HANDOUT - Photo of Billy Stewart, CIRCA 1970.
(Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Billy Stewart: Age 33 | Cause Of Death: CAR CRASH

Billy Stewart

(Born: Mar 24, 1937 in Washington, D.C., Died: Jan 17, 1970 in Neuse River, NC)

Billy Stewart was one of the most distinctive vocal stylists of the ’60s. His stuttering, word-doubling attack owed more to jazz scat singing than to the gospel influences of many of his peers. A jovial, rotund piano player who toured with Bo Diddley and, through him, gained entry to Chess Records, Stewart scored biggest in 1966 with a smash Top Ten version of George Gershwin and Dubose Heyward’s “Summertime,” an atypically (for Chess) big-band arrangement (featuring Earth, Wind & Fire’s Maurice White on drums) with Stewart in a vocal tour de force, masterfully scatting around, stuttering through, and generally turning the melody inside out. It was not your typical ’60s soul music, but Stewart’s success opened the door for other jazz-influenced singers like Georgie Fame to gain a place on radio playlists of the day. Stewart died tragically at age 33 in a 1970 auto accident.  — Christine Ohlman, All-Music Guide Billy Stewart’s Band — Experiencing brake problems, the new car in which Stewart and the group were riding struck a bridge abutment and plunged into a river. ~ www.musicsales.uk.co

From Rashe Rich: “i was reading an article regarding the death of billy stewart.. while most of what is written is correct, the cause of the fatal crash isn’t. it wasnt brake failure, it was the tie rod that failed, causing billy to lose control of the car, and causing the car to veer to the left hitting the bridge abutmant, and plunging into the neuss river, killing all 4 men. william cathy, and rico hightower in the back, billy driving, and norman rich….my father, in the front.”