|Date of Birth||12 April 1919, Glasgow, Kentucky, USA|
|Date of Death||26 September 1991, Escondido, California, USA (cancer)|
Mini Bio (1)
Composer/bandleader Billy Vaughn (born Richard Vaughn) was born in Glasgow, Kentucky. His father, a barber, was a music lover and that trait passed on to Billy--he taught himself to play the mandolin at age three. Over the years he learned to play a variety of other musical instruments.
In 1941 Vaughn enlisted in the Army National Guard for a one-year hitch, but when the US entered World War II on December 7 of that year, his tour was extended "for the duration". At war's end in 1945 he decided to become a professional musician and enrolled at Western Kentucky Stage College, where he majored in music composition. While a student there he was recruited by three other students, who had formed a vocal trio, to accompany them on the piano. He eventually began to sing with them as well as play, and in 1952 the group--calling themselves The Hilltoppers--recorded a song, "Trying" (which Vaughn wrote), that made it onto the pop charts. Vaughn left the group two years later when he was hired by Dot Records as the label's music director. In addition, he put together his own orchestra and began recording, and later in 1954 his group had a hit with the million-selling "Melody of Love".
Vaughn and his orchestra had more than 40 singles make it onto the Billboard charts--his best-known probably being "A Swingin' Safari", written by Bert Kaempfert, which made it to the #13 spot in 1962--in addition to 36 albums charting on the Billboard 200. He was also extremely popular in Germany, with several million-selling singles--his 1961 single "Wheels" stayed at the #1 spot for 14 weeks there, in addition to hitting the #1 spot in several other European countries and even in India. He became a worldwide phenomenon, with huge sales in countries as varied as New Zealand, Japan and Brazil--many of the hits he had in those countries weren't even released in the US. In addition to his recording successes, Vaughn and his orchestra embarked on several concert tours in Europe and Asia, beginning in 1965, with many of them performed before sell-out crowds.
Billy Vaughn died of peritoneal mesothelioma in Escondido, California, in 1991. He was 72.
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