Billy Vaughn

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Vaughn with Gale Storm on The Gale Storm Show in 1958. He and Storm collaborated to write a song, "You're My Baby Doll", which they performed on the show.

William Richard "Billy" Vaughn (April 12, 1919 – September 26, 1991) was an American singer, multi-instrumentalist, orchestra leader, and A&R man for Dot Records.[1]


He was born in Glasgow, Kentucky, where his father was a barber who loved music and inspired Billy to teach himself to play the mandolin at the age of three, while suffering from measles. He went on to learn a number of other instruments.

In 1941 Vaughn joined the United States National Guard for what had been planned as a one-year assignment, but when World War II broke out, he was sent abroad till the war ended in 1945. He decided to make music a career when he was discharged from the army at the end of the war, and attended Western Kentucky State College, now known as Western Kentucky University, majoring in music composition. He had apparently learned barbering from his father, because he did some while studying at Western Kentucky to support himself financially, when he was not able to get jobs playing the piano at local night clubs and lounges. While he was a student there, three other students, Jimmy Sacca, Donald McGuire, and Seymour Spiegelman, who had formed a vocal trio, the Hilltoppers, recruited Vaughn to play the piano with them. He soon added his voice to theirs, converting the trio to a quartet. As a member of the group, he also wrote their first hit song, "Trying," which charted in 1952.

In 1954 he left the group to join Dot Records in Gallatin, Tennessee, as music director. He subsequently formed his own orchestra, based on the sound of two alto saxophones, which had a hit single in that same year with "Melody of Love." It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.[2] He went on to have many more hits over the next decade and a half, and based purely on chart successes, was the most successful orchestra leader of the rock era.

Vaughn charted a total of 42 singles on the Billboard charts. He also charted thirty six albums on the Billboard 200, beginning with 1958's Sail Along Sil'vry Moon and ending with 1970's Winter World of Love. He also had nineteen Top 40 hits in Germany, beginning with the chart-topping "Sail Along Sil'vry Moon", also a Gold record, which was a cover of a 1937 Bing Crosby hit. He had two more number ones in Germany: "La Paloma" and "Wheels" (all three were reportedly million sellers). Billy Vaughn's recording of Wheels was No. 1 for 14 weeks in Germany (Hit Bilanz) as well as No. 1 in India, New Zealand and Italy (Billboard hits of the world, various issues 1961). Vaughn also charted in Australia, Latin America and Japan. "Pearly Shells" was a major success in Japan. Vaughn's tours of that country began about the time "Pearly Shells" was a hit in 1965. Many songs which were not US hits or even singles releases there, were major hits in other countries. These included "Lili Marlene", "zwei Gitarren am Meer", "Blueberry Hill (Germany) and "Greenfields". "Song of Peace", "It's a Lonesome Old Town" (Japan), "Michelle" No 1 in Argentina and Malaysia, "Mexico" No. 1 in the Philippines and "Bonanza" a major success in Brazil and Italy (Billboard Hits of the World, 1960s) plus "Theme from the Dark at the Top of the Stairs" (various Latin American countries). The album La Paloma was a success throughout Latin America. He also had a number one album in Germany in the early 1980s with Moonlight Melodies, which consisted of 20 of Billy's biggest hits (original Dot recordings, original LP notes and credits). The Billy Vaughn Orchestra began touring in 1965 with numerous sell-out tours throughout Japan, Brazil, and Korea.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Vaughn lived Palm Springs, California.[3] He died of peritoneal mesothelioma at Palomar Hospital in Escondido, California, on September 26, 1991, aged 72. He and his wife Marion are buried at the Oak Hill Memorial Park in Escondido.[4]



Year Title Chart positions
1952 "Melodies in Gold"
"Billy Vaughn Plays the Million Sellers"
"La Paloma"
1959 "Golden Saxophones"
"Billy Vaughn Plays" 20
"Blue Hawaii" 7
"Big 100"
"Billy Vaughn Plays Stephen Foster"
1960 " Linger Awhile' "
"Billy Vaughn Plays The Million Sellers" 15
"Golden Saxophones" 36
"Look For A Star" 5
"Sail Along Silv'ry Moon" 5
"Theme from A Summer Place" 1
1961 "Golden Waltzes" 17
"Orange Blossom Special and Wheels" 11
"Theme from The Sundowners" 5
1962 "A Swingin' Safari" 10
"The Shifting Whispering Sands"
"Berlin Melody" 20
"Chapel By The Sea" 14
"Christmas Carols" 145
"Greatest String Band Hits" 18
1963 "1962's Greatest Hits" 17
"Number 1 Hits, Vol. #1" 94
"Sukiyaki and 11 Hawaiian Hits" 15
1964 "Another Hit Album!" 141
"Blue Velvet & 1963's Great Hits" 51
"Forever" 144
1965 "Mexican Pearls" 45
"Moon Over Naples" 31
"Pearly Shells" 18
1965 "Great Country Hits" 149
"Michelle" 56
1967 "Body & Soul"
"Alfie" 44
"Golden Hits/The Best Of Billy Vaughn" 159
"I Love You" 161
"Josephine" 147
"Ode To Billy Joe" 200
"Sweet Maria" 114
"That's Life & Pineapple Market" 130
1968 "Alone With Today"
"Have Yourself A Merry, Merry Christmas"
"A Current Set Of Standards" 198
1969 "The Windmills Of Your Mind" 95
1970 "Winter World Of Love" 188
1991 "Plays the Music You Remember"


Year Title Chart positions
1954 "Melody of Love" 2 1
1955 "Silver Moon" 24
"The Waltz You Saved For Me" 50
"The Shifting, Whispering Sands" 5 5 20
1956 "Blue Tango"
"Moritat (Mack the Knife)"[note 1] 37
"Little Boy Blue" 76
"Theme from the Threepenny Opera"[note 1] 12
"When the White Lilacs Bloom Again" 18 16
"Petticoats of Portugal" 83
1957 "Ship That Never Sailed" 95 41
"Raunchy" 10 25
"Sail Along Silvery Moon" 5 4
1958 "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" 30 30
"Trying" 77
"Singing Hills" 56 60
"La Paloma" 20 27
"Cimarron" 44 36
"Blue Hawaii" 37 33
1959 "Hawaiian War Chant" 89 51
"Trade Winds" 52
"Your Cheatin' Heart" 82 74
"Lights Out" 100
"Blues Stay Away From Me" 82
"All Nite Long" 102 94
"(It's No) Sin" 105 96
"After Hours" tag
1960 "Beg Your Pardon" 98
"Skaters' Waltz" tag
"You're the Only Star (In My Blue Heaven)" 110 118
"Chopsticks" 103 tag
"Dutchman's Gold"(with Walter Brennan) 30
"Look for a Star" 19 13
"Old Cape Cod" 111
"Theme from the Sundowners" 51 38
"Old Cape Cod" 102
1961 "Wheels" 28 111
"Orange Blossom Special" 63 100
"Blue Tomorrow" 84 60
"Red Wing" 112
"Berlin Melody" 61 55 16
"Theme from Come September" 73 55 18
"Everybody's Twisting Down In Mexico" 119 124
1962 "Chapel by the Sea" 69 107 13
"One Love, One Heartache" 112
"A Swingin' Safari" 13 11 5
"Blue Flame" 107 123
"Someone" 115 tag
1963 "Happy Cowboy" 131 131
1964 "Blue Velvet"
1965 "Pearly Shells (Popo O Ewa)" 120
"Mexican Pearls" 94 79 23
1966 "Michelle" 77 61 17
"Tiny Bubbles" 131
1967 "Sweet Maria" 105 82 6
"Pineapple Market" 30
"I Love You (And You Love Me)" 4
1972 "Come Saturday Morning"
"Airport Love Theme"
  1. 1.0 1.1 "Mack the Knife" and "Theme From The Threepenny Opera" are essentially the same song. The difference is that "Mack" was released in the US while "Theme ..." was a UK only release. See Mack the Knife for further information on the evolution of this song.


  1. T-Z – University of North Texas Libraries
  2. Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 77. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  4. Billy Vaughn at Find a Grave

External links