Pianist and singer Billy Stewart was a distinctive and influential R&B vocalist whose stuttering delivery and word-repetition technique borrowed liberally from the jazz practice of scat singing. Born in Washington, D.C., in 1937, Stewart started singing publicly with his mother's group, the Stewart Gospel Singers, as a teenager. He moved into secular music by filling in occasionally for the Rainbows, a D.C.-area vocal group led by future soul star Don Covay; like fellow Rainbows substitute Marvin Gaye, Stewart never recorded with them. Despite winning a local talent contest with a unique rendition of Gershwin's "Summertime," Stewart was first discovered as a pianist, not a singer -- while passing through on a tour, Bo Diddley heard him playing backstage and offered him a job as a backing musician. Thanks to his connection with Diddley, Stewart cut his first solo single, "Billy's Blues," for Chess in 1956. He moved to Okeh in 1957 and recorded "Billy's Heartache" backed by the Marquees, another D.C.-area group featuring Gaye.