The Real Billy Vera Story:
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. He debuted the Big Band at the Syracuse Jazzfest in Summer 2012 and showcased the Big Band at Hollywood’s famed Catalina Jazz Club in November 2012, to an enthusiastic sold-out crowd. The album is now available for digital downloads and is currently in stores.