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.