Billy Stewart (March 24, 1937 - January 17, 1970) was an R&B/soul singer, songwriter, and pianist with a dynamic vocal style and impeccable diction who became famous during the mid 1960s. Born William Larry Stewart II in Washington, D.C. into a musical family, he began at age 12 singing with his younger brothers. Billed as the Four Stewart Brothers, they later had their own radio show at D.C.'s WUST-AM. While playing the piano with the Rainbows, a local area group led by Don Covay, Stewart was discovered by Bo Diddley who invited him to be one of his backup musicians. By 1955, he was signed with Diddley's label, Chess Records.
Stewart debuted on both the R&B and Pop/Rock charts in 1962 with the self-penned, doo-wop-styled R&B ballad, "Reap What You Sow," followed by the more heartfelt "Strange Feeling" (1963), which he also wrote. His fame began to take off in 1965 with two more self-penned ballads, "I Do Love You" (the title track to his first album) and "Sitting In The Park," both of which became Top 10 R&B hits and made the Pop/Rock Top 40. Several more hits followed on both charts before Stewart turned to more jazz-oriented material and early pop standards with his 1966 album, "Unbelievable." The first single from that album was his explosive, scat-styled rendition of "Summertime" (1966) from George Gershwin's 1935 opera, "Porgy And Bess." This smash hit, which best showcased Stewart's trademark doubling of words and helped earn him the nickname, "Motormouth," was followed by his cover of the 1954 Doris Day chart-topper, "Secret Love" (1966). Stewart's long string of hits also included "Because I Love You/Mountain Of Love" (1966), his cover of the standard, "Every Day I Have The Blues" (1967), and "Cross My Heart" (1967). He recharted in 1969 with "I Do Love You," which became a minor hit and his final chart entry.
In addition to recording seven albums and many singles, Stewart made a number of TV appearances and toured actively throughout most of the 1960s. His life was tragically cut short in 1970 in a car accident just two months prior to his 33rd birthday.
- WAMU.org remembers Washington, D.C. area legends Billy Stewart and Van McCoy.
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- I Do Love You 1965
(This song recharted for Billy Stewart in 1969 and later also became a hit for GQ in 1979.)
- Sitting In The Park 1965
(This song later also became a hit for GQ (1980).)
- Summertime 1966
(This song was previously a hit for Sam Cooke (1957), the Marcels (1961), Rick Nelson (1962), and the Chris Columbo Quintet (1963).)
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