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Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera, at various times also known as "Velvet Opera", was a British rock band active in the late 1960s. Members of the band would later become members of The Strawbs, Hudson Ford and Stretch.
The group emerged from a soul/blues band called 'The Five Proud Walkers'. After supporting Pink Floyd on tour, they were inspired to change their approach and become a more psychedelic outfit. The band consolidated as Richard Hudson on drums, John Ford on bass, Colin Forster on lead guitar, Jimmy Horrocks (Horovitz) on organ and flute (who left early in the band's history), and Dave Terry on vocals and harmonica. Initially just calling themselves Velvet Opera, they developed their full name when Terry took to wearing a cape and preacher's hat in the style of the title character in the 1960 film adaptation of Sinclair Lewis' novel, Elmer Gantry.
They started to make club appearances in London, using electronic backing sounds, and secured a record deal with the short lived Direction Records subsidiary of CBS Records in the UK. Their first recording was the single "Flames" (November 1967) which also featured on the CBS sampler record "The Rock Machine Turns You On", and was later covered on stage by Led Zeppelin. Further singles and a self-titled album followed, including the track "Mary Jane" which was taken off the BBC playlist after they realised its drug connotations, although the band continued to make regular live appearances on John Peel's Radio 1 programme 'Top Gear', and other BBC radio shows.
However, the recording success of the band was limited, and Forster left when Hudson and Ford wanted to take the band in a different direction. Forster was replaced by Paul Brett. Elmer Gantry was the next to depart, along with Paul Brett, and the band reverted to the name "Velvet Opera". Gantry and Brett were replaced by John Joyce and a returning Colin Forster respectively, and the band released a second album, Ride a Hustler's Dream. This again failed to achieve success, and in 1970 Ford left (to be replaced by Colin Bass), subsequently followed by Richard Hudson; both of them joining The Strawbs shortly afterwards. At this point the band dissolved.
In 1971, Forster and Bass formed a new version of Velvet Opera with ex-Tintern Abbey vocalist, Dave MacTavish and drummer Mike Fincher. Short-lived, they recorded one single on the Spark Records label.
|Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera - Netherland Single 1969|
This popular UK act, which adeptly mixed soul and psychedelic/progressive styles, evolved from Jaymes Fenda And The Vulcans, one of several bands to secure a recording contract following their appearance on the televised contest, Ready Steady Win. Former Vulcans songwriter John Ford (b. 1 July 1948, Fulham, London, England; bass) joined members of R&B band Five Proud Walkers, which included Dave Terry (vocals/guitar), Colin Forster (guitar) and Richard Hudson (b. Richard William Stafford Hudson, 9 May 1948, London, England; drums).
The new unit was named Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera, in honour of lead singer Terry's stage garb modelled after the preacher in the 1960 movie Elmer Gantry. Their excellent 1967 debut album included the pulsating "Flames', which, despite regular appearances on BBC Radio 1"s Top Gear, failed to become a hit.
Growing disagreements over musical direction led to the departure of Gantry and Forster. The remaining members truncated their name to Velvet Opera, added Paul Brett (guitar) and John Joyce (b. 1933, England, d. February 2004, England; vocals) to the line-up, and recorded Ride A Hustler's Dream. The album lacked the purpose of its predecessor, save for the excellent "Anna Dance Square". The quartet fell apart when Hudson and Ford joined the Strawbs, with whom they remained until 1973. Having written several of the band's most commercial offerings, the duo then left to pursue their own career as Hudson-Ford. By 1974, Gantry was fronting a band which, until checked by litigation, accepted illicit bookings as "Fleetwood Mac" while the genuine article were off the road. A year later, Gantry emerged once more as singer on Stretch's solitary UK chart entry, "Why Did You Do It?", before going on work with the Alan Parsons Project and Cozy Powell. Former member Colin Forster briefly worked with a new line-up of Velvet Opera in the early 70s.
Line-up - Musicians: (1969 LP CBS 63692)
♦ Paul Brett - Guitar
♦ Richard Hudson - Drums
♦ John Joyce - Guitar, Vocals
♦ John Ford - Bass
01. Ride a Hustler's Dream (0:56)
02. Statesboro Blues (3:38)
03. Money By (3:55)
04. Black Jack Davy (3:34)
05. Raise the Light (4:09)
06. Raga (5:29)
07. Anna Dance Square (3:00)
08. Depression (4:01)
09. Don't You Realize (3:36)
10. Warm Day in July (5:06)
11. Eleanor Rigby (5:54)
12. Volcano [Bonus] (2.37)
13. A Quick 'B' [Bonus] (3.04)
14. She Keeps Giving Me These Feeling [Bonus] (2.41)
15. There's A Hole In My Pocket [Bonus] (3.47)
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