Billy Stewart was a Washington DC musical talent who backed Bo Diddley in the 1950s during Diddley’s Chess years. Stewart would get the chance to make his own recordings on Chess in the early 1960s when the label hired a new A&R person, Roquel Davis.
Rick Simmons in Carolina Beach Music: The Classic Years writes this about Stewart’s first 45 from 1962:
His first recording was “Reap What You Sow” which went to #18 on the R&B charts and #79 on the Billboard Hot 100 … Perhaps more importantly the flip side of the record was a song [Roquel] Davis had asked Stewart to write and record based on his nickname ‘Fat Boy.’ Though ‘Fat Boy‘ did not chart, it got a fair amount of airplay and would become Stewart’s signature song”:
Billy Stewart (1962)
Stewart was twelve years old when he began singing with his younger brothers Johnny, James, and Frank as The Four Stewart Brothers, according to Soulwalking, who went on to host their own radio show every Sunday at Washington, DC’s WUST Radio Music Hall for five years.
WUST is the present-day venerated music venue, 9:30 Club. In the 1940s, this same building – incredibly enough – was a music club named for its co-owner, Duke Ellington (click on link to Washington Post piece).
Musical Architectural History
9:30 Club (pre-2015)
WUST Radio Music Hall
[photo credit: DC Public Library]
Howard University’s WHUT-TV broadcast a new documentary “Fat Boy: The Billy Stewart Story” by filmmaker Beverly Lindsay-Johnson. as reported by The Washington Post‘s John Kelly in his January 3, 2021 column.
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One Small Detail Dept:
Billy Stewart’s King Records Connection
I’m just as stunned as you are that the King Records vault — according to The King Labels: A Discography compiled by Michel Ruppli (with assistance from Bill Daniels) — includes an unreleased version of “Fat Boy”!