Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Lana

First recorded by The Velvets (B-side JPN #1 1961).
Other hit version by co-writer Roy Orbison (UK #15/AUS #4/IRE #4/BEL #1 1966).

From the wiki: “‘The Velvets didn’t conform to any of Doo-wop’s norms.’ writes sleeve note author Bill Millar. The group hailed not from New York but from Odessa, Texas, where the panhandle meets the rest of the state. The quintet was formed in 1959 by Virgil Johnson, a high-school English teacher, with four of his students.

“Performing locally at sock-hops and campus functions, The Velvets were heard by Roy Orbison who was so impressed with them that he recommended the group to Fred Foster at Monument Records. Like their mentor, Orbison, The Velvets sang songs which straddled that increasingly invisible line between Country and Pop. The Velvets and Roy Orbison both shared the same producer, Fred Foster, and used the same Nashville ‘A-Team’ session musicians. The Velvets’ second release, ‘Tonight’, became their high-charting single, taking into the Billboard Hot 100 at #26 (UK chart at #50) and, as Millar says, was as perfect as Black pop music would get. The follow-up, ‘Laugh’, barely dented the American charts but its B-side, ‘Lana’ went to #1 in Japan!

“A few years later, in 1966, Orbison would cover ‘Lana’. Although his recording also had no chart impact in the US (owing in large degree to the continued impact the ‘British Invasion’ on the Billboard Hot 100; Orbison’s last US Top-40 hit had been in early 1965), ‘Lana’ did chart well overseas. In the UK, home of the ‘British Invasion’, ‘Lana’ peaked at #15. It also topped the Belgian record sales chart.

“Velvets founder Johnson said that the quintet had no further hits after ‘Lana’, and chose not tour the US because the music market was still segregated by race in the early 1960s. The Velvets were black but sounded white and were popular with whites but not their fellow African-Americans, who preferred more explicit R&B sounds. Johnson explained the dichotomy this way: ‘You got to realize, in the early sixties there were two music markets in the U.S. You had a black market, and you had a white market. We were extremely popular with whites, but we were never extremely popular with blacks. We were black and we didn’t sound like it. People didn’t know we were a black group. We couldn’t tour, and that really hurt us.'”

Roy Orbison, “Lana” (1961):

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