Omaha native Billy Usher, born in either 1921 or 1922, sang with a variety of bands during the 1940s, including George “Pee Wee” Erwin’s outfit in early 1942 and Shep Fields’ orchestra in early 1943. After spending time as a solo artist in mid-1943, he joined Sonny Dunham’s band but was solo again by mid-1944. At some point he also apparently sang for Harry James.
In February 1945, Usher joined Tommy Dorsey’s orchestra as one of two male vocalists competing for a permanent spot in the band. The other was Frankie Lester. Dorsey was having trouble finding reliable boy singers at that time, and he put both men in front of the mike. Usher was gone in late February, signing with the NBC Blue Network to replace Tommy Taylor in the program On the Sunny Side of the Street in March.
After leaving Dorsey, Usher also appeared as an uncredited talent show winner in the Universal Pictures musical On Stage Everybody. Publicity for the film touted him as one of ten winners of a nationwide contest, though in reality all were established show business talents. Each winner was shown in publicity photos receiving a movie contract.
By June 1945, before On Stage Everybody had reached the theaters, Usher had joined Randy Brooks’ orchestra, appearing in the band’s self-title musical short for Columbia. Usher remained with Brooks into early 1946. In May 1947, he sang with Charlie Barnet.
In early September 1945, Usher’s wife apparently was attacked by a “crazed veteran” who “tried to kill her,” according to gossip columnist Dorothy Kilgallen. She “narrowly escaped with her life.”