Billy Reid

A popular English composer and lyricist in the '40s.
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Artist Biography

b. William Gordon Reid, 19 September 1902, Southampton, Hampshire, England, d. 12 December 1974, Southampton, Hampshire, England. A popular composer and lyricist in the 40s, Reid was a self-taught pianist who also played the piano accordion in the band which featured on the Stars Of Luxembourg radio show in the mid-30s. Reid also ran a tango band with violinist Eugene Pini, and in 1938 successfully auditioned a young singer, Dorothy Squires, who subsequently recorded most of his songs. Together they formed one the UK’s most popular double acts from the mid-40s to 1951, when Squires went on to concentrate on her solo career. In the late 30s his first song was published: the Irish influenced ‘When The Rose Of Tralee Met Danny Boy’. In the early 40s Reid wrote ‘Out Of The Blue’, which was often played by the wartime bands of the Royal Air Force, the Squadronaires and Paul Fenoulhet’s band, the Skyrockets. In 1945 he had his first big hit with ‘The Gypsy’. Dorothy Squires’ recording was successful in the UK, and the Ink Spots’ version went to number 1 in the USA, the first time a British song had reached that top spot, and sold over a million copies. It is generally regarded as his best-known number, with estimated total record sales of over 10 million, and was one of the songs selected by Frank Sinatra in 1962 for inclusion on his Great Songs From Great Britain. The late 40s was Reid’s most prolific period, with songs such as ‘I’ll Close My Eyes’, ‘Coming Home’, ‘It’s A Pity To Say Goodnight’ (recorded by Ella Fitzgerald and June Christy), ‘When China Boy Meets China Girl’, ‘Danger Ahead! (Beware)’, ‘My First Love, My Last Love For Always’, ‘This Is My Mother’s Day’, ‘Anything I Dream Is Possible’, ‘Reflections On The Water’, ‘Too-Whit! Too-Whoo!’ and ‘Snowy White Snow And Jingle Bells’. In 1948, Margaret Whiting, daughter of songwriter Richard Whiting, had a US number 1 and a million-seller with Reid’s ‘A Tree In The Meadow (I Love You Till I Die)’. Although his songs were extremely popular in Britain - David Whitfield made the UK Top 10 in 1953 with ‘Bridge Of Sighs’ - it seemed that the US versions of his songs gave Reid his biggest hits. In that same year, Eddie Fisher’s record of ‘I’m Walking Behind You’ spent seven weeks at the top of the US chart, and sold a million copies. Frank Sinatra also sang it on his first single released to launch an impressive career with Capitol Records. In spite of receiving substantial royalties from his songs, Reid was declared bankrupt in 1956, and that, coupled with the threatening rock ‘n’ roll revolution, persuaded him to retire from the music scene. Ironically, one of Reid’s earliest numbers, ‘I’ll Close My Eyes’, was sung by Joan Regan in Six-Five Special, the 1958 movie version of one of BBC television’s first attempts to reflect the changing face of popular music in the 50s. Shortly after Reid died in 1974, Dorothy Squires presented a concert at the London Palladium as a tribute to her former partner.