In the '50s, Washington -- like most major East Coast cities -- saw its fair share of street-corner serenades -- those impromptu gatherings where nameless vocal groups turned gospel comedies into rhythm and blues and transformed the city's sidewalks into make-believe ballrooms.
But unlike New York or Philadelphia, this city offered few recording opportunities, and most of Washington's doo-wop groups (apart from rare successes like the Clovers) remained anonymous and uncounted. Now, 21 years after their start, the Velons are changing all that.
Since Carter Mingo joined the group five years ago and added a female voice to the mix, the Velons have made quite a name for themselves on the R&B revival circuit. And as they proved last night at Hogate's (where they appear through Saturday), it's about time.
All the members of the Velons have distinctive voices that are deployed at a variety of intricate and varied patterns. The oldest member, Gilbert Farrell, was the first to get hands clapping last night by giving a strong gospel flavor to the Drifters' "Steamboat."
Buddy Owens, ordinarily the romantic tenor, outdid himself (and the sound system) on several highly charged ballads while the rest of the group traded harmonies in every form imaginable. The show concluded with Jimmy Falwell and Bobby Horn's powerful rendition of "Lonely Teardrops," one that would have made Jackie Wilson proud.