Biography of Billy Vaughn
adapted from Wikipedia and AOL
Richard "Billy" Vaughn was born in Glasgow, Kentucky on April 12, 1919.
He was an American singer, multi-instrumentalist, orchestra leader, and A&R man for Dot Records.
His father was a barber who loved music and inspired Billy to teach himself to play the mandolin at age of
three, while suffering from measles. He went on to learn a number of other instruments.
In 1941 Vaughn joined the
United States National Guard for what had been planned as a
one-year assignment, but when World War II broke out, he was
sent abroad till the war ended in 1945. He decided to make music
a career when he was discharged from the army at the end of the
war, and attended Western Kentucky State College, now known as
Western Kentucky University, majoring in music composition. He
had apparently learned barbering from his father, because he did
some while studying at Western Kentucky to support himself
financially, when he was not able to get jobs playing the piano
at local night clubs and lounges. While he was a student there,
three other students, Jimmy Sacca, Donald McGuire, and Seymour
Spiegelman, who had formed a vocal trio, The Hilltoppers,
recruited Vaughn to play the piano with them. He soon added his
voice to theirs, converting the trio to a quartet. As a member
of the group, he also wrote their first hit song, "Trying,"
which charted in 1952.
In 1954 he left the group to join
Dot Records in Gallatin, Tennessee as music director. He
subsequently formed his own orchestra, which had a hit single in
that same year with "Melody of Love." It sold over one million
copies, and was awarded a gold disc. He went on to have many
more hits over the next decade and a half, and based purely on
chart successes, was the most successful orchestra leader of all
Vaughn was responsible for most of Dot's biggest hits of the '50s as he rearranged popular rock & roll and R&B songs for white, mainstream groups. His first success was with the Fontane Sisters, who sang with his orchestra on all their singles, including their 1954 breakthrough hit "Hearts of Stone." However, Dot's biggest success was Pat Boone, who had a series of hits with Vaughn's cleaned-up arrangements of rock & roll songs.
At the same time he was leading the vocal pop
division of Dot, Billy Vaughn was recording his own instrumental
records, which frequently were also covers of R&B and country
songs. Beginning with 1954's "Melody of Love," Vaughn had a
string of easy listening U.S. hit singles that ran for over a
decade. He also recorded numerous hit albums, with 36 of his
records entering the U.S. album charts between 1958 and 1970.
Vaughn charted a total of 42 singles on the
Billboard charts. He also charted thirty six albums on the
Billboard 200, beginning with 1958's Sail Along and ending with
1970's Winter World of Love. He also had nineteen Top 40 hits in
Germany, beginning with the chart-topping "Sail Along Silvry
Moon". He had two more number ones in Germany: "La Paloma" and
"Wheels" (all reportedly million sellers). Vaughn also charted
in Australia, Latin America and Japan. "Pearly Shells" was a
major success in Japan. Vaughn's tours of that country began
about the time "Pearly Shells" was a hit in 1965. Many songs
which were not US hits or even singles releases there, were
major hits in other countries. These included "Lili Marlene" and
"Greenfields" (Germany), plus "Theme from the Dark at the Top of
the Stairs" (various Latin American countries). The album La
Paloma was a success throughout Latin America. He also had a
number one album in Germany in the early 1980s with Moonlight
Melodies, which consisted of new recordings of many of his
The Billy Vaughn Orchestra began touring in 1965 with numerous sell-out tours
throughout Japan, Brazil, and Korea.