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Traveler of the year

Talking Travel with Billy Vera

by John Wroblewski

Oct 29, 2023

As the son of radio and television announcer Bill McCord and singer Ann Ryan, Billy Vera seemed destined to have a career in entertainment. From seeing the likes of Chuck Berry and Frankie Lymon on television, Vera knew he wanted a career in music, and more than 60 years later, he is still going strong.

In the early 1960s Vera had regional hits with the Resolutions. He also started writing songs for others including Barbara Lewis, Fats Domino, The Shirelles and Ricky Nelson.

Later in the decade, he wrote “Storybook Children” with Chip Taylor, which was recorded with former gospel singer Judy Clay. The song, a commercial and critical success, is considered to be the first interracial love song to chart in the United States.

Vera continued writing and performing, eventually forming The Beaters, his band modeled after Ray Charles’ band. Their first album produced a couple songs reaching the charts, including “At This Moment,” a song which would get a second life and reach No. 1 when used on television’s Family Ties.

Showing his versatility, Vera started acting, landing parts in several television shows. That led to singing themes for shows including Empty Nest and The King of Queens. He has also done voice acting as well as written a few books, including A Dollop of Toothpaste, his first novel. He won a 2013 Grammy Award and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. At 79, Vera still performs and writes music.

Vera discussed all of this in our Talking Travel interview. Knowing it was impossible to thoroughly cover his entire career, I relied on my almost 50 years of following his career to pick the most important topics. Vera came through with great tales and info.

When I approached Vera for the interview, he downplayed his travel experience. During the interview, however, Vera told great stories of his time in Kansas City, Cincinnati, overseas and elsewhere. While he might not write a travel book, Vera definitely has a wealth of travel experience from his time on the road.

Talking Travel is an interview series on Global Traveler. Subscribe to the GT YouTube channel to be notified of all future interviews and other travel-related videos.

— John Wroblewski, online writer

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