Billy Davis, Jr. has been a part of contemporary music history since 1967. He is a consummate artist whose creative vocal styling inspired a generation. He has been called a “great soul singer” by audiences as diverse as music critics, Maurice White (founder of Earth, Wind and Fire, Eddie Levert (lead singer of the O’Jays), and multi-Grammy award winning songwriter/producer Jimmy Webb.
Billy remembers, “One day Jimmy called me when he was in the studio and asked me to come down and sing a note for him. He told me, ‘I have to have this note sung by a male voice and you’re the only one who can hit that high note and give me what I want.’ So I did it.”
Billy’s vocal talents have garnered 15 gold records, 3 platinum records and 7 Grammy awards. When he sang with The 5th Dimension, the group won six Grammys. With his wife Marilyn McCoo, Billy won his seventh Grammy (Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo) for You Don’t Have To Be a Star (To Be In My Show). The single was a #1 hit, a certified RIAA Gold million seller, and boosted their debut album, I Hope We Get To Love In Time, onto the charts and RIAA Gold status as well.
Most recently, Billy and his wife, Marilyn, have celebrated 38 years of marriage and have written a book about their lives. It is entitled, UP, UP & AWAY: HOW WE FOUND LOVE, FAITH AND LASTING MARRIAGE IN THE ENTERTAINMENT WORLD. In it, they share their performing experiences along with the accompanying struggles they’ve faced as husband and wife in their demanding business. They offer words of wisdom for couples dealing with challenges in their relationships. The book was co-written with Mike Yorkey. Also, in recognition of 40 years in the music business, they are currently presenting a special musical tribute to the hits and productions that have made up their multi-faceted careers.
Billy grew up in St. Louis, MO, and began performing professionally at age eleven. He first formed a vocal group called The Emeralds which evolved into the Saint Gospel Singers and toured the Midwest for five years during the summer months. The experience paved the way for Billy to one day join with Lamonte McLemore, Ron Townson, Florence LaRue and Marilyn McCoo in a group called, The Versatiles.
After one single, The Versatiles became The 5th Dimension, signed with Johnny Rivers’ Soul City Music and music history was made. Reigning over record charts throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s, The 5th Dimension’s success is legendary. The group’s unique blend of “Champagne Soul” placed a staggering thirty songs on the pop charts in a mere eight years. Their classics include such hits as: Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In, One Less Bell to Answer, The Worst That Could Happen, Up Up And Away, Wedding Bell Blues, Stoned Soul Picnic and Sweet Blindness. It was Billy’s vision to create vocal ad-libs on The Fifth Dimension’s biggest selling record, Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In. This recording has been described as one of the defining moments of the late ’60′s/early ’70′s music scene. In fact, this recording is often used to define the ’60′s era.
After a decade with The 5th Dimension, Billy Davis, Jr. and Marilyn McCoo decided to leave the group and establish themselves as a duo. They had immediate success with the single, You Don’t Have To Be A Star (To Be In My Show). It was a #1 hit and earned them a Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo, their 7th. Impressed network executives rewarded them with their own television show, “The Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr. Show.” The prime time series on CBS-TV premiered in 1977 and led the couple into the 1980s as one of America’s most successful and popular acts. They headlined in Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe and Atlantic City, played to sold out engagements in Europe and Japan and won the prestigious Grand Prize at the Tokyo Music Festival.
When Marilyn began hosting television’s “Solid Gold,” Davis went solo. It gave him a chance to fulfill a lifelong ambition to record a gospel album. The 1982 record with Rev. James Cleveland marked what many fans and colleagues assumed was a musical career change, but Davis followed up that project with a guest appearance on a jazz/pop album by the highly respected Scott Scheer.
Acting also became an increasingly important part of Billy’s substantial repertoire. He starred in the hit musical, Blues in the Night, at the prestigious Old Globe Theatre. In the role of James “Thunder” Early, he also starred in the North Carolina Theatre production of Dreamgirls. Kay McLain, of the Durham Herald-Sun, wrote, “Davis made an endearing character of Early…give him a microphone and the spotlight and he’s a pro.” In his later guest appearances on the WB’s “Jamie Foxx Show,” he and Marilyn played the affluent parents of Jamie’s girlfriend, Fancy. Over the years, Billy has made frequent appearances on most of the national morning and night time talk and variety shows.
A favorite of President and Mrs. George Bush, Sr., Billy and Marilyn were invited to perform at one of their Inaugural Gala Balls. They were requested by the Bushes to perform again at the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony at The White House. When the Pope came to the United States in 1987, Billy and Marilyn were asked to sing for the Pontiff.
In the early 90′s Billy and Marilyn joined the original members of The 5th Dimension for a successful “special reunion” tour. In August of 1991, Billy, along with the other members of The Original 5th Dimension, was honored with a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. Many of their songs have reappeared with the recent popularity of movie soundtracks. For example, Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In was a featured song in the Academy Award winning film Forrest Gump. The remixed version for the film was released and went to #1 on the dance charts. In 1997 Arista Records celebrated Billy’s accomplishments with The Original 5th Dimension on the release of a 36 song anthology CD, Up-Up and Away: The Definitive Collection.
TELEVISION & ACTING APPEARANCES
“Dream Girls” – North Carolina Music Theatre
“Blues in the Night” – Old Globe Theatre/San Diego
Lou Rawls Parade of Stars
Children’s Miracle Network Telethon
The Love Boat
The Jamie Fox Show
Love American Style
It Takes a ThiefOTHER TELEVISION APPEARANCES
Praise the Lord (TBN)
The Arsenio Hall Show (FOX)
The Today Show (NBC)
Good Morning America (ABC)
The Tonight Show (NBC)
The Mike Douglas Show
The Merv Griffin Show
The John Davidson Show
The 1989 Inaugural Ball
The 2001 Inaugural Ball
The 1989 Papal Visit
The Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis, Jr. Show
The Sonny & Cher Show
American Music Awards
The Grammy Awards
Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Telethon
CHRISTIAN TELEVISION APPEARANCES
The Hour of Power/The Crystal Cathedral
The 700 Club
Praise the Lord (TBN)