Billy Bland is a songwriter and R&B recording artist who had one very big pop hit, and several smaller ones, in the early 60's.
William Bland was born in Wilmington, North Carolina in 1932, the youngest of nineteen children. He started his singing career in the South and went to New York City in 1947, where he performed with Buddy Johnson and Lionel Hampton as a teenager. He started his own group known as the Four Bees. In 1954 record producer Dave Bartholomew signed the group to a recording contract and brought them to New Orleans, where they had a regional hit with Toy Bell on Imperial Records. (Toy Bell eventually became My Ding-a-Ling, the only #1 single for Chuck Berry.) Bartholomew would go on to produce all of Fats Domino's big hits.
In 1955 Billy Bland signed as a solo act with Old Town Records in New York City. He had a few regional hits, most notably Chicken Hop. Carl Spencer & The Videos had recorded a song titled Let The Little Girl Dance on the Manhattan Records label in 1956. Three years later Billy Bland heard it for the first time when it was recorded at Old Town by Titus Turner. A catchy song with a snappy beat, Bland took some tips from Turner and used mostly the same arrangement, although the lyrics were changed slightly. Without the knowledge of Bland, record producer Henry Glover recorded the late-1959 session at Old Town, which included noted guitarist Mickey Baker playing background to the lead vocal by Billy Bland. The following March Bland's Let The Little Girl Dance entered the pop top forty where it went to number seven. Writing credits for the top ten hit went to Henry Glover and Carl Spencer.
Bland -- not related to singer Bobby Bland -- continued recording for Old Town, coming up with two minor hits that barely reached the top 100 later in 1960, Harmony and You Were Born to Be Loved, and another the following year with My Heart's On Fire. He stayed with the label until 1963 and then left the music business for good. He later opened a restaurant in Harlem.
Billy Bland made one very large contribution to the world of pop music in the 1960's, a very good recording of a very good song, Let The Little Girl Dance.
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