin. Confused!? Any answers to:

George Toomer said...

Statement Withdrawal George Toomer

Had a chance to go see Jummy Velvet
in Dallas. Figured I'd go give him the "Evil Eye" about past dealings and supposed screw-overs...

Met him backstage... What a good guy. He said we were all young and dumb 40+ years ago... we hugged. I wished I had known him all these years.

He blew the house away.. voice as perfect as 40 yrs ago... plus a great ability to entertain the audience...up against some pretty hard competition== Ray Sharp (whom I also played with) Jimmy made him look silly.

Anyway-- no more bad mouth for Jimmy V. I'm proud to see he made it all these years.... yeah dude.

GeorgeS said...

Thanks George Toomer. You say Velvet, which means Tennant.
Anyway, I'm still really interested in knowing how Tennant was involved with Mullins' recordings - that story line.

Nuhman said...

Good work to explore the 1960"s stars Jimmy Tennant and James Mullins

Anonymous said...

No, he meant Mullins. Ray and Jimmy are good friends.

Fred Clemens said...

I began exploring the Tennant-Mullins saga deeper and deeper since reading your article a few months ago. Tennant had released at least three records before managing(?) Mullins. One was in January, 1959 on the Amp label (from Columbus, Indiana). Another was around April, 1960 on Warwick. A third, which may have predated both, come in between, or after, was on the Thunder label (out of Miami, Florida). All were credited to "Jimmie Tennant", and were definatly the same guy who would go on to record as "Jimmy Velvet".
Tennant recorded 4 songs in April, 1963 (with the aid of a partner, Ray Curran): "We Belong Together", "I'm Gonna Try", "A History Of Love", and "Mr. Lonely". It was the first two that were released on their Velvet label. Only 1,000 copies were made, with expectations of being issued on a larger label. Curran lined up Topps Records, a distributor, and had them shop around for a label. Cortland Records was chosen, who released those same two songs on their Witch label subsidiary (#115) in August, 1963. Meanwhile, Tennant was out on his own selling the songs, where he made a deal with ABC-Paramount via Felton Jarvis in Nashville. Unknowing of the Cortland deal until afterward, it was left to Jimmy to straighten things out. Ultimately, Cortland stopped promoting and withdrew the Witch issue, and Jimmy had "History Of Love" issued with "We Belong Together" by November, 1963. The record sold 55,000 copies. A lawsuit took place in February, 1965, claiming that ABC had interefered with contractual relations, whereas ABC was ordered to return the songs to Topps, as well as restrict them from using any of the songs for future release. The jury also awarded Curran and Topps a monetary settlement totaling more than $15,000, which was much more than Tennant and ABC made from the record (netting around $5,000). It is unsure whether an appeal made by ABC (to contest the amounts awarded only) was ever successful.
Meanwhile, Velvet began Velvet Tone Records in 1964. I doubt Curran was involved this time around. There, he released new recordings, most which were leased to larger labels (Tollie, Phillips, and United Artists).
Also, there appears to be another Velvet issue of the songs, this one with script lettering (not block letters) as well as noting Jacksonville, Florida on the label. Note that it was Florida where Tennant had met Curran. The Witch release used the exact same stampers as the block-lettered Velvet name release, which was mastered and pressed in Nashville. I'm currently awaiting arrival of the script label issue to see what stampers were used.
Fred Clemens

Fred Clemens said...

The script issue of the Jimmy Velvit release is actually on the VELVIT label. The fifth letter is an "I", not an "E" as I had initially presumed it to be. This would have to be the first pressing, given that the label was so named to help sell Jimmy Velvit as a performer. Still awaiting the VELVIT label's arrival.

Jonathan Mcbride said...

Fred Clemens, Hello sir, I am wondering how sure you are of the early songs from Jimmie Tennant? My father who I didn't know much about was also a singer/songwriter born, James D. Tennant went by Jimmie not Jimmy. Born July 11, 1935 in LaGrange County, IN. I was lead to believe that Heartbreak avenue was his song as I have carried around the 45 for sometime now. I didn't know much of my father and was just doing some online research. I have recordings of him singing songs that I know are him and it sounds exactly like heartbreak avenue. This whole story is crazy and to throw another Jimmie into the mix would be even crazier. Any info you can provide would be deeply appreciated.

Fred Clemens said...

Just want to acknowledge here that I saw your post, Jonathan, and I appreciate your input.

I've been looking into sorting out the two (now three!) Jimmy's over the past year (OK, 14 months), much thanks to this Blog (thanks, GeorgeS), having taken it much further than I intended or expected. I've managed to get a hold of most of Jimmy Velvet's records, all but one (still looking for the Thunder release). I now have four copies of the VELVET release, as well as four copies of the (script) VELVIT release (3 designated promos and a stock copy). Only 1,000 of those VELVIT records were made, and most were destroyed because of the misspelling (according to Jimmy). The name was intended to be VELVET (label and name) from the start, but a copy of the Mullins release on Cub was used as a guide, and the error was made. The VELVIT release was in April, while the VELVET issue was no earlier than July. The WITCH issue was in August.

One thing I discovered during my research is that Jimmy Velvet's father was the 30's-50's actor Tyrone Power. I learned of this via Velvet's eldest daughter from a post she made (in January, 2012) on the Tyrone Power page on the Find-A-Grave web site during a Google search. She had only then-recently learned of the Family Secret from her father. When you compare period pictures of Jimmy with the actor and even the actor's father (also an actor named Tyrone Power), the resemblences are striking. Jimmy's mother (Jackie) had an affair with the actor before Jimmy was born, and it remained a Family secret until both his parents were gone. His mother, Jackie, passed away in March, 1989, while his father (Jackie's husband), John, died in May, 2010. They divorced when Jimmy was around 4, and both remarried and started new familes. Power died in Novemvber, 1959, never knowing of his son. The affair took place just prior to his first marriage (to French actress, Annabella). Power adopted her daughter. His second marriage (to Linda Christian) resulted in two more daughters that were his own. Having always wanted a son to pass on the family name (of Tyrone Power), it never happend until after he died. Vowing never to re-marry, he did marry once more (to Debbie Minardos). Before he died, he learned that they going to have a baby, and a boy this time. Tyrone Power, Jr. was born in January, 1959. Little did he realize...

Check out the Wikipedia page on Jimmy Velvet for the updated Discography. I'm currently working on updating Jimmy Velvet's background for Wikipedia, but I don't want to put anything there until I can get all the sources to back it up in one place.

Fred Clemens

Mrs. R said...

I am doubting the Tyrone Power story. There is no record that he was in Jacksonville as his granddaughter says he was, and I'm sorry, I can't see a resemblance. And Jimmy Velvet doesn't make that claim, only his daughter does. There is a rumor that Tyrone got an extra pregnant during the filming of Jesse James in Missouri in 1938. Is someone trying to say this is the son?

Anonymous said...

According to the young lady making these claims, Jimmy was born 10/19/1939....that would mean his mother would have been with Tyrone Power during Jan/Feb of Jacksonville, Fla...according to her.

During that time, it is a well documented fact that Tyrone was doing a live radio show (that was developed for him) ran from Jan-Feb of 1939...during that whole time, Tyrone was in Hollywood, Ca. He was also in the process of planning his marriage to Annabella, the were married in April, 1939.

And as was stated...Jimmy has never made any public claims that Tyrone was his father.

Osojnak Sharon said...

This is so confusing, and at times a bit underhanded, it seems. I am researching James (Velvit) Mullins because of family tree information needed. Evidently he is a 2nd cousin I have never met him. The comparison pictures and a brief explanation should be on BOTH Tennant and Mullins websites to separate them once and for all to eliminate this confusion. This is the best website I have found so far regarding this issue.

Gabrielle A. said...

Hey you guys! If you are fans, then you won't believe this. I am Jimmy Tennant's grandaughter. My name is Gabrielle. My mothers name is Candida Velvet. He now has a super cool "Elvis museum" in Las Vegas, and I have visited him a few times. We call him on father's day, and he calls us on our birthdays, easter, christmas, etc., but we live way over in the Midwest, so he can't visit often. I love finding stuff about him on the internet. He is so cool. If you see this, Grandpa, we love you and miss you over there! Come visit us sometime.

Cyn said...

Hi, I have the Skyline Ballroom poster. Any one know the value?