It was early summer, 1974 – the year of the Watergate scandal, the energy crisis, long lines at the gas station – but in the midst of these national woes, you could turn on your radio at almost any given moment and find some station spinning the infectiously-tearjeaker “Billy, Don’t Be a Hero” by Bo Donaldson and The Heywoods.
BO DONALDSON AND THE HEYWOODS had been performing for nearly a decade when they hit Teen-Idol pay dirt. Touring in the mid 60’s for Dick Clark Productions as an opening act for supergroups like The Rascals, Paul Revere and The Raiders, Box-Tops, Grassroots and Herman’s Hermits gave the group enough exposure to garner them a strong following on the live circuit. An opening stint for The Osmond Brothers and appearances on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, and “Action ‘73” TV shows poised Bo Donaldson and The Heywoods into the right realm for the stardom they would soon achieve.
The first single, “Special Someone,” hit the charts in 1972 then the next single on ABC Records “Deeper and Deeper” came in 1973. “Billy, Don’t Be A Hero” was all that was necessary to shoot Bo Donaldson and The Heywoods up to the #1 spot for two weeks, sell more than three million copies and earn Bo Donaldson and The Heywoods a gold record. Four more Top 40 singles followed on the heels of “Billy, Don’t Be A Hero” “Who Do You Think You Are,” “The Heartbreak Kid,” “House on Telegraph Hill”, “Our Last Song Together”.
Although “Billy, Don’t Be A Hero” went to #1 over twenty years ago, it has maintained a presence in the entertainment industry even today. Bo Donaldson and The Heywoods and “Billy, Don’t Be A Hero” have been mentioned in Stephen King’s books “The Stand”, “From A Buick,” and also in such Television shows as “Get A Life,” “ALF,” and the NBC hit sitcom “Friends.” The song was also used in such feature films as Quentin Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs”, “The Family Stone”, “To Gillian on her 37th Birthday” and in the unique film “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.” VH-1’s 8 Track Flashback with Suzanne Summers featured The Heywoods and “Billy, Don’t Be A Hero.”
“Billy, Don’t Be A Hero” and the follow up hit “Who Do You think You Are?” can currently be found on Rhino Records “Super Hits of the 70’s, Volume #13” and “Billy” is on Rhino Records 7 CD box set “Have a Nice Decade.” and “The Best of Bo Donaldson and The Heywoods” CD on Varese Sarabande Records.