Billy Ford was in his thirties and already a veteran of the music business as a trumpeter and singer when he teamed up with teenager Lillie Bryant in the late 1950s. He’d had a couple of underwhelming records of his own, but when he latched onto young Lillie it turned out to be a good move. In fact, the duo’s 1957 million-seller “La Dee Dah” impressed Dick Clark so much that he not only featured it on American Bandstand, but also encouraged the song’s writers to compose a follow-up that became the pair’s next hit.
Both performers were from the New York area — Lillie from nearby Newburg and Billy from New Jersey — and they found their hit song in the big city when record producers Bob Crewe and Frank Slay teamed up to cobble together “La Dee Dah.” Both would write a lot of other hit songs for various stars, but it was this song that seemed to really click for Billy and Lillie.
After “La Dee Dah” became a big hit and was featured on American Bandstand, Dick Clark was so enthusiastic about it that he urged Crewe and Slay to work up another good song for the duo. The result was “Lucky Ladybug,” a bouncy little tune that did very well, although it fell a little short of the twosome’s first hit. The Four Seasons would later do a version of the song, and its composers would work with that group often in coming years, but Billy and Lillie sort of wound down after that.
There’s not a lot of information around about Billy’s activities in later years, but he was a talented guy and probably worked in and around music. He died at age 59 in 1985. As for Lillie, she has spent many years as an activist in a number of worthy causes and even ran for mayor of her home town at one point. At last word she was also entertaining fans from time to time.
Billy & Lillie – “Lucky Ladybug”
6 thoughts on “Billy & Lillie Rocked Dick Clark”
Nice write up. Did ya count how many song titles were in La De Dah? You got the two most important songs mentioned, BUT you didn’t mention one of their best “Aloysius Hoartio Thomas, The Cat” …I’m sending it to you. Thanks for the nice write up. A pleasure to read.
Thanks for the original idea.
It’s so nice to be remembered. I can’t believe that it’s been almost 57 years ago since Billy & I recorded La Dee Dah.. It was some kind of an experience for me because I was only 17 at the time. Thanks for the memories and I thank God that I’m still in the land of the living for so many of my friends have passed on. I’m still here and I’m still singing.
All your many fans on the GMC will be happy to read your comment, Lillie. Thanks for writing.
PS They’ll also be happy to see that they can click on your name and go to your website.
Keep singing Lillie Bryant-Howard. Love the music. My high school band director Dave Kiepert played in the Dick Jurgens band sometime between 1954 and 1970 🙂
Rosemarie, Thanks for your very kind words. Send me your email address and I will send you the interviews that I’ve been doing lately. I believe that you will find them to be quite interesting.