Born Steve Bilao in Texas. Addresses: Record company---Columbia Records, 550 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10022-3211, website: http://www.columbiarecords.com/. Website---Steve Tyrell Official Website: http://www.stevetyrell.com.

Whereas most artists are lucky enough to have one successful career, Steve Tyrell has had two. He produced records during the seventies, working on B.J. Thomas' version of "Rain Drops Keep Falling on My Head" for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and Diane Warwick's rendition of "Alfie" for the movie of the same name. Tyrell's success as a producer and songwriter, however, took a new turn when he completed a demonstration (demo) recording of "The Way You Look Tonight" for Father of the Bride in 1991. In a few years, he would join the ranks of up-and-coming traditional jazz singers like Diana Krall with a series of popular albums filled with standard jazz songs. "If you told someone, 'Listen, I'm turning 50 and I'm going to sign with Columbia Records and I'm going to start recording standards and I'm going to be a star,'" Tyrell told Gene Stout in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, "people would send you directly to Bellevue. They'd say, 'This guy's lost his mind.'"

Steve Tyrell was born Steve Bilao in the late 1940s, and grew up in Texas where he attended St. Thomas High School in Houston. After finishing high school, Tyrell moved to New York City and started working as an A&R person for Scepter Records. He was in the right place at the right time, working with studio engineer Phil Ramone, singer Dionne Warwick, and songwriters Burt Bacharach and Hal David. "I was the young guy on the team, the street kid," he told Rick Mitchell in the Houston Chronicle. Soon, however, Tyrell was signing his own acts, like B.J. Thomas, and working to place "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head" on the Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid soundtrack. "I saw early on how you could fuse songs into movies," he told Mitchell, "and have hit records from that."

Tyrell left Scepter in 1970, but he continued to work with high-profile artists like Blood, Sweat, and Tears, Ray Charles, and Diana Ross. He also produced music for movies, including the animated feature, An American Tail, where he teamed Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram for the duet, "Somewhere Out There." "They said, 'You can't have a hit from a cartoon,'" Tyrell told Mitchell. "'Nobody's had a hit from a cartoon in 50 years.' They had only heard it sung by the mice. They couldn't imagine it as a hit." "Somewhere Out There" soon proved the experts wrong, however, winning two Grammys in 1988.

Tyrell continued with his production work in the 1990s, accepting a job as musical consultant for Father of the Bride. When he sang "The Way You Look Tonight" for the film, however, it was only a demo, meant to be filled in by a bigger named singer at a later time. But test audiences liked Tyrell's version, and the movie's star, Steve Martin, decided to keep it. "When I got the opportunities to sing these songs in the movies, it was kind of a lark," he told Joel Selvin in the San Francisco Chronicle. "I was happy to do it. But it wasn't my lifelong dream to become an artist again at 50 years old. It never occurred to me. When this door opened to me and I got into it and started getting all this response from people, I started thinking, 'This is pretty cool stuff.'" In 1995 Tyrell recorded "Give Me the Simple Life" and on "The Sunny Side of the Street" for Father of the Bride, Part II.

In 1999 Tyrell recorded his first album, A New Standard, for Atlantic, but the label, fearing poor sales, dropped him "My albums don't get played on the radio," Tyrell told Stout. "They get played in restaurants and antique stores. That's where you hear my music. And then people ask who it is and they buy five copies and give them to their friends. It's been a real word-of-mouth thing." In this way, A New Standard grew in popularity, reaching number three on the Top Jazz Albums chart and remaining on the chart for two years.

Tyrell soon signed to another label, Columbia, and recorded Standard Time in 2001, an album that easily matched the success of his first effort. "Standard Time," noted Stout, "is another first-rate collection." Reviewers noted Tyrell's raspy vocals, and compared him to other Southern singers like Leon Russell and Dr. John. "The results are always pleasant ...," Aaron Latham noted in All Music Guide, "as Tyrell's Dr. John-ish voice is what distinguishes these recordings from other similar standards discs." While it may have seemed obvious to follow up two successful albums with more of the same in 2002, Tyrell offered a new spin on a different set of classics when he recorded a holiday album, This Time of the Year, in 2002.

While many artists strive to keep up with the latest trend, Tyrell has been content to work within the boundaries of the American songbook. From comical gems like "Baby It's Cold Outside" to familiar classics like "Stardust," he has worked happily within the same vein as singers like Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. "There's a certain elegance and romanticism in the great songs," Tyrell told Bob Young in the Boston Herald. "and also a naiveté that doesn't exist in pop culture anymore. The sophistication of the chord structures and the way the lyrics married the melodies was masterful. They created songs that were genuinely timeless." In 2003, he once again turned toward songs by Rodgers and Hart, Cole Porter, and Burt Bacharach and Hal David on This Guy's in Love.

The old songs combined with old-fashioned charm have endured Tyrell to his audiences. "Steve Tyrell looks as if he could be Rod Steiger's younger, better-looking brother," wrote David Finkle in Back Stage. "But where there's something sinister in Steiger's bearing, Tyrell is all smiling charm." These charms have stood him well with his audiences, helping to make him one of the three most popular male vocalists in jazz (along with Tony Bennett and Harry Connick, Jr.). Writing of one concert, Terry Perkins noted in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "Tyrell's amiable, relaxed approach to standards is decidedly straightforward. Judging from the ovation he received at the end of the set, that's just the way Tyrell's fans like them performed."

by Ronnie D. Lankford Jr

Steve Tyrell's Career

Produced for Scepter Records, late 1960s; sang "The Way You Looked Tonight" for Father of the Bride, 1991; sang "Give Me the Simple Life" and on "The Sunny Side of the Street" for Father of the Bride, Part II, 1995; signed with Atlantic Records and recorded A New Standard, 1999; signed to Columbia Records and recorded Standard Time, 2001; This Time of the Year, 2002; This Guy's In Love, 2003.

Famous Works

Further Reading

Sources

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Visitor Comments Add a comment…

about 6 years ago

I first heard Steve Terrell about 5 years ago on a commerical. I wrote down his name and continued to purchase every C.D. he put out. I have seen him 3 times and he if just simply Fabulous.

over 6 years ago

Can't stop listening to Standard Time. Simply fabulous. Steve's voice emits raw sexuality, and his interpretations of the standards are wonderful! I am a huge fan living in Florida. Come to the Kravis Center For the Performing Arts in West Palm Beach - PLEASE! Steve would be a sell-out!

about 7 years ago

Discovered Steve Tyrell on Siriusly Sinatra (which I keep on in car & house).Went to Bethesda, Md. to see him and to Cafe Carlyle in 09. He is so handsome, charismatic, gorgeous smile & eyes; love his choices & rapport with audience. Hope to see him on East Coast again soon; bought all recordings!Love his comments!

about 7 years ago

I discovered Steve Tyrell on Siriusly Sinatra & became a HUGH fan, going to Bethesda, Md. to see him from 2nd row - so into his audience with a million $ smile, choice of music and eye contact; went to NY in 09 just to see him at Cafe Carlyle. Bought all of his records & hope to see him again on East Coast.

about 7 years ago

I love Steve Tyrell....saw his show at the Carlyle in Dec. 09 and when he came to the Phil in Naples, Fla. I'm a fan ...love his music and his warmth. Just the best!!!! Eileen Lancia

over 7 years ago

I have been in love with Steve Tyrell and his music for years! My husband surprised me with tickets this past Christmas for his concert in January in Stafford, Texas.I liked that the concert hall was not very big and every seat was excellent! He took the time to meet,sign cd's and have his picture taken after the concert.He is patient,kind and took time with each person! How refreshing in this day and age! Can't wait to see him again!

over 7 years ago

Steve sang me through the holidays after meeting him with mutual friends in New York this December 2009. Have known his music for a few years originally from a CD store in Laguna,then a live performance at Pepperdine and The Carlyle A true pro in his field and oh soooo sexy!!

almost 8 years ago

Steve Tyrell makes love to you in every song he sings. I was introduced to his music 3 years ago and fell in love with him sight unseen. After seeing him I surrendered. He has a bewitching amazing talent. I'm bewitched bothered and bewildered by him.

about 8 years ago

Steve Tyrell is an awesome entertainer.....I had no idea how enjoyable his performance would be...he's upbeat, sexy, fun and genuine. (Even if you don't think his songs are your style...you'll be hooked once you seen him in person!) Don't miss him.

over 8 years ago

Amazing is the only word for Steve Tyrell. I have seen him 4 times. I live in Virginia but have travelled to Napa, Los Angeles, San Diego and Alexandria. He holds the audience in the palm of his hands. His voice is amazing. He had a cold when he sang in San Diego but he was just as great as ever. He is charming, down to earth and always ready to pose for pictures. Keep singing Steve.Please come to Newport News so I don't have to travel so far.

over 8 years ago

I have seen Steve twice - in Glendora CA and Palm Desert CA - just this last Sat. night. We also have every CD and I have a picture with him on my cellphone when he was nice enough to take one with me in Glendora at Haugh Performing Arts Center. I have to say this last show at McCallum was exceptional. I took my daughter since my husband had seen him the first time. She coudn't believe what a great singer he is - and the stories are so entertaining. My husband and I live in La Verne, CA, a few miles from Haugh Performing Arts in Glendora. Please come back there again. If not we will go every year to Palm Desert where my daughter lives. Thanks for an outstanding show.

over 8 years ago

I just had the pleasure of seeing Mr. Tyrell perform last Saturday night at the Catalina Bar and Grill. He is amazing and that's an understatement. He was personable, kind and very gracious. He's my favorite performer, bar none. His smokey, sexy vocals can make any song a hit and when he is performing, you can tell he has fun and doesn't take himself too seriously. I hope he's with us for a long, long time!

over 8 years ago

My wife and I fell in love to Steve's music... And love his style and arrangements so much. His "Back to Bacharach" cd is our favorite... And we will see him performing live in L.A. for Valentine's weekend for the first time. We are so looking forward to "The real thing".

over 8 years ago

This guy is a phenomenal performer. I have seen him every year in NY since he first performed at Feinsteins in NY. He lights up the room and has wonderful musicians in his group. The bird singers he added this year were terrific too. Steve's voice is so rich and just keeps getting better. He has a great personality and sense of humor. He doesn't take himself too seriously and is a really down to earth guy. What a breath of fresh air in the entertainment world. He has no equal.