#7 R&B , #10 Pop
Washington D.C. native Billy Stewart was performing his unique rendition of “Summertime” composed by George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin and DuBose Heyward for the 1935 opera”Porgy and Bess, “ long before he recorded it as a hit record during his short yet illustrious solo career.
Stewart won a local talent contest with “Summertime,” so he always had the vocal chops honed in his Mother’s Gospel Group “The Stewart Gospel Singers.” But Bo-Diddly hired Stewart as a pianist for his backing band while passing through DC.
Eventually, Stewart became a solo artist for Bo’s label Chess, moved to Okey and then back to Chess again when his solo career finally took off in 1962. While at Chess this time he finally recorded his rendition of “Summertime.”
“Summertime” has been covered literally thousands of times, but to my mind this version is the ultimate!
Growing up, every kid on my street tried to emulate Billy’s riffing and scatting. We couldn’t do it but it was really fun trying to imitate his sound on a hot summer day while his music played on my orange transistor radio playing while outside on the front porch. I can recall this quite vividly: Billy was a big favorite here in the Maryland suburbs of Washington D.C.
Stewart never made it as big as fellow local singer Marvin Gaye — but neither of these local talents should be forgotten IMHO for their massive contribution to popular music.
There will surely be more Billy Stewart during the tenure of the OSML Blog.
R.I.P “Fat Boy.” We miss you much.