Billy Stewart Biography

24 March 1937, Washington, DC, USA, d. 17 January 1970, North Carolina, USA. Introduced to music by his family’s Stewart Gospel Singers, Billy embraced a more secular direction with the Rainbows, a group that also included Don Covay and Marvin Gaye. From there Stewart joined Bo Diddley’s band on piano. His solo debut, ‘Billy’s Blues’, was released on Chess Records in 1956, after which he worked with the Marquees. A second single, ‘Billy’s Heartaches’ (1957), appeared on the OKeh Records label, but a return to Chess in the early 60s proved decisive. A succession of melodic songs, including ‘I Do Love You’ and ‘Sitting In The Park’ (both 1965), established a crafted style that blended R&B jazz and the singer’s distinctive vocal delivery. These elements were prevalent in his radical interpretation of George Gershwin and DuBose Heyward’s ‘Summertime’, a Top 10 US hit in 1966. Stewart’s subsequent releases were less successful, although he remained a popular live attraction. In January 1970, while touring in North Carolina, Stewart’s car plunged into the River Neuse, killing him and three of his musicians.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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