This band formed in Yakima, Washington State in 1966 as The Illusions and changed name when they found out that another outfit was already using that moniker. They were managed by saxophonist George Radford’s father, who financed the band by selling some property and kitted them out with Vox instruments and amplifiers. Though too young to appear at many local clubs, The Velvet Illusions did play the usual array of school dances, proms, and parties, as well as performing on KIMA TV and appearing at the local Lee’s Music Store to promote Vox equipment.
In June 1967, Radford Sr. rented the band a house in Los Angeles and they moved to California. He formed his own Metro Media label and issued three singles in July of that year – a re-release of the group’s classic anti-drug debut ‘Acid Head’, ‘I’m Coming Home Los Angeles’ (which received a lot of local radio play), and ‘Velvet Illusions’. Whilst the material on the first two 45s had been recorded while still in Washington State the songs on the third single were new output laid down in Hollywood.
‘Velvet Illusions’ must surely have been inspired by the theme tune to The Monkees television series, though the ominous introduction on the Vox Continental immediately tells us we are in different territory altogether. There’s a great little rhythmic riff driving this one along, a tasteful repeated lead guitar refrain, and a chorus I am sure you will be joining in with yourself after a few listens – “so beware”!
‘Born to Be a Rolling Stone’ is a sprightly cover of a Gene Vincent number, which was written by Jerry Merritt, a local legend who had played in Vincent’s backing band The Blue Caps. Radford Sr. had arranged for him to sit in on a band practice and he had used his influence to help The Velvet Illusions make their first recordings at Seattle’s Sound Recording Studios.
‘Born to Be a Rolling Stone’
More songs were recorded and pressed up as the band’s final two 45s, issued under the name Georgy and The Velvet Illusions (the idea of publicity manager Jack Oliphant). The name change came as a complete surprise to the group, not least to George Radford Jr., who had no wish to be the band’s front man. It acted as the catalyst for the break-up of the band, and these two singles were never commercially released.
Reissues: the band’s entire recorded output has been compiled on the Tune In CD Acid Head (note that combined this only gives a running time of 22 minutes, though it is quality not quantity we are talking about here). Take your pick from Acid Dreams Testament, Pebbles Volume 9, Garagelands Volume 2, and Sixties Archive Volume 8 if you just want the a-side.
- Acid Head / She Was the Only Girl (Tell / Metro Media, 1967)
- I’m Coming Home Los Angeles / Town of Fools (Metro Media, 1967)
- Velvet Illusions / Born to Be a Rolling Stone (Metro Media, 1967)
- Lazy / The Stereo Song (Metro-Video, 1967)
- Mini Shimmy / Hippy Town (Metro-Video, 1967)