Lillie Bryant (born February 14, 1940, Newburgh, New York) is an American singer who was part of the pop vocal duo Billy & Lillie.
Born in Newburgh, NY, about an hour and a half from New York City, Lillie always loved music. Her initial public singing was in the church as a very young child. Her favourite singers were Dinah Washington, Ruth Brown and Nat "King" Cole. Her grandmother would frequently take her to New York City's legendary Apollo Theatre to see many of music's biggest performers. Young Lillie vowed to herself "one day I'm gonna be on that stage." And when she turned 14, she was on that stage! She appeared during an amateur night and did a rousing rendition of Ruth's signature song "(Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean" and tore the house down.
For the next few years she performed in New York City working at different clubs. When she was 17, a dancer at one of the clubs loved her singing and told her that a popular bandleader-arranger-musician-singer named Billy Ford was looking for a female vocalist to be part of his ensemble. Lillie followed up and a couple of months later, Billy invited her to come down and audition for him. On the day of the audition, it just so happened that the regular girl singer with his group did not show up due to illness. So Lillie turned out to be the only one there that afternoon.
Unbeknown to Lillie, two very successful producer-songwriters named Bob Crewe and Frank Slay were there to audition Billy's group, which was called Billy Ford's Thunderbirds. Frank and Bob happened to be looking for a duo to record a song that they had written called "La Dee Dah." Being that they were looking for a duo and the young lady who was usually with Billy was not there, they said pointing to Lillie "what does she sound like?" Billy said "I don't know! I was going to audition her after you leave." But Bob said "well, we'd like to hear her." They asked Lillie to sing and she chose the Ruth Brown song "(Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean."
After she sang, they opened up a briefcase and pulled out the sheet music of "La Dee Dah" and said "would the two of you please sing this song together"? Somewhat bewildered Billy and Lillie obliged and Bob and Frank loved what they heard. Following their impromptu performance, Frank and Bob looked at each other, nodded their heads and said in unison "we got our duo"! Lillie's scheduled audition for Billy Ford never happened. Instead her unscheduled audition for Bob and Frank did happen and Billy and Lillie passed with flying colours.
Billy & Lillie recorded for Swan Records in the late 1950s, and charted three hit singles in the United States, two of them written by the songwriter and record producer Bob Crewe, and producer Frank C. Slay, Jr. Crewe later became one of the most successful songwriters and producers in history.
The first single, "La Dee Dah" (written by Crewe), was the only one of them to hit the Top 10 on the Billboard chart, peaking at No. 9. It was released on Swan Records and sold over 1,000,000 copies and was awarded a gold disc. When they performed "La Dee Dah" for Dick Clark's American Bandstand, Clark liked their song so much that he asked the songwriters to write another song. Crewe and Slay came up with their third single release, "Lucky Ladybug". Most of their singles were released on London Records in the UK.
While releasing records as half of the Billy and Lillie duo, Lillie also released solo records which became regional hits. They included "Smoky Gray Eyes," "The Gambler," "I'll Never Be Free," and "Good Good Morning Baby."
Billy and Lillie broke up in 1959 but Lillie (who became Lillie Bryant Howard) never stopped singing. Her primary musical focus over the years has changed from catchy rock and roll tunes to jazz and blues. But she still performs the old Billy and Lillie hits including a critically-acclaimed brand new solo version of "La Dee Dah."
Ford died in 1983 (though some sources suggest 1985). Bryant returned to her hometown of Newburgh, New York, and became a community activist. She was the Democratic candidate for mayor of Newburgh in 2007. She lost the election to the Republican candidate by 150 votes.
Recently Lille was a featured principle, along with jazz vocalist Sheila Jordan, in the off-Broadway production of "The Beatnik Cafe." And she has also been doing a tribute to Dinah Washington since the fall of 2009 throughout upstate New York, Boston, and Pennsylvania in theatres and at private affairs.
(Info edited from Wikipedia & jerseygirlssing.com)