March 24 – Myles Looked Miles To The South For Hit Inspiration

The 1990s were a good decade to be a Canadian female singer! Celine Dion’s heart – and voice – would go on to become an AOR superstar, Shania Twain set sales records on country charts, Sarah McLachlan created Lilith Fair and essentially a whole new genre of music (“adult alternative”) and Alanis Morrissette created the anthem for spurned women everywhere in the form of the 30-million selling Jagged Little Pill. But before all that, another Ontario lady with the initials “AM” had her moment in the sun – Alannah Myles. She hit #1 in the U.S. this day in 1990 with her song about Elvis, “Black Velvet”. It had been a top 10 hit at home the year before, but curiously it did better elsewhere – not only did it top the charts in the U.S., but it did in Switzerland, Sweden and some other lands and got to #2 in the UK and New Zealand! However, it still won the Single of the Year Juno Award in Canada.

Although women might have been doing it for themselves then, Myles owed some to her then boyfriend Christopher Ward. Ward was a well-known radio DJ turned TV VJ in Canada, and had minor success as a singer himself. He helped finance her demo record, get Atlantic Records to sign her and wrote this massive hit. He was inspired after visiting Graceland in Memphis on the 10th anniversary of Elvis’ death as part of his TV job. Atlantic also got a country singer, Robin Lee, to do a country version of it, but Myles was the one which hit paydirt. According to ASCAP, it was the most played song on radio in the U.S. in ’90 and it won her the Grammy for best rock performance by a female. Her debut album went diamond at home and platinum in the U.S. Her career went downhill somewhat after; she kept fluctuating between hard rock and adult contemporary pop which probably didn’t help the marketers at Atlantic. Although she did score a #1 song in Canada in ’92 (“Song Instead of a Kiss”) ; her website seems to indicate she’s not been very involved in performing or recording for the last eight years. Thus she is considered a One Hit Wonder elsewhere. But when your one hit is the biggest hit ever written about Rock’s biggest star… that’s not bad!


18 thoughts on “March 24 – Myles Looked Miles To The South For Hit Inspiration

  1. That’s a great song and as you say if you’re going to have only one hit this was the way to go. I sat beside her and Chris in a restaurant at the old Terminal 2 at Pearson. This was right at the height of popularity of the song and also the height of my brush with fame!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. wow, that would have been neat! Did you say hi to them? Ward is a good songwriter, she has a good voice. I don’t think her song selection was brilliant after this album besides the fact that she seemed to be trying to be the next Joan Jett and the next Barbra Streisand at the same time which didn’t work.

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      1. I had a similarish experience with Kim Mitchell way back when, saw him eating lunch ( a sub I think) in the Eaton centre food court once, probably when he was a DJ at Q107 across the road. I did go over and say something like ‘Hey -you’re Kim Mitchell’ and he said ‘yeah,’ or something like that, so I just said, ‘wow, nice to meet you!’ but let him then go on eating.

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      2. That would be the place to see them! I walked into a Timmies in Oshawa once & the leader of the federal NDP was in there having a coffee…honestly can’t remember his name but I went over, said hi , shook his hand. I think he was a one election and out fellow.

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  2. Huge album and one I owned that I got from Columbia House back in the day as I had a hard time picking a last couple of CDs which I think you got 12 for a buck so I included this one and it was good for the time.It did well for her as Robert plant really dug it lol

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    1. Great song, was the only one of hers I really, really liked, but she had a decent career. I know what you mean about Col.House…got some albums thru that I wouldn’t have ever bought otherwise. About half of them turned out to be quite good.

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    1. Thank you. Yeah, US wise, ultimate one hit wonder…most played song on radio that year & still widely played. She could retire on it alone if she wanted (especially if she stayed together with Ward who’d get songwriting royalties).

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