Richard "Billy" Vaughn (April 12, 1919 - September 26, 1991) was a singer, multi-instrumentalist, and orchestra leader.
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 age 3, while suffering a case of the 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, which had a big hit in that same year with "Melody of Love." 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 all time.
The Billy Vaughn Orchestra began touring in 1965 with numerous sell-out tours throughout Japan, Brazil, and Korea.
Vaughn died of mesothelioma at Palomar Hospital in Escondido, California on September 26, 1991 - he was 72 years old.
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