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Billy Vaughn was among the most successful instrumental artists of the 1950s, a man who never heard a song he didn't cover.
Like Les Baxter, Vaughn started as a vocalist, leading a group called the Hilltoppers, and had a string of hits throughout the 1950s. The most famous of these was a cover of Terry Gilkyson's "Marianne" in 1957. In the mid 1950s, Vaughn became musical director of Dot Records, which specialized in cover records. He led the syrupy orchestra behind such white-bread covers of original black R&B hits as the Fontane Sister's "Hearts of Stone" (first done by the Charms) and Gale Storm's "I Hear You Knocking" (written by Dave Bartholomew, recorded by Smiley Lewis, made a hit by Fats Domino).
Between 1954 and 1968, Vaughn recorded over 25 albums of covers instrumentals for Dot. Several of his recordings outsold the originals, among them "The Shifting, Whispering Sands" (first done by Rusty Draper) and "Melody of Love" (a cover of a French hit, "Melodie d'Amour"). He also released an EP featuring a version of "Shifting, Whispering Sands" with narration by Ken Nordine.
Vaughn did many of his own arrangements, but during the 1960s, he began to rely on other Dot house arrangers such as Milt Rogers, as well as freelancers Jimmie Haskell, Jack Pleis, and Jerry Gray. Like Dot's other leading band leader and cover factory, Lawrence Welk, Vaughn tended to have a consistent, predictable sound, a little heavier on the sax section than Welk. Yet both Vaughn and Welk occasionally let a distinctive cut slip through. That's Life, for example, includes enjoyably hokey now sound covers of "Music to Watch Girls By" and the lesser-known "Pineapple Market."
As Vaughn's popularity faded in the US, it grew in Germany and Japan, and he took bands on tours of each country several times.
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