Jane Francis and Jay Manley met in 1985 at Front Street News in
downtown Wilmington, NC. Jane was the bassist and a vocalist in
Manic Union, a stellar trio with strong reggae
and new wave roots. Jay was the frontman of the frenetic art rock
band The Interpreters with Larry Long (Magically
Delicious) and Peter Gottovi (Pandora's Lunchbox, The Cogs). In
the winter of that year, Francis and Manley converged and played
a party or two with Gottovi as a new band. The material was a mix
of originals and college chart hits of the early 80's. The group
was considered a temporary side project and never got off the ground
before the members moved on.
Almost ten years and a few bands later, Manley and Francis bumped
into each other in a downtown nightspot and decided to try playing
together. Manley's group Velvet was in need of
a bassist. This band was the remnants of Baby,
a diverse trio featuring Eugenia Lee (Blackgirls) on bass and vocals,
Skylark) on drums and Jay Manley on guitar and vocals.
Initially in 1994, Velvet was Manley's vision of
a new fusion of jazz and alternative rock as if performed by a British
1960's power trio such as Cream or The Experience. This idea has
remained the thread of continuity with the band. Velvet was a nickname
for Jay started by local musicians around Wilmington, NC. During
a session at Coastal Carolina Recording Studio, Paul Johnson, the
engineer, described the guitar sound as "velvet" and the
name stuck. This became Jay's stage name while performing with Tamber,
Seeds and Stems and Shannon Wyatt.
Several drummers have been in the Velvet chair. When the band parted
ways with Rhodes, Rob Hay was the drummer for a few years followed
by Jeff Hahaj, and Richard Arp. The trio
became a quartet with the addition of Kevin Campbell on guitar,
vocals and songwriting. This was a great period
of growth and experimentation for the group.
The rock music heyday of Wilmington in the mid 90's was drawing
to a close, revealing the gentrification of the downtown district
where Velvet often performed. Nightclubs closed due to strict new
noise ordinances and condominiums were erected in their shadows.
The band had to get out of town if it expected to achieve greater
success. In 2001, Velvet relocated to Chapel Hill/Carrboro.