Billy Vera. Musician, Music Historian, Grammy Winner, Recipient of Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame – and more. Billy Vera’s Big Band Jazz Orchestra and Billy Vera & the Beaters play gigs on a regular basis.
Born May 28, 1944 in Riverside, California, Billy was named after his father, Bill McCord, who worked as a staff announcer for NBC in New York, where Billy grew up. His mom, Ann Ryan, was one of the Ray Charles Singers on record and TV with Perry Como.
Still in his teens, Billy made his first record. One side, “My Heart Cries,” was popular in the Northeast, while the other side, the self-penned “All My Love,” saw regional action in Texas and Louisiana.
The first song he ever presented to a publisher, “Mean Old World,” became a chart hit for Ricky Nelson and, one year later, his “Make Me Belong To You,” was a summer hit for Atlantic Records star Barbara Lewis.
This entre to Atlantic caused label chief Jerry Wexler to sign Billy. The resulting single, a duet with Dionne Warwick’s cousin, Judy Clay, was the hit, “Storybook Children.” The two followed up with “Country Girl-City Man” and appeared at Harlem’s Apollo Theater to standing ovations. Billy’s first solo hit was a cover of Bobby Goldsboro’s “With Pen In Hand,” arranged by the late Arif Mardin and supervised by Wexler. But the late 60s were changing times and Billy couldn’t find a way to fit in musically.
The 70s were rough, until Dolly Parton cut Billy’s song, “I Really Got The Feeling,” taking it to #1 on the country charts. This propelled a move to Los Angeles, where, in 1979, he formed Billy & the Beaters. which soon became the most talked-about band in town.
In 1981, the band recorded for Alfa Records, the chart hit, “I Can Take Care Of Myself,” written by Billy. The follow-up, “At This Moment,” scraped the lower end of the charts, as Alfa’s Japanese owners pulled the plug on the label.
Five years later, a phone call from the producer of the sitcom Family Ties changed everything. They wanted to use “At This Moment” in an episode. The public responded and the song, now reissued on Rhino, vaulted to #1 nationally.
In the interim, Billy had built a side career in acting, appearing in the cult film, “Buckaroo Banzai”, Oliver Stone’s “The Doors”, Blake Edwards’ “Blind Date”, as well as various TV shows like “Alice”, “Wise Guy”, “Baywatch” and a recurring role as Duke on “Beverly Hills, 90210”. Billy’s radio show, “Billy Vera’s Rock’n’Roll Party”, led to yet another side career as a voiceover artist. He’s been heard, plugging products like Burger King, Honda, Toyota, Mercury, Mervin’s and dozens of others.
Billy produced the last four albums of his friend, Lou Rawls, taking the great singer back to #1 on the jazz charts, reviving his recording career. Their last collaboration was “Rawls Sings Sinatra”, one year prior to Lou’s passing.
Artists who have recorded Billy Vera songs include Bonnie Raitt, Robert Plant, Fats Domino, the Shirelles, Tom Jones, Freda Payne and Little Milton. Etta James recorded and Jerry Wexler produced, “You’ve Got Me,” a tune Billy did in the Willie Nelson starring, “Baja Oklahoma”.
Television has been good to Billy. He’s sung the theme songs to the hit series ” King Of Queens” and “Empty Nest” and his tunes have been used in many shows. An appearance on the NBC show “Hit Me Baby One More Time” resulted in renewed interest in Billy Vera and sell-out crowds at his appearances.
In 2008, Michael Buble recorded Billy’s song, “At This Moment” on his album, Crazy Love, which has sold over 8 million copies to date.
In January 2016 Billy’s dream album, BILLY VERA: BIG BAND JAZZ was released on Varese-Sarabande Records. The album is a tribute to the great black songwriters of the 1920s, 30s and 40s, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Buddy Johnson.
This past year in April 2019, Billy released his newest album TIMELESS, now available wherever fine music is sold.
Currently, Billy resides in Los Angeles where he is continuing to write music and books after the success of his memoir Harlem to Hollywood (Backbeat Books) and the just recently published Rip It Up: The Specialty Records Story (BMG Books).
BV Quick Facts:
”At This Moment” #1 January, 1987, exposed on NBC’s Family Ties 1st hit record: “Storybook Children” duet with Judy Clay, Atlantic Records, 1967.
2013 Grammy Win: Best Album Notes for the Ray Charles box set “Singular Genius: The Complete ABC Singles”. 1st solo hit: “With Pen In Hand”, Atlantic, 1968.
1st hit as a songwriter: “Mean Old World Ricky Nelson”, 1965. 1st #1 as a songwriter: “I Really Got The Feeling”, Dolly Parton, 1979.
1st Biggest selling song: At This Moment” thanks to Michael Buble’s CD “Crazy Love”, over eight million sold so far – and still going strong! 2nd Biggest selling song: “Papa Come Quick (Jody & Chico)” on Bonnie Raitt’s “Luck of the Draw” – over 5 million to date.
1st acting role: as Pinky Carruthers in “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai”
1st #1 as a record producer: Lou Rawls’s Grammy-nominated “At Last”
Star on Hollywood Walk of Fame near Capitol Records building. Peabody Award for Excellence in Radio Broadcasting.
*Noted music historian / has produced over 200 reissue albums.
Storybook Children / Billy Vera & Judy Clay (Atlantic)
With Pen In Hand / Billy Vera (Atlantic)
Out of the Darkness / Billy Vera (Midsong-material from this label reissued on Macola, 1987)
Billy & the Beaters (Alfa)
Billy Vera / Billy Vera (Alfa)
Mystic Sound of Billy Vera / Billy Vera (Mystic)
By Request / Billy Vera & the Beaters (Rhino)
Blind Date Soundtrack (3 songs) / Billy Vera & the Beaters (Rhino)
The Atlantic Years / Billy Vera / Billy Vera & Judy Clay (Rhino)
Retro Nuevo / Billy Vera & the Beaters (Capitol)
You Have To Cry Sometime / Billy Vera & Nona Hendryx (Shanachie)
Soul of R&B Review (3 songs) / Billy Vera (Shanchie)
Atlantic Material / Billy Vera & Judy Clay (Ichiban)
Oh, What a Nite / Billy Vera & the Beaters (Pool Party Records)
Not For Sale / Billy Vera (Chance)
Storybook Children / With Pen In Hand / Billy Vera & Judy Clay, Billy Vera (Collectables)
At This Moment: A Retrospective / Billy Vera & the Beaters (Varese-Sarabande)
Good Stuff / Billy Vera & the Beaters (Vera-Cruz Music)
Hopeless Romantic: The Best of Billy Vera & the Beaters (Shout! Factory)
Billy Vera Big Band Jazz (Varese Sarabande)
Timeless (Vera – Cruz Music)
January 1, 1962 – The Resolutions (Valentine 1001)
My Heart Cries / All My Love – Billy Vera & the Contrasts (Rust 5051)
You Can’t Have Everything / If I Could Have Your Love – Billy Vera (Flavor 105)
No Strings Attached / You Can’t Have Everything – Billy Vera (Flavor 107)
Shadow Of Your Love / Look Gently At The Rain – Blue-Eyed Soul (Cameo 401)
Somethin’ New / Tonight I Am A King – Blue-Eyed Soul (Cameo 423)
Storybook Children / Really Together – Billy Vera & Judy Clay (Atlantic 2445)
Country Girl-City Man / So Good (To Be Together) – Billy Vera & Judy Clay (Atlantic 2480)
When Do We Go / Ever Since – Billy Vera & Judy Clay (Atlantic 2515)
With Pen In Hand / Good Morning Blues – Billy Vera (Atlantic 2526)
I’ve Been Loving You Too Long / Are You Coming To My Party – Billy Vera (Atlantic 2555)
Julie / Time Doesn’t Matter Anymore – Billy Vera (Atlantic 2586)
The Bible Salesman / Are You Coming To My Party – Billy Vera (Atlantic 2628)
Reaching For The Moon / Tell It Like It Is – Billy Vera & Judy Clay (Atlantic 2654)
J.W.’s Dream / I’ve Never Been Loved (Like This Before) – Billy Vera (Atlantic 2700)
Little Darlin’ / The Imperial Gents Stomp – The Imperial Gents (Laurie 3540)
Number Wonderful – Silver Lining (Vanguard 35131)
Climb Your Tree / Big Legged Mama – Billy Vera & the Mighty Boogie All-Stars (Jive 100)
Big Chief / Hold On – Billy Vera (Orange 5002)
Back Door Man / Run And Tell The People – Billy Vera (Midland 10639)
Private Clown / Billy, Meet Your Son – Billy Vera (Midsong 10639)
Something Like Nothing Before / Billy Meet Your Son – Billy Vera (Midsong 11042)
She Ain’t Loni / I’ve Had Enough – Billy Vera (Midsong 72014)
I Can Take Care Of Myself / Corner Of The Night – Billy & the Beaters (Alfa 7002)
At This Moment / Someone Will School You – Billy & the Beaters (Alfa 7005)
Millie, Make Some Chili / Corner Of The Night – Billy & the Beaters (Alfa 7012)
We Got It All / You Own It – Billy Vera (Alfa 7020)
At This Moment / I Can Take Care Of Myself or Peanut Butter – Billy Vera & the Beaters (Rhino 74403)
I Can Take Care Of Myself / Peanut Butter – Billy Vera & the Beaters (Rhino 74404)
Let You Get Away / Anybody Seen Her?- Billy Vera & the Beaters (Rhino 74405)
Hopeless Romantic – Billy Vera (Rhino 74407)
I’ve Had Enough / My Girl Josephine – Billy Vera (Macola 981)
She Ain’t Johnnie / My Girl Josephine – Billy Vera (Macola 9812)
Between Like and Love / Heart Be Still – Billy Vera & the Beaters (Capitol 44149)
Ronnie’s Song / Heart Be Still – Billy Vera & the Beaters (Capitol 44200)
Enemies Like You And Me – Billy Vera & Ruth Pointer (Epic 08115)
Billy’s Acting Credits:
For further info, go to Billy’s listing on imdb.com.
A TIME FOR FEAR (2001)-Father Timothy
DANCING AT THE HARVEST MOON (TV)-2001-himself
KING OF QUEENS (1998) (Series)-sings theme
JOHNNY BRAVO (1996) (Cartoon series)-voice
COW & CHICKEN (1996) (Cartoon series)-voice
NAOMI & WYNONNA: LOVE CAN BUILD A BRIDGE (1995)-Pops
RISING SUN (1995) (TV)- Blind singer
AHH!!!REAL MONSTERS (1995) (Cartoon series)-voice: Slickis, recurring role
MONSTER MANIA (1995) (Cartoon series)-voice
BAYWATCH NIGHTS (1995) (Series)
DOUBLE RUSH (1994) (Series)-Mickey
BOY MEETS WORLD (1994) (Series)-Larry
RIDE WITH THE WIND (1993) (TV)-sings offscreen
BEVERLY HILLS, 90210 (1992) (Series)-Duke Weatherhill, recurring role
ANGEL CITY (1991) (TV pilot)-
KEEPER OF THE CITY (1991)-Cop
LATE FOR DINNER (1991)-Late night DJ
BAYWATCH (1991) (Series)-Steve Roye
ONLY YOU (1991)-Sings end title song
INTIMATE STRANGER (1991)-Ricardo
RAINBOW DRIVE (1990)-himself
THE DOORS (1990)-Miami promoter
MIDNIGHT CALLER (1989) (Series)-
SUMMER DREAMS: THE STORY OF THE BEACH BOYS (1989)-Sal
RAGIN’ CAJUN (1988)-himself
ALMOST GROWN (1988) (Series)-
DEAD SOLID PERFECT (1988) (TV)-Sings offscreen
DESPERATE FOR LOVE (1988) (TV)-High school teacher
FINISH LINE (1988) (TV)-The Doormouse
EMPTY NEST (1988) (Series)-Sings theme
WISE GUY (1987) (Series)-
BAJA OKLAHOMA (1987) (TV)-Lonnie Slocum
ROOMIES (1987) (Series)-Composed and sings theme
HARD COPY (1987) (Series)-
TONIGHT’S THE NIGHT (1986) (TV)-himself
THROB (1986) (Series)-
BLIND DATE (1986)-himself
SCARECROW & MRS. KING (1986) (Series)-
INSIDERS (1985) (Series)-Hit man
RITUALS (1985) (Series)-Recurring role
KNOTT’S LANDING (1985) (TV)-
ALICE (1984) (Series)-Cop
DAYS OF OUR LIVES (1984) (Series)-himself
THE ADVENTURES OF BUCKAROO BANZAI (1983)-Pinky Carruthers
Billy’s musical career spans the past four decades and many different musical genres, from R&B to Soul, from Country to Rock-n-roll. Often compared to the vocal stylings of the great blues singers, he remains one of the most respected and greatest vocalists of our time.
Billy Vera has literally done a lifetime of promos, trailers, voiceovers on all of your favorite commercials and networks (CBS, NBC, ABC and many others) and as well as been the voice for individual series: Cosby, George Lopez, Magic Johnson, Wheel of Fortune and others.
Here is just some of his work:
Other Brands he has worked with in alphabetical order:
7-Up, AAA, American Express, AAA, Blue Cross, California Lottery, Clorox, Coor’s Beer, DirecTV, Gateway Computers, Hamburger Hamlet, IMAX, Kellogg’s, Levi’s, Lincoln/Mercury, Mattel Hot Wheels, McKesson Water, Mercedes Benz, Mercury, Mervyn’s, Nissan, Nutra Sweet, Quizno’s, Radio Shack, Rent-a-Center , Roy Rogers Restaurants , Scrubbing Bubbles, Sizzler, Sparkletts, Sprint, T-Mobile, TV Guide, Wherehouse, Xerox
Billy Vera and the Beaters began in the early 1979. Not long after moving to Los Angeles to write songs for Warner Brothers Music, Billy Vera ran into his former bass player from New York, Chuck Fiore. Chuck had moved to LA two years earlier and had been playing around town with some good musicians from the local studio scene. He suggested that Billy drop by one of the clubs one night to sit in.
After renewing their old friendship, the boys found themselves commiserating about their lack of female companionship and figured out that both had “done well” in that department when they were in bands. “Why don’t we start a band… we can meet some girls!” became the rallying cry and the Beaters were born.
Billy Vera & the Beaters:
The Story of the Baddest Band on any stand.
It was decided that they model the group on the old Little Richard and Ray Charles 50’s bands, which included four horns. For a little spice, Billy thought to make it an ’80’s version of Bob Wills, not limiting itself to any one genre of music. To help bring this off, the early version of the Beaters included the steel guitar of Steve Fishell ( and later Jeff “Skunk” Baxter) to offset the R & B sound of the horns.
After several months of gigs at local beach clubs, the Beaters were asked to perform every Monday night at midnight at the world famous Troubadour in West Hollywood. “We took the worst night of the week, Monday at midnight, and purposely did no advertising. We wanted to create an underground buzz in the the hipster community, so that the opinion makers could discover us on their own,” says Vera. “We figured it would take around six weeks to see if they wanted what we had to offer.”
Apparently , they did. By the second week, the Hollywood cognoscenti were lined up at 11:30 outside the Troubadour to see what became, over the next year, the legendary Billy and the Beaters midnight shows.Soon every musician worth his salt was begging to join the band or at least sit in. “We didn’t want to be perceived as that kind of band – we wanted to be seen for what we were. Our own thing.” says Vera. Indeed, the only performer to ever join the Beaters on-stage at that time was Rickie Lee Jones. Vera explains his choice: “I sensed in her a kindred spirit. She was one of the few singers I’d seen who approached performance the way I did, from the inside out.” That year, 1980, was the year of the Knack and all those “new wave” bands. Record labels were signing any four-piece combo with skinny ties. Interestingly, after their rounds at the New Wave clubs, A&R men would inevitably wind up at the Troubadour to catch The Beaters’ set. “I’d see them out there tapping their feet and digging what we were doing, but nobody was reaching for his checkbook.” By the end of the year, “New Wave” had run its course and the record companies were looking for something new and different and the Beaters were nothing if not different. “Capitol and Polygram began sniffing around, sounding like they were about to make an offer, but I ultimately chose to go with Alfa because (A&R man) Lorne Saifer understood what I was trying to do, ” recalls Vera.
It was decided to record the band “live” because that’s where their excitement was best showcased. When a deal could not be cut with the Troubadour’s management, the Roxy on the famed Sunset Strip stepped in. For three nights, Wally Heider’s recording trucks captured the excitement of Hollywood’s favorite sons, playing to a packed house of fans who had come to see them every Monday night for a year. The resulting album, “Billy and the Beaters”, with its bold black and white graphic design, was an instant classic, begetting the hit single “I Can Take Care of Myself.” Meanwhile, Alfa’s owners in Japan were becoming increasingly dissatisfied with their American management and began to pull the plug, leaving Billy and the Beaters’ follow-up single, “At the Moment”, to flounder on the lower reaches of the charts. A second album, cut in the studio, was deemed unacceptable and remains in the vaults to this day. Billy’s old mentor from his Atlantic Records days, Jerry Wexler, was deputized to produce a Billy Vera solo album in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, combining several Beaters with Southern soul veterans of countless records by the likes of Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett.
By the time of that album’s release US Alfa was a sinking ship, unable to give the record more than perfunctory promotion and it sank with hardly a trace. For the next four years, Billy Vera and the Beaters played Southern California to loyal crowds, until one day came the golden phone call.__”This guy calls me and says he’d been to see the band over the weekend,” recalls Vera. “He’d heard us do a tune which he wanted to use on this show he was producing called Family Ties. The song, of course, was “At This Moment.”
After the first episode in which the song was used in the fall of 1985, Vera received a “bag full of mail” from NBC. The encouraged him to canvas major labels in hopes he’d be allowed to re-record it as a single. When he’d been turned down by virtually everyone, a meeting with Rhino Records chief Richard Foos, whom he knew socially, resulted in a commitment by the label to reissue a compilation of Billy Vera tunes of the most requested items from his two Alfa albums. Vera tells it from here: “By the time Rhino released the album we missed the summer reruns. Then Lady Luck stepped in and, in the first show of the 1986 season, “At This Moment” was used on the episode where Micheal J. Fox’s character loses his girlfriend. The story of the song: boy loses girl, matched the episode and, bang, America went nuts.”
In one of those rare instances of a true grass-roots uprising the public responded to the song and propelled it- without promotion or payola- to number one on the national sales charts. Concurrently the band had been working on a pair of movies, Blake Edwards’ “Blind Date”, starring Bruce Willis and Kim Basinger, and the ABC Movie of the Week, “Tonight’s the Night”. Director Bobby Roth recalled editing the film as “At this Moment” barreled up the charts. “I kept getting calls from the network brass, telling me to beef up Billy’s footage in the movie. By the time I was finished it looked like a Billy Vera video!”
The successs of “At this Moment” changed the lives of Billy and everyone in the band. One of Vera’s dreams, that of appearing on American Bandstand, finally came true, thirty years after he first watched the show. Dick Clark and his wife Carrie became staunch fans and supporters, including the Beaters on a number of Clark’s productions and utilizing Billy as a presenter on his American Music Awards. Many television and movie appearances followed, including one as a western-swing band in the film version of Dan Jenkins’ “Baja Oklahoma”, in which the Beaters back Willie Nelson and Billy was cast as the drunken ex-boyfriend of Leslie Ann Warren.
As free agents with a Number One record, calls began to pour in from record company presidents. Vera chose Capitol Records after a call from head honcho Joe Smith. Another old Atlantic Records pal, Tom Dowd, was hired to produce the album, “Retro-Nuevo”, which spawned a top 10 Adult Contemporary hit, “Between Like and Love.” The tune, along with Billy’s “Hopeless Romantic” from the Rhino album were used extensively on the NBC soap opera, “Days of Our Lives”.
Vera performed two other songs from the album “Poor Boys” and “Ronnie’s Song” in his featured role on the CBS series Wise Guy, which concluded with his character being reluctantly shot in the back by one of the show’s leads. Despite this exposure, the album failed to ignite and before too long, Billy Vera and the Beaters were back playing the Los Angeles area clubs, playing the music they love for their loyal following. From mid-1990 to early 1991, Billy and the band were tapped to be the house band on ABC’s venture into late night talk show field, “Into the Night”, starring Rick Dees. Our boys got to play with many musical legends, including Mel Torme, Merle Haggard, and had the honor of being conducted by composer Henry Manciini on his classic, “Peter Gunn Theme.”
In the years since, Billy Vera & the Beaters have continued to play sold out performances throughout Southern California with 80% of the original bandmembers. They’ve appeared occasionally in TV movies and performed the theme to the sitcom “King of Queens”. A track from their CD “Oh, What A Nite”, “Ronnie’s Song” was featured in the Paul Reiser / Peter Falk movie, “The Thing About My Folks”.
Billy Vera & the Beaters continue to play all over California.
A Dollop of Toothpaste is the fourth book by singer, actor, music historian Billy Vera and is his first novel. In it, he uses his years of experience in the often treacherous world of show business to tell the story of guitarist Johnny Santoro, his 98 year old uncle Nicky, head of the New Orleans Mafia, his best friend Pete and his young lover Paulette. Our story begins on the 20th anniversary of 9/11 and the destruction of a major US city by enemies unknown. Uncle Nicky sees this as an opportunity to bring the mob back to its rightful place in US politics and seeks help from Paulette’s 33rd degree Freemason father to seat a President of his choosing. This is a book filled with authenticity, from the music, the food, the dialects and in the locations rarely seen in other books. It is also about Love, of friends, of two unlikely lovers and the love of three very different families and how they converge.
Billy Vera’s Story is one of a great musician, storyteller, and friend. Known as the “musician’s musician – the singer’s singer – the song-writer’s songwriter” amongst his peers his life has been one of interesting and special partnerships and encounters with many of the Greats in the Business called Show. Featuring Dolly Parton, Dionne Warwick, Mike Stoller, Richard Roundtree, Joey Dee, Nona Hendryx, Chip Taylor, Larry Brown, and many more.
Agency for the Performing Arts
Sutton, Barth & Vennari