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About Billy Vaughn
Billy Vaughn was one of the most popular orchestra leaders and pop music arrangers of the '50s and early '60s. In fact, he had more pop hits than any other orchestra leader during the rock & roll era. Vaughn was also the musical director for many of the hitmakers on Dot Records, including Pat Boone, the Fontane Sisters, and Gale Storm. As a pop music arranger, he was most distinctive for his his clean, inoffensive mainstream adaptations of rock & roll and R&B hits. Vaughn was also a recording artist, and he cut a number of albums of easy listening instrumental music that were very popular throughout the '60s.
Vaughn began his professional music career in 1952, forming the vocal quartet the Hilltoppers with Don McGuire, Jimmy Sacca, and Seymour Speigelman. From 1952 to 1957, the Hilltoppers had numerous hit singles, beginning with Vaughn's song "Trying." He left the group in 1955 to join Dot Records as a musical director. 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, 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. Though he was the most successful orchestra leader of the rock & roll era, he wasn't able to sustain an audience in the late '60s. Vaughn released several albums in the '70s before quietly retiring in the early '80s. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
- Glasgow, KY
- 12 Apr 1919
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