The Doo-Wop Music of Billy and Lillie

Introduction to Billy & Lillie

Billy and Lillie were a New York doo-wop/pop vocal duo who consisted of Billy Ford and Lillie Bryant. In their short career they made a handful of pop hits during the late 50s music era, including their biggest hit “Lah Dee Dah,” a top 10 placer in the 1958. They followed this with other minor hits such as “Happiness,” “Lucky Ladybug,” and “Bells, Bells, Bells.” A bit more on Billy & Lillie here in this article.

Early lives of the members

Billy & Lillie are a now-defunct doo-wop/pop vocal duo from New York, comprising of Billy Ford (born in Bloomfield, New Jersey on March 9, 1925) and Lillie Bryant (born in Newburg, New York on February 14, 1940).

Ford, a trumpet player, began his career during the early 1940s. He also became a recording artist who waxed a couple of little-known singles. He also went on to form his own backing band, The Thunderbirds.

Bryant, meanwhile, was only in her teens when she started her singing career. She performed at the prestigious and legendary Apollo Theater in New York. From then on she went on to perform at several local clubs.

Formation of Billy & Lillie

One particular day in 1957, Billy Ford and The Thunderbirds auditioned for XYZ Productions (or XYZ label), a New York entertainment outift which was owned by songwriters/producers Frank Slay and Bob Crewe. In the same audition, Ford had the young singer Bryant to test her out as a replacement of one of the Thunderbird’s singers.

Crewe, seeing the potential from Ford and Bryant, set them up instead as a singing duo to cash in on the success and popularity of other duos during the era like Mickey & Sylvia.

Billy & Lillie’s hits

Crewe and Slay wrote all of Billy & Lillie’s hit singles. The duo’s first single “Lah Dee Dah,” issued on Swan Records, became a certified crossover hit. It peaked on both the Billboard pop and R&B charts in 1958, at #9 and #6 respectively. The single sold over a million copies and was given a gold disc. The success of the single enabled Billy & Lillie to appear on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, where of course the duo performed their only major hit single. In fact, the song was a personal favorite of Clark himself; he even asked Crewe and Slay to come up with more songs for the Billy & Lillie.

The duo went on to have several minor hits — “Happiness” (#56 pop), “Lucky Ladybug” (#14 pop) and “Bells, Bells, Bells” (#88 pop) — before disbanding in 1959. Nonetheless, Billy and Lillie’s tunes are the kind of oldies music that we can always look back for their cheerful nature

After Billy & Lillie, and the duo’s legacy

Ford died at the age of 59 in 1985.

Bryant chose a political/activist career. A Democrat, Bryant sought a mayoral seat in her hometown in Newburgh, New York in 2007, but lost to her rival Republican candidate by just a very slim margin. She still performs the Billy & Lillie hits up to the present, whenever the occasion calls.

“Lah Dee Dah” was covered by the Scottish teen idol Jackie Dennis (also known as the “Britain’s Ricky Nelson”), while “Lucky Ladybug” was given a new rendition by The Four Seasons.