Album:One More Time: The Chess Years
Billy Stewart scored his only top ten pop hit with this scat influenced cover of the Gershwin standard Summertime. Sadly, Stewart died prematurely so he is mostly forgotten today. He was born Mar. 24, 1937 in Washington, DC. He started out singing with his mother's gospel group The Stewart Gospel Singers and also on local radio with his brothers as The 4 Stewart Brothers. Stewart was also a member of the doo wop group The Rainbows which also included future soul legends Don Covay and Marvin Gaye. In 1956, Bo Diddley spotted Stewart playing piano and he joined Diddley's band as a sideman. He moved to Chicago. Eventually Chess Records producer Billy Davis figured out that Stewart could be a star as a singer. After modest success with singles like Fat Boy, Reap What You Sow, I Do Love You and Sitting In The Park, Stewart recorded the 1966 album Unbelievable. It was his second album for Chess. Summertime was the first single from the album and it reached #10 on the Billboard Hot 100. It would turn out to be Stewart's biggest hit. He continued to record with modest chart success. You can get all of Stewart's hits on this budget comp. Stewart died on Jan. 17, 1970 at age 32 when he was crossing a bridge over the Neuse River in North Carolina and his car went out of control and plunged into the river. All four in the car died. Stewart had just bought the Ford Thunderbird a week before the accident. His widow sued Ford claiming mechanical failure. The suit was settled out of court. Stewart was already having diabetes problems due to his weight. But it's still sad to see a talented guy die prematurely. Here's Billy Stewart performing Summertime 1966.