Velvet Waters
(William Plunkett - Dorothy Dodd)
Australia 1965
#5 Sydney #9 Melbourne #1 Brisbane #3 Adelaide

Vocal version, solo release by British-born Brisbane singer who had recorded with The Fabulous Blue Jays from 1964.

The lyrics are by Dorothy Dodd, first recorded by Bruce Gillespie (see below).

See also: Tony Worsley's Missing You, Just A Little Bit and Dance With A Dolly.

Further reading: 1999 ABC Radio interview of Tony Worsley by David Kilby, transcript at Milesago.

Velvet Waters
(William Plunkett - Dorothy Dodd)
Australia 1960
Original vocal version
#16 Sydney #20 Brisbane

Velvet Waters, first recorded as an instrumental by The Megatrons (1959), may be better known in Australia as a song by Tony Worsley (1965) with words by the Australian lyricist Dorothy Dodd. The lyrics were written for Bruce Gillespie who recorded them first, in 1960. 

Bruce Gillespie and his manager Lyall Richardson had unsuccessfully sought lyrics to The Megatrons' Velvet Waters when Sydney disc jockey John Laws was playing it as a background theme on 2UE. After contacting Laws and finding that the tune was available only as an instrumental, they went to Jack Argent at music publishers Southern Music, taking with them an acetate of the Megatrons track acquired from Laws.

As a result, Dorothy Dodd was commissioned by Southern Music to write the lyrics for Gillespie's Velvet WatersDodd is best known for writing the standard English lyrics to Granada, recorded by Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and Frankie Laine, among others.

Gillespie's recording was made independently in Sydney and released by HMV, one of several record companies that were approached. Personnel on the session - mainly Sydney jazz musicians - included Mike Nock (piano), Peter Beasley (guitar), Freddie Logan (bass),  Chris Karan (drums, later with The Dudley Moore Trio), and Abe Jensen (vibes). Vocal group The Delltones were paid £5:00 each for the session. ("Just pay us; don't put our name on it," said one Delltone.)

Bruce Gillespie (b.1941), an Anglo-Indian, came to Australia from Mount Abu in northwestern India when he was fourteen. He started singing as a teenager with dance bands in his home city of Melbourne, at venues such as the Coburg Town Hall. This was in the late 1950s, the era of the 60-40, a variety dance program that mixed old-time with current dance styles. Gillespie left home for Brisbane to appear in the Theatre Royal's variety shows, then Sydney where he was contracted by Sammy Lee to appear at his Latin Quarter nightclub in Pitt Street.

At this time, Gillespie also appeared on TV music shows, mainly on Johnny O'Keefe's Six O'Clock Rock but also on Bandstand and Teen Time. Because of his voice and appearance, Gillespie was often asked to sing current hits by such black American stars as Sam Cooke and Brook Benton.

The B-side of Velvet Waters was Teen Age Love, Bruce Gillespie's only songwriting credit (an unidentified Maurice is credited as co-writer), but it seems that all the loving care went into the A-side. A further single was released by HMV: In All The World/Look Over The Hill (1960). Gillespie then recorded two singles in Melbourne under the direction of Bruce Clarke at W&G: Jenny, Oh Jenny/They Really Don't Know You and M'magine Me Thinking/Two By Two (both 1960).

Bruce Gillespie made no further recordings, but he built a succesful career as a club singer in Australia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific, including five years based in the Phillipines. In 1978 he left music for other business pursuits, and he is now living in retirement in Queensland.

At YouTube: Bruce Gillespie sings "Look Over The Hill" on Six O'Clock Rock, 1960, introduced by Johnny O'Keefe (image).

References: 1. Bruce Gillespie, conversation with me, June 2011. 2. Singles discography in ScreenSound Australia's First Wave. 3. "Granada": entry at Wikipedia.

Further reading: 1. Profile of Bruce Gillespie in Australian Women's Weekly's "Teenagers' Weekly" pages, 8 June 1960 (at NLA's Trove archive). 2. Tony Withers tells the story of Dorothy Dodd's 'Granada' lyrics, Sydney Morning Herald column, 25 June 1961: Google News Archive.

Thanks to Bruce Gillespie.

Velvet Waters
(William Plunkett)
New Zealand 1960
#36 Adelaide

Single on Viking label (NZ), Teen label (Australia).

Wellington-based jazz pianist.

Also recorded in Australia by Col Nolan & the Soul Syndicate, 1966, on CBS album Crazy Crotchet.

Velvet Waters
(William Plunkett)
USA 1959
Original version
#51 USA

Label shot by Richard Coffelt. 

Single on Acousticon label, aka Audicon; later reissued by Laurie label. B-side was The Merry Piper.

On CD:Teen Beat Vol. 3 [Ace Records]

Instrumental by New York studio band, one of whose members was William Plunkett, composer of Velvet Waters. Jazz saxophonist and session musician Heywood Henry is credited on the single for his clarinet solo, and may have been responsible for the session.

Heywood Henry (1913-1994, full name Frank Haywood Henry, aka Haywood Henry or Frank Henry) was a member of The Erskine Hawkins Orchestra from the 1930s through to the 50s, and sometimes substituted in the Duke Ellington Orchestra. He became an active session man from the 50s, and played on numerous rock, pop and jazz records. See the entry at AllMusic Guide where Scott Yarrow calls him "one of the finest baritone saxophonists of the swing era". He played, for example, on sessions for Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Billy Holiday, Big Maybelle, James Brown, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, and Mickey Baker of Mickey & Sylvia.

Mike Rashkow, producer and songwriter recalls: Henry was a regular first, second or third call Baritone Sax man during my few years in the NYC studios... I saw him on a lot of dates - low key guy, very professional. (Spectropop, 25 Sept 2004.)

See photo and biography at Roberto's Woodwinds. (Note that he spells his name as "Haywood" in the signature.)

Sylvia of Mickey & Sylvia recorded with the Heywood Henry Orchestra in 1951 as Little Sylvia: see label shot at Brian Lee's Mickey & Sylvia page.

Melbourne disc jockey Pete Smith used the Megatrons' Velvet Waters as the theme to his Hit Parade program on ABC Radio. As it played, he would tease his listeners with the fact that they couldn't buy the record because it hadn't been released in Australia. (This is the same Pete Smith who went on to be a star of commercial TV on the Nine Network.)

Bruce R. Gillespie adds:

Gerald Murnane, Australian writer, wrote his story “Velvet Waters”, the lead story in his 1990 collection Velvet Waters (McPhee Gribble), based on a memory of hearing the Megatrons version of the tune played continually over the loudspeakers at a beach resort in the early sixties. This was the year when Stan Rofe and Keith Livingstone played it as a continual theme during their summer program on [Melbourne radio station] 3KZ, when they DJed all day every day for several weeks.
  - Bruce R. Gillespie, editor of Scratch Pad at (not Bruce Gillespie the singer)

References: entry for Haywood Henry; Repertoire of Frank Haywood Henry at BMI (#43390889); Biography at All Music Guide.

Thanks to Tony Watson, Mike Rashkow, Country Paul and Bruce R. Gillespie for additional information.

Corrections or comments? Contact the writer.